COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP)The Manchester City juggernaut ground to a halt in the unlikeliest of places on Tuesday.
FC Copenhagen, a team languishing in the bottom half of the Danish league, became the first team to stop City from scoring this season as a Champions League group match overshadowed by early video-review decisions ended in a 0-0 draw.
Still, the point was enough to secure City’s place in the last 16 with two matches left in the group stage.
One of the VAR calls resulted in a red card for City left back Sergio Gomez in the 30th minute for pulling back Hakon Arnar Haraldsson as the last man, harming the visitors attacking ambitions at the atmospheric Parken Stadium.
Earlier, City midfielder Rodri had a brilliant long-range strike disallowed after VAR spotted a handball by Riyad Mahrez in the build-up.
Then, following another review, City was awarded a penalty after a free kick swung into the area struck the outstretched arm of Copenhagen defender Nicolai Boilesen. Mahrez, who has been increasingly reliable from the spot, saw his effort palmed away by Kamil Grabara.
Prolific striker Erling Haaland started the game on the bench – perhaps in view of the trip to Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday – and didn’t come on.
City manager Pep Guardiola said Haaland, who has scored 20 goals in 12 competitive games in his first season with the English champions, wasn’t in good enough shape to start after playing against Southampton in the Premier League on Saturday.
”Yesterday was not good, today a little better but not perfect, so we decide not to take the risk,” Guardiola said of Haaland.
City, which won its first three Group G games, would have guaranteed its place in the last 16 with a win. That was confirmed a few hours later, however, when Borussia Dortmund drew 1-1 at home to Sevilla in the other match in the group.
City is three points clear of second-place Dortmund and can advance as group winner by avoiding defeat when the teams meet in Germany in two weeks in the fifth round of games.
It was only the second time City has drawn 0-0 in the group stage of the Champions League.
”We started really well with 11, then we had an hour and 10 minutes to hang on,” Guardiola said. ”When we had the ball we were clever. It’s a good point.”
It was a second point earned in group play by last-place Copenhagen, keeping alive its chances of a third-place finish and dropping into the Europa League playoff round. Copenhagen and Sevilla both have two points.
”It was another tough game against one of the best teams in the world,” Copenhagen midfielder Marko Stamenic said. ”I think we can leave the stadium proud of ourselves and our team. We fought to the very last minute.”
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