MANCHESTER, England (AP)Manchester City qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League as a group winner with a game to spare on Tuesday despite only drawing 1-1 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Ilkay Gundogan’s 56th-minute goal for City was canceled out 13 minutes later by Manor Solomon at Etihad Stadium.
However, a draw was all the English champions needed to advance from Group C. And with Dinamo Zagreb losing 2-0 to Atalanta, Pep Guardiola’s side is guaranteed to finish in first place, potentially giving City an easier draw in the last 16.
City, which is in the knockout stage for the seventh straight season, can now rest players for its final match in the group, in Zagreb on Dec. 11.
”Now we have one competition already done, and now our focus will be the Premier League until we arrive in the cups,” said Guardiola, whose team in third in the Premier League – nine points behind leader Liverpool. ”The target was to qualify and we have done it.”
Shakhtar is in second place and will secure qualification if it beats Atalanta at home in the final round.
The Ukrainian side was not cowed by its failure to make much of an impression in previous games against City, which beat Shakhtar 3-0 in the reverse group match in September and won the fixture 6-0 at the Etihad a year ago in the same competition.
Shakhtar caught City a number of times with what seemed like a plan to lob balls over the top of the home defense, especially behind left back Angelino.
On one occasion, City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes raced out of his area to meet a long pass but completely missed the ball. That allowed Tete to break clear, but the Shakhtar forward’s shot was turned behind by Fernandinho.
In a flat atmosphere, City enjoyed a lot of possession but lacked its usual potency until Gabriel Jesus wriggled free inside the area and laid the ball off to Gundogan, who placed his shot inside the post.
Yet any hopes that would kill off the visitors were wide of the mark as Shakhtar responded well and equalized when Dodo got behind the City defense on the right and pulled the ball back for Solomon, who had come off the bench just moments earlier, to finish with a powerful shot.
”We let them play and didn’t defend as well as normally do, so we struggled to create,” Gundogan said. ”It was not our best performance but this is the Champions League and it is a competition where you have to struggle.”
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