Date: 1st October 2010 at 9:19am
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Not quite the favoured result at Eastlands last night as one of the competition favourites visited on Match Day 2 of the Europa League.

Mancini produced an odd starting line-up for this match and I found it difficult to share Hugh Ferris’ view that it was ‘quite attack minded’. My heart sank as I saw the names Vieira and Adebayor, with Tevez pushed out to the left. Three clear holding midfielders,only Johnson out wide and no Nigel De Jong.

No element of surprise, nobody to spring out.

And so it proved with City’s early efforts channelled out to Johnson and Jorge Martinez regularly dropping into line to help De Ceglie double bank him and negate the effect of him cutting in and using his left foot.

Whatever crosses made the box didn’t get to Adebayor who looked to be working the wrong channels and couldn’t possibly get to Tevez who was isolated out on the left.

This encouraged Juventus to try to spring from midfield, playing much as we did against Chelsea and their first shot from distance laid down a marker for Joe Hart, who made an impressive save.

Juve continued to press in the early exchanges and we needed the 3-man shield to counter but our attempts were hampered by poor passing from Yaya Toure and Barry as we invited Juve forward.

Their second attempt from distance, after 11 minutes was a stunning shot form Iaquinta which clipped a defender which in turn pushed it just about out of Hart’s reach and into the bottom corner. After saving the first Joe might have got to this one but he was also a little unsighted from the deflection.

Juve continued to build largely down their left but found City new-boy Boateng in reasonable form despite his contre-temps with a trolley-dolly’s trolley and providing stern resistance.

Zabaleta raiding down the left found himself the victim of similar robust defending and finally on his way out of the match at half-time due to injury. Every successful team needs a ‘play anywhere and play a blinder’ footballer. Pablo Zabaleta is City’s and his non-availability will be missed over the next couple of weeks.

At last just after the half-hour, as City were starting to get into gear, did a probing pass from Toure Yaya split the Juve defence, catching the hitherto untroubled Chiellini in two minds and enter Johnson sprinting in from the wing to gather the ball, sidestep the keeper and sweep the ball into the net. Just as he had done for his country recently.

At 1-1 City started to step on the gas but a lot of play was easy for Juve to read and with Adebayor not making a serious contribution, much of it came straight back.

Vieira and Barry made their tackles to get things moving again but our front play lacked guile, lacked ingenuity, lacked David Silva.

Tevez showed in true Argentinian style, as does Zabaleta week-in, week-out, that he is prepared to toil for his team, but quite frankly was wasted wide out on the left, particularly as Johnson was now starting to get crosses into the business area, where Adebayor, not even prepared to toil for Adebayor did not at any time look threatening to Chiellini as we headed to the break at 1-1.

The injury to Zaba meant that Saturday’s hero Dedryck Boyata entered the fray at right back and Boateng switching sides to the left.

City persevered with the formation, created one or two openings all of which said ‘ Balotelli – stick me in the net’ and all of which stayed out.

Despite his yellow card for diving under heavy pressure from Kompany, Krasic continued to inspect the grass as the match became a midfield battle with City having the edge without being able to convert it into victory. So it was perhaps astonishing that Mancini left it until the 73rd minute to introduce David Silva into a match that was crying out for him.

Immediately his ability to distance himself from close attention started to work. He found himself open for the ball and was able to start to move it into areas that hurt.

Bonucci and Chiellini had to step up their game to keep the ball away from one-time Arsenal custodian Manninger.

Closer to the end the fatigued Boateng made way for Milner with Barry moving to left back. Although this shows how versatile Mancini’s squad can be, it also shows how a poor and unnecessary tackle can cause you problems.

Enter Alessandro Del Piero, the Old Lady’s old stager with a deadly eye for goal. His curling shot beat Hart and hit the underside of the bar before returning into play. At first I thought it was a goal, but with no reaction from the by-line Official and TV replays demonstrating that it bounced right on the line, City were fortunate to stay at 1-1.

They say Juve are not the team of old. Their recent history has played a major part in that forcing the migration of top-earning internationals who did not fancy Serie B, but whatever – this is a truly world renowned football club. Their fans are as proud of them as ours are of City. They have won everything in sight over the years, had some great teams and were the opposition for Liverpool at Heysel. For the first time a team of this magnitude has presented itself in European competition at Eastlands and City were good enough, City were capable of winning and City showed showed quite clearly how much things have moved on since the likes of Groclin Dyskobolya forced a 1-1 draw to eliminate us during Keegan’s reign and even how much things have changed since the night we gave everything in front of a full house against Hamburg 2 years ago.

Despite whatever comments are made in whatever press outlet by players of other teams, Manchester City is a football club moving to the front. This was another step along that road.

There are tricky and challenging matches to come against Lech Poznan, but this was one of Europe’s top Clubs coming to Eastlands and another signal of progress.


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