It has taken 29 games and seven-and-a-half months, but Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City finally tasted defeat on a freezing night in Ukraine.
City’s imperious run at home and abroad came to an abrupt halt here in the Metalist Stadium at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk and a Brazilian contingent who ripped them to shreds in the first half.
A first defeat since losing the FA Cup semi-final to Arsenal on April 23 was not a total surprise in what was essentially a dead rubber for City.
Shakhtar’s players celebrate with Bernard after the midfielder gave the Ukrainians the lead with a wonderful curling effort
Pep Guardiola saw his side fall to their first defeat of the season as they were comfortably beaten at the Metalist Stadium
Phil Foden was making his first start for Manchester City as Guardiola gave the 17-year-old a chance to impress in Ukraine
MATCH FACTS, RATINGS, TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Shakhtar Donetsk (4-2-3-1): Pyatov; Butko, Ordets, Rakitskiy, Ismaily (Azevedo 64); Fred, Stepanenko; Marlos, Taison, Bernard; Ferreyra
Goals: Bernard 26, Ismaily 32
Subs not used: Shevchenko, Khocholava, Dentinho, Patrick, Petryak, Kovalenko
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Danilo, Mangala, Adarabioyo, Fernandinho (Aguero 70); Toure, Gundogan, Foden, Sane (Diaz 61), Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus
Booked: Danilo, Gundogan
Subs not used: Bravo, Walker, Sterling, Otamendi, Duhaney
Guardiola rested players to avoid unnecessary injuries ahead of the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday against a very capable Shakhtar side still fighting for their Champions League lives.
But the manner of it will concern the City boss who will not have enjoyed seeing his team so comprehensively outplayed. So too will the fact that it follows three unconvincing Premier League wins over Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham.
Guardiola stood solemnly on the touchline, his breath visible in the cold night air as he screamed instructions, but to little avail.
City were two down by half-time and well on the way to a rare defeat after winning 21 of their 22 games this season (note: if we are counting pen shootout win over Wolves).
Guardiola rotated for the clash though he still included Fernandinho, Ederson, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus in City’s XI
City’s Ilkay Gundogan competes for possession in midfield against Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian attacking midfielder Fred
Bernard impressed in the early stages for Shakhtar as they attempted to seal their place in the Champions League last 16
Facundo Ferreyra tries to reach the ball ahead of Eliaquim Mangala as Fernandinho (left) and Taras Stepanenko watch on
By doing so, they failed to become only the sixth club in Champions League history to finish the group stage with a 100 per cent record. Not even Guardiola’s great Barcelona side, Lionel Messi and all, managed that.
Instead, he will wait to see how his players absorb this setback, albeit in slightly mitigated circumstances.
The Spaniard has said many times this season that defeat was inevitable, and the key will be how his players react.
‘I assure you that sooner or later we’ll lose,’ he said on the eve of this game. ‘We’ll recover the next day and sleep well and then we’ll try to win again.’
City’s 100 per cent record after five games ensured they had already reached the knockout stage as winners of Group F before a ball had been kicked in Kharkiv, allowing Guardiola to make changes before the derby.
Sane and his City team-mates failed to establish themselves early on as Shakhtar dominated the opening period in Kharkiv
Bernard’s effort loops over the outstretched Ederson as the home side grabbed a deserved lead in the group stage match
Bernard celebrates after his effort after 26 minutes gave Shakhtar a deserved lead at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv
(L-R) Ederson, Yaya Toure, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho react after Bernard’s goal put City’s 100 per cent record in danger
Phil Foden, of whom so much is expected in the future, was handed his full debut at left wing-back and Tosin Adarabioyo made his second Champions League start alongside Fernandinho and Eliaquim Mangala in an unfamiliar three-man defence.
At 17 years and 192 days, Foden became the youngest player to start a Champions League game for an English club since Cesc Fabregas for Arsenal in 2004.
Shakhtar, on the other hand, still had much to play for and needed a point to be sure of qualifying in second place ahead of Napoli.
The club’s record at home to English clubs certainly suggested that was possible against a weakened City side, even though Shakhtar are playing 300km from home in Kharkiv due to the conflict in Donetsk.
Mangala attempts to dispossess Marlos as Shakhtar’s Brazilian stars flourished during the first half at the Metalist Stadium
Ismaily showed great composure to dribble round City goalkeeper Ederson who had come sprinting out off his line…
…before side-footing home into Ederson’s empty net to double the home side’s lead as Danilo watched on helplessly
Ismaily is mobbed after his goal saw Shakhtar took a big step towards a place in the Champions League knockout stages
They came into this game unbeaten in six games against Premier League teams, having won four of them and drawn two.
The Brazilian trio of Bernard, Marlos and Taison bring creative flair to the Ukrainian champions, and they set the early pace which resulted in the home team taking a 26th minute lead.
Bernard had already tormented Adarabioyo early on when he broke down the left and tempted the young defender into a wild swing at thin air. The ball was slipped to Facundo Ferreyra and it needed a crucial block by Fernandinho to keep out the Argentine’s effort with Ederson stranded.
Taison’s surging run away from Yaya Toure spanning half the length of the field then ended with Marlos’s effort comfortably dealt with by the City keeper, but he had no chance with the next attempt.
Again Taison made the initial break and the ball was fed to Bernard on the left-hand side of the box. He weighed up his options for a moment and spotted Ederson slightly off his line and vulnerable.
Shakhtar keeper Andriy Pyatov denied Gabriel Jesus brilliantly by sprinting off his line to tackle the Brazilian forward
Guardiola barks out instructions to his team from the sideline as his City side improved after the half-time interval
Fernandinho rises to head on goal as the Brazilian faced his former club in City’s final Champions League group stage tie
The execution still had to be perfect, though, and it was. Bernard curled his shot over the outstretched fingertips of the City keeper and under the bar.
Ederson rushed out to block from the same player moments later after Taison had created another chance, but he was guilty of the error that handed Shakhtar a second goal in the 32nd minute.
Ismaily galloped into space to reach Taison’s pass swung down the left channel, and the Brazilian raced off his line to try and intercept.
One of the reasons City signed Ederson was his qualities as a sweeper keeper, but he got it badly wrong this time. Ismaily beat him to the ball, took it round him and slotted it into an empty net.
Foden became City’s youngest-ever Champions League player but failed to change the course of Wednesday’s match
Shakhtar defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy watches as Jesus is brought down by a sliding challenge during the second half
Bernardo Silva failed to seize his opportunity after being handed a rare start by Guardiola on Wednesday evening
City were rocking. Andriy Pyatov came out to claim the ball and send Gabriel Jesus sprawling after he had been put through by Foden, but that was City’s only real chance of the first half and it ended with Taison wriggling through to swing another shot inches over the bar.
The second half was lacking in incident by comparison. City were improved and Fernandinho placed a free header wide before making way for Sergio Aguero, while Jesus clipped the outside of the post after great work by young substitute Brahim Diaz.
But Shakhtar’s work was done for the night. Both clubs advance to the knockout stage in February when Guardiola’s approach and line-up will be altogether different.
For now, he will switch his sights to the Manchester derby and ensuring this remains an unfortunate blip.