Man City player ratings vs Red Star Belgrade: Julian Alvarez saves Champion League holders from opening-night embarrassment as Phil Foden shines again in midfield

Phil Foden Julian Alvarez Manchester City 2023-24Getty Images

When Erling Haaland is having an off day, Manchester City fans can thank their lucky stars for Julian Alvarez, who guided the Champions League holders towards a 3-1 win over Red Star Belgrade after an almighty scare on the opening night of their European title defence.

Despite utterly dominating Red Star in a first half in which Haaland hit the crossbar and missed two more opportunities, the visitors took a shock lead right before half-time with a goal from out of nowhere by Osman Bukari, initially called offside then awarded by VAR.

City were 45 minutes from becoming only the second team in Champions League history to lose their first game as competition holders, but their fears were quickly alleviated by a beautiful goal by Alvarez, who steered a Haaland pass into the net with the lightest of touches.

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Alvarez then put City in front with a free-kick which Red Star 'keeper Omri Glazer really should have kept out, before Rodri, the hero of the Champions League final in Istanbul, fittingly had the final say with a lovely piece of skill and curling finish.

GOAL rates Man City's players from the Etihad Stadium...