Ilkay Gundogan

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‘We are on the way:’ Pep, Gundogan on next UCL step

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For Pep Guardiola, it’s just another stop on the train to silverware.

Manchester City clinched its UEFA Champions League group on Tuesday with a 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Etihad Stadium.

[ RECAP, 3 THINGS: Man City 1-1 Shakhtar ]

City led through Ilkay Gundogan but allowed an equalizer and couldn’t quite find a winner, but it’s all fine for the manager.

“I’ve played against Shakhtar Donetsk many times and they always have quality players,” he said, via the BBC. “In general, we created chances but the draw was enough in the end. Now we have one competition already done, and now our focus will be the Premier League, until we arrive in the cups. The target was to qualify and we have done it.”

Gundogan further illustrated the City mindset.

“We are on the way,” he said. “In the Premier League we are nine points behind the leaders which is not what we are aiming for but this is the situation you have to deal with. We have dropped unnecessary points in a few games already, and to remain at the top, you are not allowed to. We need to be there if Liverpool slip and we are through in the Champions League, but there is still plenty of work to improve. Not results, but more the way we play.”

Man City draws Shakhtar, wins Group C

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Manchester City wasn’t at its best in a 1-1 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in UEFA Champions League play at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday,

Ilkay Gundogan scored for the hosts, but Manor Solomon found the leveler late.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

City still claimed Group C thanks to Atalanta’s defeat of Dinamo Zagreb.

Three things we learned

1. Gabriel Jesus calms no-Aguero nerves: The Brazilian’s work on City’s opener was magnificent, and Jesus was good for most of the game. Taking a surgical through ball from Kevin De Bruyne, Jesus worked one man and held off another to lay-off for Gundogan. The German finished well for 1-0.

2. Center back Fernandinho part of what’s missing in midfield: Look, Rodri is going to be an excellent long-term replacement for Fernandinho and was very, very good on Tuesday. He’s also already an important part of the set-up, but Guardiola really needs to consider putting Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones together at center back in order to put his old faithful midfielder back into his prime role and give a not 100 percent fit Rodri some time to heal. It’s a double bonus situation.

3. Dodo (Remember the name): With all due respect to Shakhtar Donetsk, their newly-turned 21-year-old Brazilian is heading for a contender soon and he’s got a chance to become a regular for the loaded national team as well. An integral part of the Shakhtar goal with his dribble and assist, he had three dribbles, two tackles, and an aerial won.

Man of the Match: Gabriel Jesus.

There were few early signs of worry for the favored hosts, but a wild miscue from an adventuring Ederson led Tete on goal. Fernandinho slid to get a piece of the goal-bound shot and ultimately the only punishment was an unsuccessful corner.

A similar chance occurred moments later, but this time Ederson slid to beat Tete and made contact with the ball.

All-in-all, though, City was in control though clearly not at its best.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

City’s breakthrough came as the clock hit 56, with Gabriel Jesus doing a boatload of physical labor to set up Gundogan after an incisive Kevin De Bruyne pass.

It was 1-1 within a quarter hour, as Dodo drove the right and slipped a pass through the 18 that was somehow able to reach Israeli forward Solomon for the tie.

David Silva had a shot cleared off the line within a minute of restart, and City will be smiling despite its inability to find a winner; The Premier League champions have a seeded spot for the knockout rounds.

Guardiola’s postmatch stubbornness is petulant, not defiant

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“What happened today, we showed why [we] are champions,” Pep Guardiola said with a shake of the head, his arms crossed and wry smile creeping across his face. “I am so proud of my team, more than ever. We can be proud of how we played against the strongest team in Europe. We played like back-to-back champions.”

[ MORE: PL title is Liverpool’s to lose ]

Those were his words after a comprehensive 3-1 defeat at Anfield where Liverpool yet again confounded one of the game’s greatest managers at maybe his most imposing House of Horror. Manchester City was time and again ripped apart at the back by Liverpool’s class on the ball and cunning off it.

Yet here was Pep Guardiola, fresh off a vigorous handshake with the referees at the final whistle that dripped with the sarcasm of a child having recently been grounded, claiming his team produced “one of the best performances we have played.”

Liverpool was, to put it simply, better than Manchester City on the day. The players Guardiola picked in the team struggled mightily, with his full-backs Angelino and Kyle Walker both culpable on Liverpool goals while Joao Cancelo looked on from the bench and expensive Frenchman Benjamin Mendy wasn’t even in the squad. Sergio Aguero toiled through yet another fruitless performance at Anfield and Gabriel Jesus was too little too late as the only Man City substitute of the day. 34-year-old midfielder Fernandinho was preferred to natural defender Nicolas Otamendi at center-back alongside John Stones.

Guardiola’s rage stemmed mostly from an early penalty decision that went against the visitors, with the ball clearly striking Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s arm in the box just moments before Fabinho‘s sixth-minute opener. Referee Michael Oliver had an excellent view of the incident and judged Alexander-Arnold’s arm to be in a natural position, and while that original decision could be coherently argued as controversial (not by this article’s author), VAR finally handled a judgement call correctly by not reviewing the incident, as the debate proves the potential refereeing error was far from “clear and obvious.”

After Guardiola’s embarrassing post-match handshake, he was naturally asked about the early decision. While the City boss averted the question, he made his thoughts clear enough by calling out not the on-field referee Oliver, but instead the booth officials in his thinly veiled deflection “ask [PGMOL chair] Mike Riley and the guys who are in the VAR, don’t ask me.” He believed the decision should have been reviewed. Sorry Pep, but quite plainly, it should not, and was not. Move on.

The manager was far from the only party to shoulder blame in defeat. Kevin De Bruyne‘s usual brilliance eluded him from the opening whistle through the final push. Raheem Sterling, who has so often shouldered Man City’s burdens the past two seasons, was dangerous throughout but lacked a finishing touch. Ilkay Gundogan‘s laziness contributed heavily to the Liverpool opener. Even Man City’s best player Rodri was yellow carded for dissent on a frustrating day.

The flaws of the defending champions were on display for all to see. Injuries have ravaged this team’s back line with defenders Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko out long-term, while goalkeeper Ederson was felled midweek in Champions League play. Jose Mourinho made a handful of enemies during his Premier League tenures by claiming his teams played well when they clearly did not, and Guardiola’s post-match defiance was a page out of Mourinho 101. The Spaniard has not yet gone down that road entirely, but he would be wise not to take more steps in that direction, for it is petulance, not defiance, that his post-match antics oozed after Sunday’s humbling loss.

The season is far from over – an eight-point lead in November is far less than many have made it out to be in yesterday’s aftermath. How quickly we forget just last season City’s title run included erasures of a seven-point deficit by New Year’s and a five-point Liverpool advantage in early February. Still, for the Man City boss to pass a sound defeat as “so good” and cast doubt on solid refereeing is not a show of fortitude, it is a child-like tantrum that denies the eyes and ears of the fans who watched, clear as day, their two-time defending champions beaten soundly at a stadium that continues to get the best of Pep Guardiola.

WATCH: Chaos at Anfield as Liverpool opens up 2-0, quarter-hour lead

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Two shots, two goals.

That’s what Liverpool needed — along with some help from a handball non-call — to take a two-goal, quarter-hour lead over Manchester City at Anfield.

The visitors had all of the ball and even looked destined to earn a penalty when Trent Alexander-Arnold handled in the box, but Liverpool raced down the field and struck first blood.

[ WATCH: Liverpool-Man City LIVE ]

Ilkay Gundogan‘s soft clearance rolled to Fabinho, who hit a vicious strike from distance to put the hosts up 1-0 in the 7th minute.

VAR had a look and didn’t like what it saw enough to change anything. The banger stood.

And Liverpool opened up a 2-0 lead on its second chance of the day.

Andrew Robertson‘s cross sailed around City’s defense to meet just-onside Salah, who headed past Bravo.

Walker, Mendy react to wild GK day; Pep updates Ederson status

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With both goalkeepers out of the match, Manchester City goalkeeper defender Kyle Walker drew the short straw and went between the sticks in a 1-1 draw with Atalanta in Bergamo, Italy, on Wednesday.

Ederson was injured at halftime — he’s a doubt for Sunday’s visit to Liverpool — and Claudio Bravo was sent off for DOGSO foul on Josip Ilicic after an Ilkay Gundogan giveaway.

[ RECAP: Man City 1-1 Atalanta ]

First clad in a black warm-up top before being forced into a pink “C. Bravo 1” shirt, Walker made two saves to preserve the point.

From the Manchester Evening News:

“I try and sometimes wind up the keepers in training telling them to catch it and stuff but as I found tonight sometimes you have to take two touches.”

City fullback Benjamin Mendy offered thanks to Walker for the saves and the point, which have the Group C leaders five points ahead of chasing Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk with two matches to play.

“Yeah I think tonight was a very tough game, we know it before the game and how we fight until the end to not keep a score, I say again thank you Kyle,” Mendy said. “Because it’s very not easy to take this responsibility to be a goalkeeper and save the free-kick and it’s one game we’re going to remember it for when we go forward in the cup.”

[ WATCH: Walker saves free kick ]

Pep Guardiola said he does not know whether Ederson will be fit for Sunday’s huge match at Anfield.

“It’s a muscular [thigh] problem,” he told The Manchester Evening News. “It was not big but to avoid risk. He didn’t feel comfortable in the last minutes and that’s why we decided to make a substitution.”

City has big games before their remaining two UCL fixtures, and may not be able to front load its lineup for at least one. Chelsea, itself in UCL uncertainty, visits the Etihad on Nov. 23 before Man City hosts Shakhtar Donetsk in the UCL. And City hosts the Manchester Derby before its final group stage match at Dinamo Zagreb.