alvarez man city 3-1 red star belgrade
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Alvarez fires Manchester City to 3-1 win over Red Star Belgrade

Julian Alvarez sparkled as Manchester City launched their Champions League title defense with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Red Star Belgrade, coming from behind.

The treble-winning squad was caught off guard when Red Star Belgrade, the Serbian champions, unexpectedly took the lead just before halftime during Tuesday’s Group G clash at the Etihad Stadium, courtesy of Osman Bukari’s goal against the run of play.

Alvarez wasted no time in leveling the score right after halftime and played a pivotal role in City’s lead, with his free-kick forcing Red Star’s otherwise excellent goalkeeper, Omri Glazer, to punch the ball into his own net.

Rodri, who had been the matchwinner against Inter Milan in last season’s final, sealed a well-deserved victory with a composed finish 17 minutes before the final whistle.

Alvarez to the Rescue

Before securing their lead, City had dominated the game entirely, with Glazer making a series of impressive saves to deny the home team, and Erling Haaland striking the crossbar. In the second half, the hosts finally began converting their chances, although they could have scored even more goals. Kyle Walker had a goal disallowed, Haaland once again hit the woodwork, and Alvarez found the side-netting.

City’s first opportunity arose after just nine minutes when Phil Foden’s shot was deflected over the bar, and Rodri later dribbled into the box before testing Glazer. It was a busy half for the Israeli goalkeeper, who also thwarted Alvarez on two occasions and denied Foden’s point-blank header.

City’s best opportunity of the first half saw Haaland connect with a floated cross from Foden, heading it powerfully but only to hit the crossbar. Haaland had another excellent chance to put City in the lead but missed from a close-range position.

City paid the price for their missed opportunities as Red Star, who had been looking to counter-attack whenever possible, unexpectedly took the lead just before halftime. The high City defensive line was exposed as Bukari was played through by Mirko Ivanic, calmly slotting the ball past Ederson. Initially, there were suspicions of an offside, but the goal was eventually awarded following a VAR review.

City, making a tactical substitution with Jeremy Doku replacing Bernardo Silva towards the end of the first half, swiftly regrouped and equalized just two minutes into the second half. Alvarez displayed exceptional finishing skills after being set up by Haaland, cleverly lofting the ball over Glazer. Moments later, Walker believed he had given City the lead, only for it to be ruled offside.

City eventually claimed the lead just before the hour mark when Alvarez curled a free-kick in from the left. Glazer attempted to punch the ball away but failed to make clean contact, resulting in the ball flying into the net after grazing the back of his hand. Haaland came close again when he headed the ball against the post, while Alvarez narrowly missed the target.

City finally gave the scoreline a more accurate reflection of their dominance when Rodri secured their third goal. The Spaniard outmaneuvered Vladimir Lucic just outside the box after some excellent work by Foden, confidently slotting the ball into the far bottom corner of the net.

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