Zvezda (Serbia)’s Inbeom Hwang made his Champions League debut on his birthday. Zvezda came from behind against Europe’s best. City recorded their first win at home in the Champions League this season thanks to a brace from Alvarez and a thunderbolt from Rodri.
Hwang In-beom’s Zvezda came from behind to defeat Manchester City 3-1 in their opening Group G match of the 2023-2024 European Champions League on Tuesday (ET) at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England. They took the lead just before halftime, but conceded three goals in the second half. Despite Zvezda’s best efforts, they were unable to withstand the onslaught of City, last season’s champions of the competition.
◆[Formation] Hwang In-beom starts Zvezda, Holland starts Man City
The home team started with a 4-2-3-1 formation. It featured Holland up front, Foden, Alvarez, and Bernardo Silva at the back, Rodriguez and Matheus Nunes in defensive midfield, Sergio Gomes, Ake, Dias, Walker, and Ederson in goal. Substitutes included Gvardiol, Akanji, and Rico Luis.
The visitors Zvezda lined up in a 5-3-2 formation. Ndiaye and Bukari up front, Ivanic, Stamenich, and Hwang In-beom in the back, and Rodic, Mitrovic, Dragovic, Ziga, Mikhailovic, and Grainger in goal.
Hwang In-beom made his European Champions League debut. He joined Serbian side Zvezda from Olympiakos (Greece) in the summer transfer window. Zvezda officially announced on May 5 (KST) that they had signed midfielder Hwang In-beom on a four-year contract. Hwang’s transfer fee was not disclosed, but according to local media, it is estimated to be €5.5 million, or about 7.8 billion won. With the move, Hwang In-beom, who has been at the center of controversy all summer, will continue his soccer career not in the big leagues, but in Eastern Europe’s prestigious Zvezda.
Hwang’s transfer was first reported by Greek and Serbian media outlets. Greek sports outlet Gazeta Greece simultaneously reported the news of Hwang’s transfer. It reported that the transfer fee was €5.5 million. Another Greek outlet, Sportal, also reported that “Olympiakos preferred to cash in on the transfer rather than engage in a legal battle with the player,” adding that the club was tired of the protracted dispute with Hwang and allowed him to move to Zvezda, a team with which he had a good relationship.
In Serbia, leading daily Politika quoted Tanyug news agency as saying, “Hwang Inbum is the newest member of Zvezda. He has signed a four-year contract” and “will pay about 5 million euros (about $7.12 billion) over three years. It is the highest transfer fee in the club’s history.
◆[First half] Man City’s wave attack vs. all-defense Zvezda, Zvezda’s one-timer works
Hwang In-beom, who quickly integrated into the team, threw himself to block Walker’s cross in the fifth minute.
City brought their entire line up and came out aggressively. City had a very high percentage of the ball. Zvezda was forced to defend early on. His first priority was to stop City’s forward movement in his own half. After intercepting City’s passes, they quickly counterattacked to find space in the back of the defense.
City had the first chance of the game in the 15th minute when Rodriguez’s powerful shot was denied by a super save from their goalkeeper. City opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Alaves sent a shot straight at Zvezda.
City took the lead in the 26th minute when Holland’s decisive header hit the post. Foden’s cross was headed in by Holland, but instead of going in, it hit the crossbar. Holland looked disappointed.
City started the game on a one-sided attack. They pinned Zvezda down in their own half and pounded the opposition left, right, and center. Zvezda was forced to defend at full strength, throwing himself at City’s numerous threatening shots. City’s best chance came in the 29th minute when Ake’s header was blocked by a diving save from their goalkeeper.
Hwang In-beom was part of a Zvezda counterattack in the 30th minute, sending in a threatening cross. Hwang In-beom had a solid game in the defense. With City’s one-sided attack, Hwang In-Beom was more of a defender than an attacker.
City also had a crucial header from Foden in the 40th minute that was blocked by an animalistic save from Zvezda’s Spider Son Glazer. For City, Glazer’s super saves were the order of the day. Glazer is the captain of the Israeli national team.
In the 43rd minute, Guardiola took Silva off and brought on Dokou. As soon as he came on, Dokou continued to get into Zvezda’s space.
Zvezda then rattled the City net in the 45th minute on a counterattack, but the assistant referee raised the offside flag. However, video assistant referee (VAR) showed him to be onside, not offside, and the goal was awarded. Hwang In-beom was also involved in the first goal. Zvezda took the lead with a shot from the edge of the box after a “costly counterattack,” and Zvezda went into halftime with a 1-0 lead. City dominated the game, winning the ball possession ratio (79% to 21%), shots on goal (22 to 1), and shots on target (7 to 1), but fell short on the scoreboard.
◆[Second half] Alvarez equalizer sparks City’s late rally
Two minutes into the second half, Alvarez tied the game at 1-1. The goal came in a flash. Alvarez exchanged passes with Holland before running in and slotting the ball past Zvezda with his right foot.
City responded eight minutes into the second half when Walker rattled the post, but the assistant referee’s offside flag was raised. City failed to capitalize on a late chance in the 13th minute. Alvarez’s powerful shot was saved by Zvezda, and then Holland burst through on goal, only to be denied again by the keeper.
City took Gomes off in the 14th minute and brought on Akanji as a joker. City pulled a goal back in the 15th minute. Alvarez curled in a right-footed free kick that deflected off Zvezda and into the back of the net. It was officially a multi-goal game for Alvarez.
Zvezda had a chance in the 16th minute of the second half when Hwang In-Bum headed a shot straight at the City goalkeeper. Hwang In-beom was steady in possession in the midfield and showed his ability to break away.
City’s Holland had a crucial header saved by Zvezda again in the 19th minute of the second half. Holland was having an awful day of luck.
Down a man, Zvezda made a change in attack in the 23rd minute, bringing on Olayinka and Kraso as jokers.
City got their third goal in the 28th minute when Rodri scored with a right-footed shot. It was a stunning goal that showcased Rodriguez’s class. It was a fine ball touch and a sensible shot that created a wedge.
Zvezda brought on Lukic in the 32nd minute in search of a consolation goal. Hwang In-beom, who celebrated his birthday, was substituted in the 37th minute. He started and played 82 minutes.
Zvezda pushed for an equalizer, but it was not to be. City were unable to find an additional goal. Holland was looking for his first goal in the Champions League this season, but was unlucky. The 3-1 victory was City’s first in the group stage.
Rating, Sofascore: Alvarez 10, Hwang 6.6
The statistical site Sofascore gave Alvarez the highest rating of 10 for the City victory, followed by Mateusz Nunes with 8.7, Rodriguez with 8.6, Holland with 6.1, Foden with 7.8, Silva with 7.3, Gomes with 7.5, Ake with 7.7, Dias with 7.0, Walker with 7.3, and Ederson with 6.6.
Zvezda received a 6.6 rating. Vukari had 7.0, Ndiaye 6.6, Ivanic 7.1, Stamenich 6.5, Mitrovic 6.0, Rodic 6.2, Dragovic 6.0, Ziga 7.1, Mikhailovic 6.1, Glazer 9.4.
Another statistical site, Fourscore.com, also gave Alvarez the highest rating out of 10. Holland was rated 7.3, Foden 7.5, Silva 6.5, Rodri 8.3, Nunes 7.9, Gomes 6.9, Ake 7.1, Dias 6.5, Walker 6.8, and Ederson 6.2. Hwang In-beom had a 6.2 rating. Among Zvezda players, Bukari had the highest rating of 7.0.
TNT Sports commentator and Man United legend Rio Ferdinand said: “Alvarez is a natural. You can’t teach a ball like that from his first goal. He’s an incredible player,” he said of Alvarez.
The BBC said: “European champions Man City have won. They continue to win games this season. They looked to have taken a bit of a breather after conceding the opening goal, but just two minutes into the second half, Alvarez equalized to level the scores, and then Alvarez gave them the lead from a free kick. Rodriguez sealed the win with a stunning finish. The UEFA named Rodri the official Player of the Match. They said of Rodri: “He had incredible ability. He handled the ball well under pressure and linked up well. And then he scored a beautiful goal.”
City manager Pep Guardiola told TNT Sports after the game, “We played really well. But we didn’t score more goals. We played consistently well and in the end we won. The fact that we had 22 shots in the first half is good. If we had scored two goals early in the game, it would have been a completely different game.” “I said at halftime, ‘We didn’t play badly, forget about the result, we can do it again. Let’s keep our composure,’ and that’s what we did,” he said, adding, “Alvarez showed his worth. He works hard, he scores goals and assists. I don’t know the extent of Silva’s injury yet. I haven’t spoken to the doctor. I just hope it’s not serious.”
Zvezda captain Dragovic said in a post-match interview, “I can’t be satisfied with today’s defeat. I’m ashamed to have conceded Alvarez’s equalizer at the start of the second half. It was good to play against a team like Man City. We learned a lot. If we want to be successful, we need to be a team like City.”
City’s Rodri added: “We saw it could be a difficult game. We didn’t score in the first half. I said, ‘Don’t panic, let’s do our job,’ and we ended up scoring three goals in the second half. Alvarez did an unbelievable job. I scored a goal too,” he said.
Coach Zvezda Bakar said: “I never like to lose. We fought hard. We conceded early in the second half. It was difficult to maintain our pace after conceding the equalizer. City could have scored more goals, but our goalkeeper Glazer saved a lot of them. Man City is a great team. They have a lot of great players. We will learn a lot from this game and go home with a lot to build on.”
◆In other UCL action, Lee gets his first win for PSG
In the other Champions League Group G match of the day, Leipzig (Germany) recorded their first win away from home against Young Boys (Switzerland) with a 3-1 victory thanks to a goal from Simakan Schlager Cescu. In the end, it was a tie for first place in Group G, with City and Leipzig both getting their first wins. Zvezda and Young Boys have one loss each.
In Group E, Feyenoord (Netherlands) got their first win, beating Celtic (Scotland) 2-0 at home. Celtic’s Korean duo of Yang Hyun-joon and Oh Hyun-gyu came on as second-half substitutes, but couldn’t prevent their team from losing. Celtic had two men sent off in the second half and were forced to play from behind. Lazio (Italy) and Atletico Madrid (Spain) played to a 1-1 draw in the same group. 소닉카지노
In Group F, Lee Kang-in’s Paris Saint-Germain (France) beat Dortmund (Germany) 2-0 at home, with Mbappe scoring the winning PK and Hakimi adding a brace. Lee, returning from a thigh injury, came on for Vitinha in the 35th minute of the second half and played 10 minutes. In the other match, AC Milan and Newcastle played to a 0-0 draw.
In Group H, FC Barcelona (Spain) thrashed Antwerp (Belgium) 5-0 at home, with a brace from Joao Felix and goals from Lewandowski and Gabi. Porto (Portugal) defeated Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) 3-1 with a multi-goal performance from Galeno and a brace from Taremi.