Kyle Walker left the San Siro wearing the gloves and having completed more saves than Claudio Bravo. It was that kind of night for Manchester City. An absurd game that ended with them still having not qualified from this group.
That feels inevitable but there are more pressing concerns with Liverpool on the horizon. Bravo was only able to sprinkle chaos on proceedings because Ederson departed at half-time with a thigh injury and there are concerns that the Brazilian will not recover in time for Anfield. ‘I don’t know right now,’ Pep Guardiola said. ‘We’re not going to take an (unnecessary) risk.’
Bravo was picking the ball out of his net without touching it four minutes after his introduction. He was blameless for that but certainly was not later on in a moment of madness that had you harking back to his calamitous first season in England.
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
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
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
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
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, Mendy, B Silva
Sent off: Bravo
Manager: Pep Guardiola 6
Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov (Belarus) 5
It was toe-curling, the Chilean haring from his goal in a Hail Mary attempt at intercepting a ball Josip Ilicic was always going to reach first, wiping the striker out and seeing red.
VAR farcically took more than five minutes to confirm the obvious sending off and Bravo could not even exit stage left properly, loitering beyond the point of an absolute decision – as if the gruesome video evidence did not exist.
Further proof, it was ever needed, of why Guardiola jettisoned him as No 1. City must be praying that Ederson recovers in time for Anfield at the weekend. They surely cannot go there with Bravo in this frame of mind and expect not to suffer a few mishaps.
The trip to Milan was pretty unsatisfactory for Guardiola, all told, but at least some levity was on display. Walker – amusingly the first English goalkeeper to participate in the Champions League since Ben Hamer for Leicester against Porto in 2016 – was re-enacting his save to team-mates on the pitch after full time.
The travelling City fans sang ‘England’s No 1,’ from high in the San Siro. In reality, Walker, who often takes part in the goalkeeper sessions during training for fun, fumbled Ruslan Malinovskiy’s tame free-kick. Regardless, he should be allowed to gloat.
Qualification from this group will come eventually – they only need a point from two games – but the circumstances on Wednesday night were far from ideal after this tie at Atalanta’s temporary home acted as a sideshow to the weekend.
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
Sterling is congratulated by team-mates Riyad Mahrez (L) and Nicolas Otamendi (R) after continuing his fine scoring form
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
Sterling saw his free-kick strike the hand of Atalanta’s Ilicic in the wall, which the referee initially dismissed
Minds will have switched to Anfield long before the wheels are even up for home 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 Gabriel Jesus was striding to take that penalty moments before the break. City were one up at that point, scored by Raheem Sterling, but Jesus would skew a spot kick painfully wide and the evening would turn from there.
‘We were incredible in the first half,’ he added. ‘The momentum that you have, you have to take it We created more chances than the penalty to close the game. We need these kind of games to suffer.’
Guardiola was unhappy because the aim here was to bury Atalanta and progress to the knockout stages on the night before turning attention to other things.
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
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
Atalanta fans go wild in the stands as they made the trip from Bergamo to Milan to watch their side in European action
The effort expended was immense late in the game too, with Kevin De Bruyne charging around attempting to manufacture an unlikely winner when others around him floundered. By contrast, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane sat out the majority of Liverpool’s victory over Genk.
Guardiola had refused to put rotation on the menu, keen to seal qualification early and rest others in the final games. 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, 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.
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
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
City did extremely well to keep the ball as far away from their goal as possible while Walker was between the posts
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 dragged his penalty a yard wide.
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 on-loan Chelsea forward Mario Pasalic to meet.
Bravo was soon scrambling when Berat 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.