Date: 17th December 2010 at 10:23am
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On a day of sub-zero temperatures in a city surrounded by snowbound Alps, City progressed out of the group stages of the Europa League a winners of Group A.

Mancini, perhaps disrespectfully, or more likely saving his big guns for Monday’s match against Everton, sent a second string into the sparsely populated bowl of the Stadio Olimpico to try their hand against one of the biggest names in world club football and in a sometimes drab match, they came out with honours even although Juve did put out quite a strong line-up.

Temperatures hit -5c last night and it felt even colder inside the stadium itself, so was it to be a night of warm glowing football? No, not really. City set off well with nettable chances falling to Jo and Nimely, rather oddly selected strikers from a club offering Santa Cruz and Adebayor as back-up strikers.

In making Richards captain for the night, we can understand why Mancini needed an eye operation, for he must be the only one able to see in Richards which the rest of us cannot.

The rest of the first half progreesed with not much real football, City looking reasonably comfortable and the odd run by Johnson lighting things up a little. Others missed the chances to impress the Boss, none more so than Milner who still isn’t doing it for me. This was an opportunity of showing Mancini that he could run and close down and perhaps find his way on to the scoresheet, but it just did not happen.

Then with City on attack, he was dispossessed on the edge of Juventus penalty area and three passes later City were 1-0 down.

From the edge of their area, Juventus played through midfield and out onto …you guessed it, their left. The evergreen and ever grey Del Piero got in behind Richards who didn’t know whether to stick or twist and got his positioning all wrong. Del Piero even got time to turn back and deliver a cross into the penalty area for Gianetti, their 19-year old starlet to open the scoring, for me, against the run of play.

The second half got under way in the knowledge that Lech Poznan were in front in Salzburg and City’s group leading position was under threat.

The second string worked hard to try to redress the balance and Jo was unlucky to have one chalked off due to a debatable offisde. Juventus having survived a good shout for a penalty in the first half, then survived another when a defender, maybe Chiellini actually parried a shot in a manner that Manninger would have enjoyed and once again City was in the land where the referee grants nothing to a rich team in Sky Blue.

The breakthrough finally arrived with a quarter-hour to go when an astute pass from Johnson found Jo, who had learned from the disallowed goal and made sure he was onside. Jo spun round and drilled an excellent shot into the back of the net to send the 2000 hardy souls into a ‘Poznan-style’ frenzy, before heading back to their coaches for the airport.

So City finished top of the group and face perhaps one of the less stressful tasks when the knock-out draw is made today.

I still don’t like this competition by virtue of the fact that teams eliminated from the Champions League get a second bite via the Europa League. Imagine Peterborough or Plymouth in the last eight of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, with Wembley in their sights suddenly getting drawn away to Arsenal because they had got knocked out of the FA Cup. Bit unjust eh?

 

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