David Silva, Leroy Sane shine while Ilkay Gundogan underwhelms in narrow Man City victory
With little or no margin for error after the home defeat to Lyon, City left it late in a scatty match. A first half of out and out attacking was followed by a surprisingly cagey second period, with City finding it hard to create. Thanks to the magisterial skills of David Silva, however, the game was eventually won with three minutes to spare.
The side's character was tested by an early goal. Their shape was tested by a Hoffenheim side which looked cavalier, naive and reckless in turns. Their patience was tested by a referee, in Damir Skomina, who seemed to be there solely to thwart City's ambitions. And yet they still managed to grab the three points.
With Anfield looming large on the horizon, City's left-back conundrum remains just that. After this showing, it is almost certain that one of the candidates, Aymeric Laporte, has ruled himself out.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Pep Guardiola stuck to his guns against a young pretender in Julian Nagelsmann, who fashions himself as a kind of German version of the Catalan. Using Ilkay Gundogan as a holding midfielder in a critical match and playing Laporte at left-back backfired, however.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Ederson, 7 -- The rush of blood that brought him careering out of his goal might have sunk City, but for Leroy Sane's heroic covering. Put Sergio Aguero through for a chance on goal with one of his textbook fly-kicks downfield.
DF Kyle Walker, 8 -- Strong early tussles with the advanced Pavel Kaderabek, but steadied himself to become a real attacking force down the right.
DF Nicolas Otamendi, 7 -- Last out of the traps for Hoffenheim's opener after 43 seconds, but first to the ball on numerous occasions in a harum-scarum first half. Sacrificed for John Stones after 64 minutes.
DF Vincent Kompany, 7 -- Steady and reliable in an early maelstrom. Held things together well in the numerous sticky moments.
DF Aymeric Laporte, 6 -- Flashed between being dithering and ineffective, giving the ball away far too easily, to exercising himself down the left flank to positive effect.
MF Fernandinho, 7 -- Tidiest player in an overpopulated midfield. Collected a booking for one of his trademark tactical blocks as the home side threatened through the middle.
MF David Silva, 9 -- Yet another collector's item from the tiny Spaniard. Still the sharpest tool in the box despite his advanced age. Put Sane through for the equaliser; put Sterling through for a gilt-edged chance and nicked possession at the death to score the crucial winner himself. Masterful.
MF Ilkay Gundogan, 5 -- After a lively showing at Cardiff, it was back to basics for the German in a practically invisible performance.
FW Raheem Sterling, 8 -- On fire early on as the game flowed wildly back and forth. Two nerve-jangling runs through the heart of the home defence proved he is running into form for the weekend game at his old club.
FW Leroy Sane, 9 -- Masterful split-second hesitation to feed Aguero for the quick response to Hoffenheim's opener. Unbelievable footwork, employing drag-backs, drag-forwards, swivels and shimmies to lead the home defence a merry dance. Last man back to save Ederson after the keeper misjudged a long ball forward, too.
FW Sergio Aguero, 8 -- Never gave up. Slotted cleverly to equalise and could be seen chasing Hoffenheim's breaking players in the dying seconds.
MF John Stones, 7 -- Another defensive midfield cameo appearance dealt with admirably.
MF Bernardo Silva, 7 -- Came on for Gundogan once again on 68 minutes and helped improve forward ball flow.
MF Riyad Mahrez, N/R -- 75th-minute appearance for Raheem Sterling and immediately threatened with a number of jinking runs down the right.