Pep Guardiola's Manchester City clinched all three points in their Champions League opening day fixture against Portuguese Champions FC Porto at the Etihad on Wednesday. A brilliant solo goal by Porto winger Luis Diaz was canceled out by a Sergio Aguero penalty in the first quarter of the game. A curling effort from a free-kick by Ilkay Gundogan and a late goal by Ferran Torres sealed the win for the giants of English football.
The win takes the Citizens atop their Champions League Group 'C' on goal difference as Olympiacos ended up 1-0 winners against Olympique Marseille in the other fixture in the group on Wednesday night.
Manchester City started the game well shifting between their 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 formations, in and out of possession respectively. But before the Premier League club could settle into their rhythm, Porto moved out of their low-block and started pressing the City back-line trying to force an error.
The visitors got early success in the 14th minute due to their pressing manoeuvers as a dispossession in the centre of the park resulted in attacker Luis Diaz receiving extra space in the final third. Diaz made full use of the space and dribbled past the entire defensive line of Manchester City to end up scoring a brilliant solo goal from the far side of the penalty box into the bottom left corner.
Going a goal down even before 15 minutes into the game, fired up Manchester City a bit and Pep Guardiola's men bestowed additional men forward to find an equalizer. They got a bit of a help from their opponents themselves as Portuguese centre-back Pepe barged Rahem Sterling onto the floor inside the penalty area. A Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check was conducted to review the incident especially after Ilkay Gundogan stamped on Agustin Marchesin following the build-up towards the successive penalty. But, the off-field referee maintained Andris Treimanis' decision and Sergio Aguero made no mistake from the spot. City were back in the game.
Everybody expected the team from the blue half of Manchester to control the game after the equalizer, but on the contrary, it was Porto who showed signs of intent after conceding in the 20th minute. Inspite of numerous efforts by the visiting opposition, City managed to survive the first 45 minutes and headed to the tunnel with a 1-1 scoreline.
The second-half was when Manchester City turned up. Absolutely not allowing Porto any space in their own half, the hosts controlled the game in every area of the pitch, winning every one-to-one battle with their counterparts in every position. A goal was coming sooner or later.
In the 63rd minute, frustrated by the City dominance, Fabio Vieira fouled Ilkay Gundogan on the edge of the penalty area. Little did the 20-year-old know that this could turn the game upside down for his team. As Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan stepped up to take the free-kick, it was the latter's ingenious curling effort over the wall which ended up behind Marchesin's post, which gave Manchester City the lead.
It was game, set and match for Manchester City as the two substitutions Phil Foden and Ferran Torres came off the bench and combined in a decent one-two move for the new Spanish arrival to score his side's third goal on his European debut for the Manchester-based club.
As heated arguments between Pep Guardiola and Sergio Conceicao ensued in the managers skipping the post-game handshake, it ended 3-1 to Manchester City on the first Champions League night at the Etihad.
Let's take a look at the top five talking points from City's win over Porto at home.
#5 Porto’s pace and pressing unsettles Manchester City at the back
The Portuguese Champions started the game with a low-block letting Manchester City dominate possession and control the tempo. But after getting a strong footing in the first ten minutes, Porto switched back to their natural game-play of pressing their counterparts. As Pep Guardiola’s side tried to build the game from the back, disciplined closing in by the Porto players constantly kept their opponents on the toes.
This even almost resulted into a goal when under-pressure City stopper Ederson passed the ball directly into the feet of a Porto attacker in the first half, but the latter blasted it over the cross-bar.
The Primeira Liga club also had to pay the prize for their high-pressing on many occasions as a high back-line for pressing meant that huge acres of space was left for the Citizens to exploit. After realizing this possible avenue, the Manchester City defenders and midfielder started pouring over-head balls to the front-three. But the strategy still favoured Porto for a major portion of the ninety minutes as it was evident that the hosts were struggling to build their game under pressure.
#4 Manchester City resort to tactical fouls time and again to break the Porto momentum
A major chunk of the first half saw Porto dominate the game, especially on the flanks through Zaidu Sanusi and Luis Diaz. The attacking overload by the Liga NOS Champions reached to such a peak at a point of time that Manchester City had to turn to tactical fouls to save them blushes.
This even resulted in three bookings for the hosts in the space of eight minutes in the first 45 minutes. Not only in the first half, but Manchester City’s persistent fouling continued late into the game as they committed a total of 15 fouls before the final whistle was blown.
But it strategically proved to be a master-stroke as the tactical fouls subdued the Porto momentum many times during the game and thus disabled them from having a real go at the goal guarded by Ederson. Moussa Marega, the Porto striker who was instrumental in Porto winning the Portuguese title last season, drew many fouls by their Manchester City counterparts which eventually kept him quiet except for a few chances on goal.