Manchester City lost for the first time in 227 days and so failed to become the first English side to be victorious in all six Champions League group matches. Pep Guardiola’s side were poor in the opening 45 minutes, then rallied after the break.
Sergio Agüero scored a late penalty after Gabriel Jesus was felled but this was a consolation only. As an arch-winner, Guardiola will hate losing but having chosen a weakened XI the manager can be phlegmatic as preparation for Sunday’s 175th Manchester derby now begins.
At 17 years and 192 days, Phil Foden was the youngest player to make a Champions League start for an English club since Cesc Fabregas for Arsenal in 2004. Foden lined up on the left of a midfield that had Yaya Touré as the holder, Ilkay Gündogan as string-puller, and Danilo along the right.
Guardiola made seven changes from the weekend’s win over West Ham United, with only Ederson, Danilo, Leroy Sané and Eliaquim Mangala surviving, the manager resting key players ahead of the derby at Manchester United.
This suggested City might be vulnerable and so it proved as they ended the half two goals behind. There was an early scare when City defender Tosin Adarabioyo’s miskick let Taras Stepanenko in along the left. This allowed Stepanenko to play in Facundo Ferreyra but his shot was blocked.
Moments later Guardiola displayed his penchant for interacting with opposition players. When Danilo and Bernard clashed, the latter was given a friendly hug. This was all occurring in an OSK Metalist Stadium that had plenty of empty seats, which was understandable given Shakhtar’s home is 155 miles way, in what remains a war zone.
From this juncture Guardiola’s mood darkened to disquiet. First, he believed Foden had been felled. Then, as he remonstrated with the fourth official, Paulo Fonseca’s side broke and, after play switched to the right, Marlos warmed Ederson’s fingers for what was a comfortable save.
On 26 minutes the Brazilian could do nothing about Bernard’s opener. Danilo, though, should have done. In backing off he allowed the Shakhtar winger time to fashion a sweetly struck curler beyond Ederson into his top left corner .
That advantage could and should have been doubled by Ukraine’s champions virtually from the kick-off. Once more it was Bernard who had time to aim at Ederson’s goal, though this time the City keeper made a save to his left.
Fonseca’s men did score a second soon after, however. Yet again it stemmed from City’s right as a long ball bounced into space, Ederson mistimed a charge out and Ismaily turned it into an open goal.
As should be expected, City rallied. Foden mis-kicked one effort, defender Ivan Ordets blocked a Gündogan shot, and Jesus ran clear before goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov intervened. Yet by the interval City had to defend two corners, and Taison became the latest Shakhtar player to unload at Ederson, though the effort went high.
Despite the City’s dire showing in the first half, Guardiola decided against any changes at the interval. A bright beginning saw Bernardo Silva find Sané, whose first-time shot forced Pyatov into a save
The City manager, though, was soon angered again due to yet another Shakhtar foray down their left. Foden was not having the best game – when City next attacked and Touré found him, the teenager sliced the ball straight into Pyatov’s arms when the Ivorian was screaming for a return.
There was, at least, some consistent City pressure now. Silva stood the ball up for a misdirected header and Guardiola applauded the effort. On the hour he made a move, swapping Sané for Brahim Díaz, an 18-year-old midfielder making a third City appearance and who added some required zest.
In a bid to protect the unbeaten record, Guardiola next brought on Agüero for Fernandinho. Yet it was Díaz who created a opening for Jesus to hit the post. Agüero slotted in the spot-kick in added time but it was not enough.
Next, all eyes turn to Old Trafford. It will be a major surprise if City are again as disjointed there.