MAN CITY 2, DINAMO ZAGREB 0
It took goals from Manchester City substitutes Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden to vanquish spirited Dinamo Zagreb at the Etihad.
City maintained their 100 per cent record to claim top spot in Champions League, group C, but it was one of their least convincing displays.
City, without the injured Kevin De Bruyne and with Raheem Sterling on the bench, lacked pace and rarely troubled the massed defensive ranks of the visitors.
And it took the introduction of Sterling to strike the decisive blow while Foden sealed victory in stoppage time to finally see off the side second in the Croatian League.
In saying City were not at their best, they still had 81 per cent possession and 20 goals attempts to the visitors’ two.
City manager Pep Guardiola was delighted with the victory and praised Dinamo.Embed from Getty Images
He said: “They defended so well and were so good. They deserve a lot of credit.
“They beat Atalanta, who are third in Serie A, and they did many, many good things.”
Guardiola praised his players, continuing: “We created enough chances to score earlier, but we were patient.
“It was a good game and we did not concede a shot on target.”
Guardiola praised Ilkay Gundogan describing him as one of City’s best-ever signings.
There was also an apology for not playing teenager Foden more often.
Guardiola said: “He deserves to play and I am unfair to him as the best way for young players to grow up is to play minutes.
“I am so sorry but I have De Bruyne, Gundogan and David Silva playing in his position so it is what it is.”
Guardiola added Foden will become an “incredible player” who he trusts.
City handed a first start to summer signing Joao Cancelo while there was also a rare full game for Benjamin Mendy.
They were among five changes from the side that kicked off Saturday’s game at Everton.
There were also recalls for the two Silva’s and Sergio Aguero as Kyle Walker, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and De Bruyne.
Aguero burst through on goal in the 13th minute but goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic saved well at his feet and neither Ilkay Gundogan or Bernardo Silva were able to convert the follow-up.
City gradually began to turn on the screw creating a host of chances but lacking a cutting edge.
Bernardo Silva sliced a shot wide, Aguero fired well over, Gundogan’s drive struck the crossbar and David Silva contrived to shoot wide from seven yards.
As the half progressed it became increasingly frustrating for City as the chances dried up and Dinamo defended doggedly and with great effect.
City endured a similarly frustrating start to the second period as they looked to make a breakthrough.
And it resulted in an early change as Sterling replaced Bernardo Silva 11 minutes after the restart.
Sterling took nine minutes to end the deadlock as he finished a neat passing move involving Gundogan, Rodri and Riyad Mahrez whose cross was converted by the substitute from six yards, his ninth goal of the season.
After falling behind, Dinamo were forced to become slightly more adventurous which provided City with extra space as the visitors had to abandon their massed defensive ranks.
City came close to a second goal when Cancelo crossed and Aguero’s header forced a decent diving save from Livakovic.
Sterling then turned provider crossing for Mahrez whose flick looked goalbound until Livakovic’s outstretched hand palmed away the shot.
City made a second change with two minutes left when Aguero made way for Jesus and that was quickly followed by Foden replacing David Silva.
And Foden sealed victory in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time after a 3 v 3 break.
Jesus released Sterling on the left and he crossed for Foden to fire home from 14 yards with a low shot that arrowed into the bottom corner.