MAN CITY 3, FC PORTO 1
Manchester City overcame an early setback to kick off their Champions League campaign with an ultimately comfortable victory against FC Porto at the Etihad.
After falling behind to an early goal from Luis Diaz, it looked as though it might be an uncomfortable night as Porto impressed in the opening stages.
City showed grit and resolve and replied with a treble to open their group C account with three points and extend their unbeaten home record in European football to nine games.
Sergio Aguero’s penalty achieved parity and then goals in the last quarter of the match from Ilkay Gundogan and Ferran Torres, on his Champions League debut for City, sealed the win.
In what was an absorbing match, Porto asked plenty of questions of City and complained bitterly about the validity of two of the goals conceded.
They claimed goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin was fouled immediately before conceding a penalty and later Fabio Vieira didn’t commit the infringement that led to the second goal.
City seized on those moments of good fortune which on another night might have worked against them.
Manager Pep Guardiola was delighted to get the European campaign off to a winning start in light of their challenging start to the season.
“It was an incredible performance against a really good team,” he said.
“I am happy because all the game I knew how tough it would be as Benfica and Porto are the best teams in Portugal and their mentality is so strong.”
The only sour note was a knee injury picked up by Fernandinho which Guardiola believes will keep him out for between four and six weeks.
However, he added Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte are due back in training tomorrow.Embed from Getty Images
He explained: “It is unfortunate when they are coming back, we lose another player.
“In three days, we are in London and three days after that we go to France and three days after that go to Sheffield United.
“It is so demanding a schedule and we need players.”
City made two changes from the side that beat Arsenal on Saturday.
Eric Garcia replaced Nathan Ake in the centre of defence while Gundogan was handed a first start of the season as he was preferred to Phil Foden.
City were still without Laporte, De Bruyne, Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus as they had five young players and two goalkeepers among their 12 substitutes.
Porto were captained by Pepe, the 37-year-old central defender who was a three times Champions League winner with Real Madrid.
There were also some familiar Premier League players in their line-up.
Malang Sarr is on a season-loan loan from Chelsea while Porto recently signed Felipe Anderson and Marko Grujic from West Ham and Liverpool respectively.
The match began at a slow, continental tempo which played into the hands of the Portuguese visitors.
And they went ahead in the 14th minute after a brilliant goal from Diaz.
City centre back Ruben Dias gave away possession playing the ball out of defence as Diaz ran diagonally from halfway from left to right before firing a low shot past Ederson from the edge of the box.
They were behind for a matter of minutes after Pepe conceded a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Raheem Sterling.
It followed a goalmouth melee during which Gundogan struck the upright from a tight angle and which Marchesin was hurt and needed lengthy treatment.
Porto claimed Gundogan fouled Marchesin before Pepe’s challenge on Sterling.
Aguero was unfazed by the three-minute delay as he confidently dispatched his 40th Champions League goal in 72 matches and it was the first time he had found the net in 231 days because of a combination of lockdown and injury.
City were lucky not to fall behind late in the half when Mousasa Marega sprang the offside trap and his cross deflected off Joao Cancelo and was heading towards the net until Kyle Walker saved the day with a terrific goalline clearance.
Marchesin pulled off a smart save soon after the restart to keep out a well-struck shot from Gundogan who was set up by Bernardo Silva.
City regained the lead in the 65th minute after Porto questioned whether Fabio Vieira fouled Gundogan 25 yards from goal.
The German picked himself up to bend a fabulous free kick over the defensive wall into the top corner, a goal worthy of winning any game.
It was quickly followed by a double change as Gundogan and Aguero made way for Torres and Foden.
And the two substitutes combined for City’s third five minutes after they made their entrance.
Foden, who was on the left, slipped a pass inside to Torres who cut inside before firing high into the far top corner, his second goal for the club.
Riyad Mahrez and Rodri had chances to add a fourth goal in quick succession, both times they were foiled by Marchesin.
City had a third change with five minutes left when Rodri was replaced by Fernandinho.
It was an eventful cameo for the Brazilian who was quickly booked and then limped off in stoppage time to be replaced by John Stones.