CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: City Nudge Shakhtar Donetsk
KEVIN De Bruyne’s superb strike and a late Raheem Sterling goal maintained Manchester City’s impressive form in a 2-0 Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.
De Bruyne struck in the 49th minute with a magnificent 20-yard strike into the top right-hand corner of the Shakhtar goal after David Silva’s run had ended with the Spaniard teeing up the opening.
It was the Belgian’s first goal of City’s free-scoring season – a reflection of his new, deeper role under Pep Guardiola – but certainly a goal worth waiting for given its quality.
Although City striker Sergio Aguero failed with a penalty, Sterling’s 89th minute finish from 12 yards, after a sprint and cross from fellow substitute Bernardo Silva, spared his team-mate’s blushes and wrapped up the points at Eastlands.
Aguero could have doubled the lead, and equalled City’s club record of 177 goals currently held by Eric Brook in the 1930s, after Leroy Sane was brought down by Ivan Ordets after 71 minutes.
But Aguero hit his spot kick too close to goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov who dived smartly to his right to keep out the effort.
A game which featured eight Brazilians – five of them from Shakhtar – and just three English players predictably provided plenty of entertainment and admirable football, even if goals were hard to come by.
Both sides had good opportunities to break the first half deadlock, Shakhtar’s best falling to the Brazilian Fred on 11 minutes as he appeared on the end of a flowing move to ghost clean through on goal, only for countryman Fernandinho to make a superb covering tackle.
There was also a firm strike from Marlos who forced City goalkeeper Ederson into the game’s first meaningful save as he dived sharply to his right.
But most of the other promising moments came from the hosts, looking unstoppable in a recent five-game spell which had seen them score 22 goals.
De Bruyne, one of many of the crop of City stars in a rich vein of form, unexpectedly missed the target, shooting wide after a Gabriel Jesus pass had slipped him through.
And Sane first tested Pyatov with a low shot from the edge of the area then worked his way skilfully through a couple of unconvincing challenges before rolling a shot inches wide of the far upright.
As the half ended, it might have appeared that City’s record of never having experienced a goalless draw in the 37 Champions League group stage fixtures was under threat.
But it took just three minutes of the second half for De Bruyne to ensure the streak would continue, a development that opened up the contest even further.
Sane soon tested Pyatov with a darting run and near-post shot and it looked as if Aguero was destined to edge a goal closer the record, when Silva’s breathtaking chip forward offered up a volley which the Argentinian struck directly at the keeper.
There might have been more glory for De Bruyne, after another penetrating run down the left from Sane, but this time defender Ismaily managed to block his long-range effort.
De Bruyne almost turned provider after 69 minutes with an enterprising run down the right and perfect cross which substitute Sterling side-footed wide on the volley.
Aguero and Sane, twice, came close in the closing stages although the hosts also had to survive a strong penalty appeal from Shakhtar after the ball appeared to strike John Stones’ arm.