Europa League Round of 32, Leg One
Tuesday 15 February 2011, 17.00 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Kolarov, K Touré, Boateng, Wright-Phillips (Balotelli 77), Barry, Y Touré, Silva, Tevez(c), Dzeko (Zabaleta 86)
Unused: Given, Kompany, Jo, Vieira, Lescott
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
Man of the Match: David Silva
City had a tough test in Greece, visiting a stadium with a hostile atmosphere and a team that were unbeaten there in over 40 years of European football, having beaten the reigning Europa League champions earlier this season. And it was the home side who had the first ‘half-chance’ as Boateng and Touré couldn’t decide who would clear and Hart had to come and gather.
But then City got hold of the game. Dzeko was just offside as he raced on to a Kolarov chipped ball forward, looking to get into the box, before a dipping shot from Silva forced Sifakis into a decent save. Tevez then shot high and wide before Kolarov put Dzeko in, but he could only stab his shot at the goalkeeper from six yards.
Boateng was then too casual in trying to clear and it almost presented the home side with a chance, before Kolo Touré got enough in the way of a shot to take the sting out of it and City could clear. The visitors could then have been in more trouble after a mix-up between Hart and Barry, resulting in Hart handling outside his box, but Neto put the free kick wide.
It was a typical European night, as the game meandered to half time. The first action of the second half saw Aris win themselves a corner and Kolarov clear under pressure, before Wright-Phillips hit a shot straight at the goalkeeper from outside the box.
Hart was the able to easily pluck a free kick out of the air, a few minutes before Toja fired straight at the City keeper, as the home side looked to get themselves in front. But then it could have been the visitors who had the advantage, after Barry found Dzeko’s head, but a fine one-handed save from Sifakis denied him the goal.
But Joe Hart wasn’t going to be outdone by his counterpart and pulled off a fine save of his own from a long range Neto shot, before Gareth Barry was in to block a goalbound effort from Michel.
With 70 minutes played, Dzeko fired wide of the goal, before he wanted a penalty for a challenge in the area, but the referee wasn’t impressed and waved play on. Kolo Touré was then in the right place to get a backwards header away from the City goal, before Balotelli tried an overhead kick, but to no avail.
City finished the game on the front foot with a couple of corners, but they couldn’t find the away goal. Even so, City will feel confident that they can finish the job at Eastands.