Wednesday night saw the inaugural Champions League game for City. Italian side Napoli were the opposition on the historic night in Manchester. The game proved to be an entertaining affair in spite of City’s failure to take all three points.
There was certainly an air of occasion outside the stadium pre-match. City Square was buzzing with anticipation as re-runs of previous European City encounters played on the big screens. The main entrance to the stadium itself had “Benvenuti” (Welcome in Italian) emblazed on it to greet the boys from Naples.
As the players made their way to the pitch the Champions League theme tune blared out around the stadium. A surreal moment indeed as up until now this moment has only been familiar to City fans watching Champions League coverage on television.
The game itself was an enthralling encounter of tactical attrition. City started with all the attacking flair that has become customary this season but were up against the toughest defence they have faced so far this season. Napoli were stern in defence and were a dangerous counter attacking threat with the likes of Marek Hamsik and Edinson Canvani providing an attacking output for Napoli. David Silva was at the heart all City’s attacking momentum but he was stopped short of providing some potentially killer passes by some cynical fouls from the Napoli defence.
Whilst City were the better team in the first 45 minutes both team struck the woodwork. Napoli took the game to City in the second half and as a result took advantage of City’s in ability to find space in the final third. Canvani fired Napoli into the lead after taking advantage of Gareth Barry losing possession in the centre of the park.
City fought their way back into the game and finally found the back of the net courtesy of an Aleks Kolarov free kick. Kolarov’s reward was to be substituted immediately. Having said that his replacement, Gael Clichy, provided some of the much need width which City were crying out for throughout the earlier stages of the game. Though City pushed to find a winner they were unable to breakdown the Napoli blockade and the game finished one-all.
On the historic night, a City win would have been fitting but in reality a draw was a fair result. The game was entertaining and provided a different kind of spectacle to that of the Premier League. Inoculated City is sure City will learn and become a better team from this experience.
Words by Rob Toole