Defending champions Manchester City came from behind to eventually overcome Crvena Zvezda at the Etihad.
The treble winners were stunned when the Serbian champions grabbed a shock lead against the run of play through Osman Bukari just before half-time in Tuesday’s Group G clash at the Etihad Stadium.
Alvarez quickly equalized after the break and was then instrumental in giving City the lead when his free-kick was deflected into the net by otherwise excellent Red Star goalkeeper Omri Glazer.
Rodri, the match-winner against Inter Milan in last season’s final, then wrapped up a thoroughly deserved victory with a typically level finish 17 minutes from time.
City completely dominated play before taking the lead, with Glazer making a series of fine saves to thwart the hosts and Erling Haaland hitting the crossbar.
The home side finally started to take their chances in the second period but could have scored much more when Kyle Walker’s effort was disallowed, Haaland hit the woodwork again and Alvarez found the side netting.
Red Star boast plenty of European pedigree as winners of the competition in 1991, but have been completely outclassed by the continent’s current front-runners.
City had their first chance after nine minutes when Phil Foden parried an effort away and Rodri then dived into the area before testing Glazer.
It was the start of a busy half for the Israeli goalkeeper, who also twice denied Alvarez and kept out Foden’s pinpoint header.
With City’s best chance of the opening period, there was little he could do when Haaland met a firm header from Foden’s cross, but the post came to his rescue.
Haaland had another good chance to put City ahead, but he turned in front of goal.
City were made to rue their missed chances as Red Star, who tried to counter when possible, took a shock lead at half-time.
The home side were punished for playing a high line when Bukari was put through by Mirko Ivanič and coolly slotted past Ederson.
It initially looked like an offside flag might have saved City, but the goal was disallowed after a VAR review.
City, who brought on Jeremy Doku for Bernardo Silva in the closing moments of the first half, quickly regrouped and equalized two minutes after the break.
Alvarez finished superbly after being played in by Haaland and smartly beat Glazer.
Walker thought he had put City ahead moments later, only to be ruled out for offside.
City went ahead just before the hour mark when Alvarez curled a free-kick from the left into the box. Glazer punched out, but failed to make clean contact and the ball flew in after going through his hand.
Haaland went close again when he headed against the post before Alvarez headed wide.
City finally gave the score a more realistic look when Rodri grabbed his third.
The Spaniard turned Vladimir Lucic outside the area after good work from Foden and raced forward to slot the ball into the far bottom corner.
Man City player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Ederson – 6/10 – Could hardly be blamed for Bukari’s well-taken goal. Didn’t stop Ederson from rushing off his line when needed.
RB: Kyle Walker – 6/10 – Relished every opportunity to show off his extraordinary pace.
CB: Ruben Dias – 5/10 – Disastrously mistimed his jump forward in a bid to play Bukari offside. Dias’ confidence convinced the assistant referee but not VAR.
CB: Nathan Ake – 7/10 – Despite his modest stature – Ake stands a smidge below 6’0 – the Dutchman is a menace in the air.
LB: Sergio Gomez – 6/10 – Tasked with providing the width for City down the left flank, Gomez created a glut of chances which weren’t taken.
CM: Rodri – 7/10 – Seemingly unconcerned by Red Star’s threat on the break, Rodri surged into the final third at every sniff of an opening. Duly took his goal supremely well.
CM: Matheus Nunes – 6/10 – On his first start for City, Nunes had clearly cottoned onto the blindside runs that most make in sky blue.
AM: Julian Alvarez – 8/10 – Produced a mesmeric slight of foot to somehow evade Glazer and score with two touches off the same right boot.
RW: Bernardo Silva – 5/10 – Forced off injured inside 45 minutes after a wasteful first half in front of goal.
ST: Erling Haaland – 5/10 – The wastefulness that dogged him against West Ham United permeated into Tuesday’s contest.
LW: Phil Foden – 6/10 – Rather than holding the touchline, Foden was given licence to drift infield, exploiting his unerring ease in tight spaces.
SUB: Jeremy Doku (44′ for Bernardo) – 7/10 – Any whisper of timidity present in his debut had emphatically evaporated. At every opportunity, Doku ran out, and often around, the red shirt in front of him.
SUB: Manuel Akanji (58′ for Gomez) – 5/10
Subs not used: Stefan Ortega (GK), Scott Carson (GK), Rico Lewis, Josko Gvardiol, Kalvin Phillips, Oscar Bobb
Pep Guardiola – 8/10 – Started the match by clogging the middle of the pitch with dainty playmakers and ended it with Doku and Walker haring down the wingers. City created a mountain of chances throughout whichever way Guardiola set them up.