MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Sep 19 – Pep Guardiola had to watch on in horror from the stands as Manchester City’s Champions League campaign got off to the worst possible start in a 2-1 home defeat by Lyon on Wednesday.
Guardiola was serving a touchline ban for being sent-off in last season’s quarter-final exit to Liverpool and the competition favourites failed to live up their billing.
Maxwel Cornet and Nabil Fekir fired Lyon into a 2-0 half-time lead and despite Bernardo Silva pulling a goal back, City slumped to their first defeat of the season.
A decade into their stewardship, winning the Champions League for the first time may remain the holy grail for City’s Abu Dhabi owners.
But it seems City’s fans still need to be convinced with plenty of empty seats dotted around the Etihad and the Champions League anthem again booed before kick-off.
That flat atmosphere transferred into City’s first-half display as Guardiola could only sit and watch a performance riddled with uncharacteristic basic errors from the Premier League champions.
Lyon have won just two of their opening five Ligue 1 matches of the season, but pounced on City’s sloppiness.
Cornet thought he had opened the scoring when he rounded Ederson and slotted into an empty net only to be marginally flagged offside midway through the first half.
Moments later there was no flag to rescue City from some calamitous defending.
Fekir’s low cross should have been easily cut out by Fabian Delph at the back post. However, the England international swiped at fresh air and Cornet gratefully slotted into the far corner.
Conceding at least sparked City into life and they also had the ball in the net only to be called back for offside when Raheem Sterling’s cross was converted by Ilkay Gundogan, before Gabriel Jesus had claims for a penalty waived away.
Guardiola’s ban meant he wasn’t even allowed into the dressing room at half-time, and Arteta’s team talk got an awfully lot tougher two minutes before the break when long-time Liverpool target Fekir drilled a shot from 25 yards into the bottom corner.
Arteta surprisingly resisted the temptation to make changes at the break despite having a cavalry of Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero and Riyad Mahrez on the bench.
Anthony Lopes made a smart stop low to his right to deny Jesus, but it wasn’t until Sane and Aguero were summoned before the hour mark that City started to threaten.
By that point, it should have been too late as former Manchester United winger Memphis Depay hit the post with just Ederson to beat on another threatening Lyon counter-attack.
Sane’s introduction moved Bernardo Silva into the central role where he has shone in recent weeks in the absence of Kevin De Bruyne and the two combined to get the hosts back into the game 23 minutes from time.
The German got to the by-line and his cut-back was swept into the far corner by the Portuguese international.
Sane scored on his first start of the season against Fulham on Saturday and seemed determined to ride to City’s rescue as a fleet-footed run set up a low effort from Aguero that Lopes did well to stop.
Aguero and Sane fired off target when well-placed in stoppage time, but Lyon held out to leave City with plenty of work to do in Group F to progress.