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City qualify despite wobble against Shakhtar, prolific Lewandowski makes history for Bayern

Elsewhere, a stunning Paulo Dybala free-kick confirmed Juventus’ progression.

Ilkay Gundogan celebrates his goal.
Ilkay Gundogan celebrates his goal.
Image: Martin Rickett

MANCHESTER CITY BOOKED their place in the Champions League last-16 for a seventh successive season despite a lacklustre 1-1 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk tonight.

Pep Guardiola’s side were well below their best at the Etihad Stadium, but Ilkay Gundogan’s second half strike put them on course to wrap up first place in Group C with one game to spare.

Although Manor Solomon equalised for Shakhtar, Atalanta’s win over Dinamo Zagreb ensured City can’t be knocked off top spot.

With the group clinched, Guardiola has the bonus of being able to rest players for the trip to Zagreb on 11 December.

That is especially important as the Zagreb fixture comes between vital Premier League matches against Manchester United and Arsenal.

City made a sloppy start and were almost caught out when a long punt into their half prompted Ederson to rush off his line.

When the City keeper completely missed his attempt to clear, Shakhtar’s Mateus Tete charged into the penalty area, only for Fernandinho to block the shot with a superbly timed last-ditch slide.

Moments later, Ederson made a better dash off his line to clear after another Shakhtar raid threatened to open City up.

City’s limp opening was at least partially due to the absence of the club’s record goalscorer Sergio Aguero, sidelined for several weeks after injuring a thigh in Saturday’s win over Chelsea.

Gabriel Jesus started in place of Aguero but the Brazilian, who has scored five goals in eight starts this season, was largely anonymous.

Rodri had City’s first sight of goal, but the midfielder’s shot was too close to Shakhtar keeper Andriy Pyatov.

Ponderous for much of the half, City gradually found some rhythm and Nicolas Otamendi’s header from Angelino’s cross forced an agile save from Pyatov, while Gundogan’s deflected effort looped wide.

City finally conjured a move befitting their ability, cutting through the Shakhtar defence to take the lead in the 56th minute.

Kevin De Bruyne was the catalyst with a swift surge and pass into Jesus in the Shakhtar area.

Jesus did well to control and poke the ball across to Gundogan. The German midfielder took a touch before slotting into the bottom corner from 10 yards.

Even that wasn’t enough to paper over the cracks for sluggish City and Shakhtar equalised in the 69th minute.

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Tete slipped his pass to the overlapping Dodo and his cut-back from the touchline drew a lethargic response from the City defence, allowing substitute Solomon to fire home from close-range only four minutes after coming on.

David Silva almost restored City’s lead seconds later, but the substitute’s shot was cleared off the line by Serhiy Kryvtsov.

In the same group, Atalanta kept alive their hopes of an improbably qualification with a 2-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb at the San Siro. Although this was the Serie A’s side first Champions League win, they will qualify for the last-16 if they beat Shakhtar on Matchday six and Zagreb fail to beat City. 

In Group B, Bayern Munich guaranteed progression as group winners with a 6-0 battering of Red Star Belgrade. 

Robert Lewandowski made Champions League history by scoring four goals in 15 minutes, the fastest four-goal haul in the competition’s history. It makes Lewandowski the top scorer in Europe this season with 10 goals in five games, and brings his personal tally this season to a remarkable 27 goals in 20 games. 

serbia-soccer-champions-league Robert Lewandowski. Source: Darko Vojinovic

He also saw a first-half strike ruled out by VAR for a handball in the build-up.

Leon Goretzka and Corentin Tolisso were also got on the score-sheet in Belgrade, to confirm Bayern’s progression from a group in which Tottenham qualify in second place. 

Elsewhere, a stunning Paulo Dybala free-kick against Atletico Madrid confirmed Juventus’ qualification from Group D as group winners. Atleti lost the game 1-0, but should have equalised at the death when Alvaro Morata inexplicably failed to connect with the ball from a yard out. 

Atleti now need to win their final game against Lokomotiv Moscow to guarantee qualification, as they lie just a single point ahead of Bayer Leverkusen after the German side’s 2-0 win in Russia earlier today. 

- With reporting by Gavin Cooney 

- © AFP 2019

 

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