Atalanta 1-1 Manchester City: Kyle Walker forced to go in goal

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Pep Guardiola must be praying Ederson is fit for Sunday. Manchester City simply cannot go to Anfield without him. That was proven by Claudio Bravo’s 36-minute cameo, if that is what you would like to call it.

Bravo emerged at half-time after Ederson had picked up what was described as a ‘minor injury’. Although blameless, the Chilean conceded within four minutes of coming on. But, more pressingly, he did not even see this tie to its conclusion, chaotically wiping out Josip Ilicic after needlessly haring out to intercept a ball he was never going to reach.

A complete calamity. It was embarrassing, the Bravo of his first season in England, and represents a real headache for Guardiola if Ederson’s problem is any more serious than first thought.

Claudio Bravo is shown a red card as the Manchester City substitute was sent off in the Champions league tie with Atalanta

Claudio Bravo is shown a red card as the Manchester City substitute was sent off in the Champions league tie with Atalanta

Josip Ilicic was brought down by the Chilean goalkeeper as he ran through on goal, forcing Kyle Walker to go in goal

Josip Ilicic was brought down by the Chilean goalkeeper as he ran through on goal, forcing Kyle Walker to go in goal

Kyle Walker was brought on in goal and did what was required to ensure City left Italy with a vital point in the group stage

Kyle Walker was brought on in goal and did what was required to ensure City left Italy with a vital point in the group stage

Walker was called into action immediately but did well to get hold of a powerful free-kick at the second attempt

Walker was called into action immediately but did well to get hold of a powerful free-kick at the second attempt

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game in Milan as he put City ahead with a fine finish

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game in Milan as he put City ahead with a fine finish

The winger slotted home from inside the box to give Pep Guardiola's side the lead in the group game at San Siro

The winger slotted home from inside the box to give Pep Guardiola’s side the lead in the group game at San Siro

Atalanta were level four minutes after the restart when Chelsea midfielder Mario Pasalic fired a header into the back of the net

Atalanta were level four minutes after the restart when Chelsea midfielder Mario Pasalic fired a header into the back of the net

Claudio Bravo, on for Ederson at half-time, was helpless as the midfielder planted a powerful header in at the far post

Claudio Bravo, on for Ederson at half-time, was helpless as the midfielder planted a powerful header in at the far post

MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS 

Atalanta (3-4-2-1): Gollini 7, Toloi 6, Djimsiti 6, Palomino 6, Hateboer 6, de Roon 6.5, Freuler 7 (Malinovskiy 85), Castagne 6 (Muriel 90+1), Pasalic 7.5, Gomez 7, Ilicic 7.

Subs not used: Kjaer, Masiello, Arana, Sportiello, Barrow.

Goals: Pasalic 49

Bookings: Djimsiti, Ilicic, Toloi, Castagne

Manager: Gian Piero Gasperini 7 

Man City: Ederson 7 (Bravo 46, 4), Cancelo 6, Fernandinho 6, Otamendi 6, Mendy 6, De Bruyne 7, Gundogan 7, B Silva 8, Mahrez (Walker 87), Jesus 6 (Aguero 73, 6), Sterling 7.

Subs not used: Doyle, Stones, Angelino, Garcia.

Goals: Sterling 7

Bookings: Fernandinho

Manager: Pep Guardiola 6

Sent off: Bravo, Mendy

Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov (Belarus) 5

Qualification from this group will come eventually but the circumstances last night were far from idea and City ended up with Kyle Walker in goal after VAR farcically took more than five minutes to confirm the obvious sending off. Walker ended up completing more saves than Bravo.

Gabriel Jesus missed a penalty with City already a goal up and in complete control. Worse still, off came Ederson with Liverpool on the horizon. On-loan Chelsea forward Mario Pasalic headed beyond Bravo and then City looked like they might even lose it.

It was a pretty unsatisfactory night for Guardiola, all told. This trip to Milan, in Atalanta’s unfamiliar temporary home of the San Siro, has acted as a sideshow to the weekend. Minds will have switched to Anfield long before the wheels are even up on Thursday afternoon.

The immediate challenge for Guardiola now is to close the gap with the Premier League leaders. This was hardly the perfect warm-up, City strangled in the second half and ending it second best.

That felt scarcely believable when Jesus was striding to take that penalty moments before the break. Guardiola will not be happy because the absolute goal here was to bury Atalanta and progress to the knockout stages on the night before turning attention to other things.

The effort expended was immense late in the game too, with Kevin De Bruyne charging around attempting to manufacture a winner when others around him floundered. By contrast, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane sat out the majority of Liverpool’s victory over Genk.

Pep Guardiola (L) talks with Atalanta's coach Gian Piero Gasperini before the game got underway in Milan on Wednesday

Pep Guardiola (L) talks with Atalanta’s coach Gian Piero Gasperini before the game got underway in Milan on Wednesday

Papu Gomez, Bernardo Silva and Remo Freuler go for a header as they look to regain possession during the early exchanges

Papu Gomez, Bernardo Silva and Remo Freuler go for a header as they look to regain possession during the early exchanges

Sterling is congratulated by team-mates Riyad Mahrez (L) and Nicolas Otamendi (R) after continuing his fine scoring form

Sterling is congratulated by team-mates Riyad Mahrez (L) and Nicolas Otamendi (R) after continuing his fine scoring form

Kevin De Bruyne was a menace throughout as he looked to double City's lead inside the first 30 minutes of the game

Kevin De Bruyne was a menace throughout as he looked to double City’s lead inside the first 30 minutes of the game

Referee Aleksey Kulbakov gestures for a Manchester City penalty after a VAR review spotted a blatant handball by Atalanta

Referee Aleksey Kulbakov gestures for a Manchester City penalty after a VAR review spotted a blatant handball by Atalanta

Sterling saw his free-kick strike the hand of Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic in the wall, which the referee initially dismissed 

Guardiola insisted that rotation was not on the menu, keen to seal qualification and rest others in the final two group games. True to his word, this was almost as strong as City could have gone in the circumstances. They initially meant business, ahead inside seven minutes with the sort of move that perfectly illustrates Guardiola’s reign. Seven touches in eight seconds and a product of the press.

Raheem Sterling smelt a chance as Hans Hateboer attempted to play out from the back, intercepting easily, moving the ball forward to Bernardo Silva. Atalanta were stretched within a second, Gabriel Jesus intelligently darting diagonally to fashion space inside the box. His back-heel found the onrushing Sterling, who followed the passage, and he passed into the far corner first time. That was Sterling’s 14th club goal of the season already.

Sterling might have secured number 15 shortly after had Riyad Mahrez’s flash across the six-yard box been a little softer, Sterling unable to meet it. Mahrez caused countless problems, Berat Djimsiti resorting to dragging him to a standstill when the Algerian bore down on goal from wide. 

It was an awful spot kick from Gabriel Jesus though as the Brazilian sent the ball well wide of the left-hand post

It was an awful spot kick from Gabriel Jesus though as the Brazilian sent the ball well wide of the left-hand post

Riyad Mahrez could have doubled Manchester City's lead but saw his powerful shot from distance saved by the goalkeeper

Riyad Mahrez could have doubled Manchester City’s lead but saw his powerful shot from distance saved by the goalkeeper

Pasalic celebrates scoring their equaliser with Alejandro Gomez, who played a crucial role in creating the Italian side's goal

Pasalic celebrates scoring their equaliser with Alejandro Gomez, who played a crucial role in creating the Italian side’s goal

Manchester City duo Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho react after conceding an equaliser, despite dominating the first half

Manchester City duo Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho react after conceding an equaliser, despite dominating the first half

Atalanta fans go wild in the stands as they made the trip from Bergamo to Milan to watch their side in European action

Atalanta fans go wild in the stands as they made the trip from Bergamo to Milan to watch their side in European action

Guardiola had sprung somewhat of a surprise, starting Bernardo up front alongside Jesus and picking a flat midfield four. The early lead saw them revert to the trusted 4-3-3 in an attempt to control proceedings.

They did, Hateboer bravely blocking another Sterling effort when he looked to stroke home Kevin De Bruyne’s cutback, before Gundogan ballooned over the bar. Pierluigi Gollini pushed a Mahrez drive away. Atalanta, as courageous as their intentions were, again found themselves too open in a stadium that is not their own but remained hostile and willed an upset.

Any chance of that ought to have been extinguished moments before the break. Sterling was hauled down by Rafael Toloi and referee Aleksei Kulbakov signalled for a penalty but VAR ruled that out, deciding on a free-kick instead. Sterling struck that into Ilicic’s hand, Kulbakov waving away City protests, only for VAR to overturn that too. After all that, Jesus would skew his penalty a yard wide.

The impressive Ilicic tries to take on Gundogan as Atalanta looked the more likely to score a winner than City did

The impressive Ilicic tries to take on Gundogan as Atalanta looked the more likely to score a winner than City did

Guardiola introduced Sergio Aguero off the bench with 20 minutes remaining as City went in search of a late winner

Guardiola introduced Sergio Aguero off the bench with 20 minutes remaining as City went in search of a late winner

Sterling got close to giving City the lead but he was stopped by a superb tackle from one Atalanta defender at the byline

Sterling got close to giving City the lead but he was stopped by a superb tackle from one Atalanta defender at the byline

Things quickly turned against City when Bravo cynically brought down Ilicic as he ran through on goal for Atalanta

Things quickly turned against City when Bravo cynically brought down Ilicic as he ran through on goal for Atalanta

City did extremely well to keep the ball as far away from their goal as possible while Walker was between the posts

City did extremely well to keep the ball as far away from their goal as possible while Walker was between the posts

The miss and Ederson’s injury looked very costly just four minutes after the break. Poor Bravo had not touched the ball by the time Mario Pasalic was heading into his net.

Nicolas Otamendi was drawn out to the Atalanta left by captain Alejandro Gomes, whose cross was perfect for Pasalic to meet. There was absolutely nothing Bravo could do, yet it still prompted flashbacks to everything he faced flying in during his first calamitous season in England.

Bravo was scrambling when Djimsiti’s header flashed wide. City, who were serene for so long, looked shaken. They still have that habit of becoming overawed during bursts of play and that is the sort of thing that will give Jurgen Klopp optimism that Liverpool can deal a major title blow. Particularly if Bravo is between the sticks. 



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