Dominant Manchester City had to work for its Raheem Sterling-finished breakthrough in a 2-0 defeat of Dinamo Zagreb in UEFA Champions League play on Tuesday.
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Sterling scored and assisted Phil Foden‘s stoppage time goal, as City took 1,025 touches to the visitors’ 392. Dinamo Zagreb completed just 53 percent of their passes, were out shot 20-2, and had just 19 percent possession.
City now has six points, and has beaten both of the teams in the group who boast wins. A pair of matches with winless Atalanta are next.
Three things we learned
1. Zagreb frustrates with five (plus) at the back: City had more than 80 percent of the ball and almost all of the shot attempts, but the persistent and well-drilled visitors proved difficult to break down.
2. Rodri and Gundogan rule the roost: While Man City’s forwards to their time to find footing, Rodri and Ilkay Gundogan were very strong in the midfield. Gundogan completed 113 of his 120 passes, while Rodri converted 116 of 126 passes (92 percent) including a sensational “hockey assist” on Sterling’s opener.
Again, let’s do the math: 229 completed passes between two midfielders. Outstanding.
3. Super sub Sterling supplies breakthrough: The winner was very much a team goal, as Sterling had been in the game for less than 10 minutes when he took a pass from Riyad Mahrez to make it 1-0.
And to combine points Nos. 2 and 3, how about that scything pass from Rodri
Man of the Match: Rodri — He looks the absolute correct piece for City’s midfield puzzle (which was already pretty darn good).
Gundogan cranked a shot off the woodwork, and City later had a goal taken off the board due to Sergio Aguero handling in the build-up.
Dinamo goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic made two first half saves including a very promising opportunity for Aguero.
The frustrations of only producing a single goal despite myriad chances got to Pep Guardiola, who was shown a yellow card for dissent.
Joao Cancelo was a particularly bright spot for City, whipping in crosses and zipping about the right side.
Sterling’s goal came when Rodri fed Mahrez, a relative bright spot, into the left of the box. A cut back was blasted home by the England winger.
Foden subbed into the game and scored inside of the four minutes stoppage time.