No Pep, no pop. No Pep, no pep. This being the Champions League group stage it was only strike one for Manchester City.

It was, however, a sobering reminder of what life may one day be like around here when the Catalan circus has left town. Perhaps an emboldening vision of the future for City’s rivals, too.

It was obvious which talismanic figure Manchester City were missing and it wasn’t a player. Not captain Vincent Kompany, the prolific Sergio Aguero, or record signing Riyad Mahrez on the bench — although any of those three could have made a difference in a deeply unsatisfactory, borderline disastrous first half.

Maxwel Cornet wheels away after finding the bottom corner of Ederson's goal with his curled left-footed effort

No, the man they needed was imprisoned in the stand, looking as lost as his charges. Pep Guardiola, banned from the touchline for his sending-off against Liverpool last season, his absence a hole in the space-time continuum. Whatever might be said of Mikel Arteta as Guardiola’s shadow, his right-hand man or possible successor, this defeat was proof of the influence of the modern super-coaches.

The same Manchester City players who frequently appear unstoppable under Guardiola’s intense pitchside tutelage were suddenly sloppy, even slow. City’s build-up was ponderous, their use of the ball careless. Kyle Walker at one time passed directly to an orange Lyonnais shirt, almost unthinking.

For Lyon’s opening goal, City were shockingly slack from the heart of midfield, to their reaction to danger, to their defence of goal. Perched in the middle tier, Guardiola looked hunched, he looked tense. He knew it wasn’t right. He could see things he did not like, unfamiliar attitudes, unfamiliar errors.

He must have wanted to go at them, as he would from his technical area, or in the dressing-room given the 15 half-time minutes to do his stuff. Instead, here he was amid the prawn sandwiches and the fine diners. City have the swanky Tunnel Club. Guardiola was just in a hole.

The mood around the place does not help at times like these. It is not the fault of an empty seat that Fabian Delph misses his kick at a vital moment, yet when one recalls the atmosphere at Anfield the previous night and the way Liverpool swept Paris Saint-Germain aside, one cannot help but compare it to City’s own European experience.

While Anfield’s sound and fury inspired an almighty level of resistance against PSG and propelled Liverpool to a late victory, City played like their ground looked: underwhelming and slightly absent.

Anthony Lopes pumps his fists and roars in delight after seeing Fekir find the back of the net in the first half in Manchester

They did a few little dances around Lyon’s goalmouth area but not with the energy Liverpool displayed, and they surrendered meekly to counter-attacks and were two behind before half-time.

The first goal came after 26 minutes, the result of an exchange of passes in midfield that tried to be crisp but ended up haphazard. Eventually, Lyon seized the ball and the initiative, Nabil Fekir speeding down the left flank. Walker lacked alertness to this development, allowing Fekir to get in a fine cross, although one that should have been cleared by Delph at the far post.

Again, out of character, he lost concentration and failed to make a significant connection with the ball. It fell to Maxwel Cornet instead, and he rammed it past Ederson in goal.

City slipped further behind, allowing Fekir to march through the centre a minute before half-time. Given sight of the target, Fekir shot, and scored: a reminder, perhaps, to those Premier League clubs that doubted his fitness. He looked sharp enough here. It was City who trod water.

Chances? Few and the majority to Raheem Sterling, certainly in the first half. Yet it says something that when City were chasing the game after half-time, it was Lyon who had the first significant chance of the second-half.

It came on the hour when Tanguy Ndombele fed Memphis Depay and the former Manchester United man sped through the middle, his shot tipped by Ederson on to his right post.

Had that gone in, one imagines the Etihad would have quickly appeared even emptier than it did just before kick-off. In the technical area, Arteta plunged his hands in his pockets, and looked less like his mentor than ever.

But the Lyon goalkeeper  cannot get his toe to the ball as Bernardo Silva's effort finds its way into the bottom corner

It is hard not to have sympathy for Arteta. He did his best to fill the space left physically and spiritually by Guardiola, but how could he? We’ve seen that Amazon documentary now. We know what a show-stopping act he is following. It wasn’t that Lyon dominated, either, but nor were they unworthy winners.

They were organised, lively on the break, they took their chances and defended with spirit late on. They didn’t get all the breaks either. Ederson could easily have been penalised for a tug on Ndombele, having miscontrolled the ball dribbling outside his area. That could have been a free-kick, and a booking.

As it was, substitute Leroy Sane helped get City back into the game and create at least a little late drama. Brought on for Ilkay Gundogan a mere five minutes after half-time, it was his pace that undid Lyon, tearing down the left flank past two men before cutting the ball back for Bernardo Silva to finish.

Yet even after that fillip, City were strangely disappointing, unable to aim a very British kitchen sink at Lyon in a way Liverpool might. Indeed, it was the performance of Jurgen Klopp’s men against PSG that made this display so hard to accept. City were not just beaten by Lyon, but by the memory of Liverpool, too, and the furious way they went about their business. That has to be sobering, given their rivalry at home and in Europe this season.

Maybe Liverpool would look lost without Klopp, too — but when Walker took free-kick responsibilities with seven minutes to go and curled a shot tamely over the bar, Mahrez reduced to his decoy, it seemed to encapsulate the aimlessness.

Memphis Depay shapes to shoot inside the City box but sees his effort tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Ederson

It is hard not to have sympathy for Arteta. He did his best to fill the space left physically and spiritually by Guardiola, but how could he? We’ve seen that Amazon documentary now. We know what a show-stopping act he is following.

It wasn’t that Lyon dominated, either, but nor were they unworthy winners. They were organised, lively on the break, they took their chances and defended with spirit late on. They didn’t get all the breaks either. Ederson could easily have been penalised for a tug on Ndombele, having miscontrolled the ball dribbling outside his area. That could have been a free-kick, and a booking.

As it was, substitute Leroy Sane helped get City back into the game and create at least a little late drama. Brought on for Ilkay Gundogan a mere five minutes after half-time, it was his pace that undid Lyon, tearing down the left flank past two men — the lightning quick Rafael the second — before cutting the ball back for Bernardo Silva to finish.

Yet even after that fillip, City were strangely disappointing, unable to aim a very British kitchen sink at Lyon in a way Liverpool might. Indeed, it was the performance of Jurgen Klopp’s men against PSG that made this display so hard to accept. City were not just beaten by Lyon, but by the memory of Liverpool, too, and the furious way they went about their business.

That has to be sobering, given their rivalry at home and in Europe this season. Maybe Liverpool would look lost without Klopp, too – but when Walker took free-kick responsibilities with seven minutes to go and curled a shot tamely over the bar, Mahrez reduced to his decoy, it seemed to encapsulate the aimlessness.

City captain Silva wags his finger at Italian referee Daniele Orsato as the home side attempt to deal with a physical opposition

 

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