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Given what was expected of Manchester City when they landed in Copenhagen, this was not quite the ideal night for the defending champions, even if a 3-1 road win has them well placed to cruise to the quarterfinals next month. Many would have expected that task to be de facto completed long before the final whistle at Parken tonight but, as their crosstown rivals United had in the group stage, City discovered that the Danish champions are far from an easy out on home soil.

Not until Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden combined in the second minute of added time for City's third did it really feel like this tie was done and dusted. Even with a berth in the last eight penciled in though, there will be cause for concern as Pep Guardiola's side make their way back. Jack Grealish's first start in a month ended prematurely midway through the first half while Bernardo Silva exited moments after a thumping tackle into his left ankle. Even a team of City's quality can only take so many blows with so much football left to play.

When at full capacity, though, they are an almighty test. The sirens that blared around Parken in the early stages were not heeded by everyone in Copenhagen white. Elias Achouri switched off at a free kick taken short to Silva, who hung a cross to the back post where Ruben Dias headed low. Kamil Grabara did well to save but was fortunate that Nathan Ake had been too proactive in chasing a rebound that had flown by him before he could get his boot up to finish.

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In truth, Achouri had hardly made the most critical of errors, but any slight mis step was seized upon with City in remorseless mood. Dias switched play to Foden, who in two touches was driving infield. Whether a center back or a midfielder, someone needed to pick up Kevin De Bruyne. He could have rolled the ball across goal to a waiting Erling Haaland but the Belgian is used to providing City's cutting edge in this competition. He has now scored in each of their last five seasons of this competition, 10 straight Champions League goals scored when the stakes are highest, in the knockout rounds.

City never really kicked on from their 10th minute opener. Certainly there were further chances to come, Haaland raising his boot unbelievably high to volley wide, but momentum too easily slipped out of the holders' grasp. Perhaps that was reflective of Grealish's exit midway through the first half. Moments later a Diogo Goncalves boot raked down the back of Foden. Given the stakes for City over the next three and a half months, you could hardly blame anyone in electric blue if they were lacking a little spark.

Anyway, they seemed to have Copenhagen sufficiently quelled. That was until Ederson had his once a Champions League lapse, miscuing a simple pass in Nathan Ake's direction straight towards Mohamed Elyounoussi. Dias blocked his shot but no one could get close to Magnus Mattsson's, curling around Rodri and into the net. As debut goals go, a 20 yard beauty to stun the best team in the world is pretty, pretty good.

A flurry of further pressure from the hosts saw Mattsson volley high and wide, their equalizer giving Copenhagen all the more to scrap for. That they certainly did that, even after Silva put City back in front with a clever little flick in first-half stoppage time. It was Kevin Diks flying through Silva later, whose left ankle seemed to be in almighty pain with 15 minutes left to play. Erling Haaland had already been bounced off the ball by Rasmus Falk, on that occasion a more firm than foul challenge, even if referee Jose Maria Sanchez was less than convinced. They might need to pay overtime in the Etihad treatment room before Chelsea's visit on Saturday.

Silva would not last much longer after Diks' foul on him and it would be a cruel blow for Guardiola if that ankle flares up. In the free left-sided role that might be the best of the many, many positions he can play, the Portugal international was sensational tonight. A delicate flick of the left boot after the ball deflected to him in the box was enough to win the game for City. A flurry of clipped crosses from just inside the box nearly brought both an own goal off Denis Vavro and teed up Haaland, who didn't really burst into life until added time, for a header that he flicked just wide.

City fans will hope that Silva's exit was a mere precaution, that Grealish stepped off before doing any major damage. With Jeremy Doku in fine fettle the latter was not particularly missed while Julian Alvarez or Mateo Kovacic could plug a Silva-shaped hole in Guardiola's XI. There is not a lot behind them, though, and it can often feel like Guardiola takes a perverse joy in attempting to sweep the board with a squad that is one or two bodies lighter than ideal. He will have to hope that this trip east did not hint at the potential errors of his way.