Julian Alvarez proved to be the saviour for Manchester City as they overcame an early scare from Red Star Belgrade in their opening Champions League match at the Etihad Stadium, securing a 3-1 victory.
Manchester City, the title holders, were expected to dominate the proceedings, but Red Star Belgrade stunned Pep Guardiola's side with a surprise lead just before halftime. Osman Bukari was the man of the moment for Red Star as he clinically finished past Ederson, initially being flagged offside but later confirmed onside by VAR, much to City's dismay.
However, the Argentine sensation, Julian Alvarez, continued his stellar early-season form, restoring parity for Manchester City just two minutes into the second half. Alvarez capitalised on a lapse in concentration by Red Star goalkeeper Omri Glazer, whose mistake allowed Alvarez's free-kick to sail into the far corner.
With the momentum shifting in favour of the English champions, Rodri sealed the victory with a composed finish in the 73rd minute, capping off a remarkable comeback.
Despite their dominance, City made life difficult for themselves with some wayward finishing throughout the game. Erling Haaland, who had a quiet night in front of goal, saw his header hit the crossbar from point-blank range, while Phil Foden squandered an easier opportunity with a headed effort straight at Glazer.
Adding to City's challenges was their stretched squad, plagued by injuries, which led to them naming only eight substitutes, including two goalkeepers. The injury list expanded further as Bernardo Silva was forced off just before halftime, potentially presenting another headache for Guardiola.
Red Star Belgrade, largely restricted to their own half in the opening 45 minutes, surprised everyone with their resilient defence and the ability to exploit City's vulnerabilities on the counter.
Julian Alvarez, who played a pivotal role in City's treble success last season, was again the difference-maker. His goal, combined with Glazer's mishap, shifted the tide back in City's favour and highlighted the importance of their star players in crucial moments.
Rodri, the hero in City's historic Champions League triumph over Inter Milan in June, continued his penchant for scoring vital goals. The Spanish midfielder was given too much space on the edge of the box, and he capitalised with a perfectly placed curling effort into the far corner to seal the three points for Manchester City.