sport news Manchester City 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb: Sub Sterling finally breaks stubborn ...

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As sure as day follows night, Manchester City prevailed, maintaining the overwhelming sense that this group stage is a formality and that what would really generate some continental electricity is a Champions League with a knock-out format, from start to finish.

It was 50 years ago on Monday that City beat Athletico Bilbao on home soil in the first round of what remains their only successful European adventure: the Cup Winners' Cup campaign which took them past the Poles Gornik Zabrze in the final. It was a 3-0 breeze that night, yet the Spaniards had drawn 3-3 with City in the Basque country and Maine Road bounced to the noise and energy of a breathless second leg.

There was little of that kind last night until Raheem Sterling's goal, ten minutes after arriving as a substitute, took his goal tally to 41 in 12 months. It is a measure of the tournament's weakness that Dinamo Zagreb, who have won the Croatian league in 13 of the last 14 seasons have totalled four points in Champions League group games. They appear, generally lose, generally accept it, happily take the money, and hopefully find a buyer for any young players they might have on show. There were certainly none of those last night.

Substitute Raheem Sterling only needed 10 minutes to break the deadlock by scoring from close range in the 66th minute

Substitute Raheem Sterling only needed 10 minutes to break the deadlock by scoring from close range in the 66th minute

MATCH FACTS

Man City: Ederson, Joao Cancelo, Fernandinho, Otamendi, Mendy, Gundogan, Rodri, Silva (Foden 90), Mahrez, Aguero (Gabriel Jesus 89),Bernardo Silva (Sterling 56).

Subs Not Used: Bravo, Walker, Jose Angelino, Garcia.

Booked: Joao Cancelo, Fernandinho.

Goals: Sterling 66, Foden 90.

Dinamo Zagreb: Livakovic, Stojanovic, Theophile-Catherine (Gavranovic 76), Dilaver, Peric, Leovac, Arijan Ademi, Moro,Olmo,Orsic (Gojak 62), Petkovic (Atiemwen 84).

Subs Not Used: Zagorac, Ivo Pinto, Situm, Kadzior.

Booked: Peric.

If that were not enough measure of the competitive imbalance, City were able to replace Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko, full backs in the unconvincing defensive display at Everton last Saturday with Joao Cancelo and Benjamin Mendy - the world's two most expensive full backs. It was at least a good test for Cancelo, booked for a rash first half challenge on Dani Olmo and removed early.

The only Croatian contribution of the remotest significance came from the South Stand, where behind the banner proclaiming 'Purgeri' - the nickname for citizens of Zagreb - the visiting team's supporters revealed how it feels when there is a purpose and significance about following your team's group stage games in this tournament. City's fans briefly gave something back to the partisan Croatians and their relentless drummer, though it was a half-hearted response at best. Even the ritual booing of the UEFA anthem lacked much conviction.

City could have been five up by the interval against a side who actually aided their efforts, with an early kamikaze pass back through their own ranks for Sergio Aguero, who buzzed around the front with relentless menace.

Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling combined to split the defence with a one-two and Sterling finished it off with a cool finish

Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling combined to split the defence with a one-two and Sterling finished it off with a cool finish

 

The Argentine could not capitalise, driving past the goalkeeper having latched onto the through ball by visiting midfielder Nikolo Moro

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