City go into derby with rare taste of de­feat

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Luke Ed­wards in Kharkiv

Pep Guardi­ola al­ways knew this mo­ment would come, that a de­feat when you are try­ing to win four com­pe­ti­tions is in­evitable, but even if this was a game Manch­ester City could af­ford to lose, the tim­ing could not be much worse.

City were al­ready as­sured of top­ping their Cham­pi­ons League group, but they were not just beaten by Shakhtar, they were out­played, and on Sun­day they travel to Manch­ester United, their neigh­bours and clos­est ri­vals in the ti­tle race. They will walk into Old Traf­ford shorn of their cloak of in­vin­cihe bil­ity and will find Jose Mour­inho’s men wait­ing, well drilled and rested. If he had al­ready spot­ted any weak­nesses to ex­ploit, Mour­inho will have been de­lighted how eas­ily Shakhtar sliced through City on the counter-at­tack, even if this was a very dif­fer­ent start­ing XI to the one United will face.

Shakhtar’s suc­cess led to the bizarre sight of their coach, Paulo Fon­seca, don­ning a Zorro mask for the post-match press con­fer­ence. He once told sup­port­ers it would be his cos­tume of choice for a fancy dress party, and he then promised would wear it in the event of Shakhtar mak­ing the last 16.

This de­feat for City can be ex­cused, the re­sult did not re­ally mat­ter and Guardi­ola made seven changes to the team, but it must be viewed in a wider con­text. City’s early sea­son mo­men­tum made them look un­stop­pable, but there were signs they had started to stut­ter be­fore this tax­ing trip across Europe, and no de­feat can be dis­missed as ir­rel­e­vant.

Af­ter the unim­pres­sive per­for­mance against Feyeno­ord, the late win­ner against Southamp­ton and the laboured vic­tory over West Ham, they go into the busi­est pe­riod of the sea­son, the bleak mid­win­ter that has al­ways con­cerned Guardi­ola af­ter last year’s bar­ren run, with an un­fa­mil­iar los­ing sen­sa­tion. They have new ques­tions to an­swer, a dif­fer­ent sort of test to pass.

This was the first time City have been beaten since April, it is by no means a dis­as­ter, but it adds another layer of in­trigue to this most fran­tic of foot­balling months. Lose again at the week­end and City re­ally will ap­pear vul­ner­a­ble.

Guardi­ola al­most sounded re­lieved this first de­feat had been in­flicted. “It is never nice to lose a game,” said Guardi­ola. “But it’s part of our pro­fes­sion and I think it is good for the club, good for the play­ers, good for every­body be­cause we were al­ways go­ing to lose a game. Now we need to have the right re­ac­tion on Sun­day.”

Guardi­ola may have made his se­nior play­ers travel to Ukraine, but he did not work them, the most eye-catch­ing of the seven changes a first se­nior start for Phil Fo­den.

At 17 years and 192 days, he be­came the youngest English­man – or should that be boy – to start a Cham­pi­ons League game, although it turned into an ex­pe­ri­ence that will be filed un­der sober­ing for the young man from Stock­port. There was also a sec­ond Cham­pi­ons League start for another young English­man, de­fender Tosin Adara­bioyo – another lo­cal tal­ent from Greater Manch­ester – although it was his missed tackle on Bernard that al­most gave Shakhtar an early lead, Fer­nand­inho cov­er­ing for his mis­take with a vi­tal block on Facundo Fer­reyra.

Shakhtar were brighter and sharper. Tai­son threat­ened with his speed over the ground, run­ning clear of Yaya Toure be­fore feed­ing Mar­los, whose shot was com­fort­ably saved by Eder­son. It was a warn­ing of what was to come.

Tai­son once again made the inci-

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