Omonia Nicosia 1 Manchester City 2

UEFA Cup Round One, First Leg
Thursday 18 September, 2008, 18:00 KO

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne (c), Garrido, Kompany (Gelson 84), Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Elano (Hamann 85), Robinho, Jo (Sturridge 76)
Unused: Schmeichel, Ball, Ben-Haim, Evans
Goals: Jo (59, 72)
Booked: Garrido, Robinho
City Man of the Match: Stephen Ireland

City took a strong side to Cyprus in order to get themselves off to a good start in the first round proper of the UEFA Cup. Elano and Garrido took the places of Hamann and Ball from the side that started the 1-3 defeat to Chelsea, as City look to come back to Eastlands with a lead.

The game got off to a high paced start, with the first chance for City falling to new signing Robinho, who cut inside from the left to receive a through ball, but his narrow angle effort at the top corner was matched by goalkeeper Georgallides.

Just before the quarter of the hour mark, Wright-Phillips had a pop from distance, but the keeper was equal to it again, flicking the ball around the post for a corner.

The home crowd were loud, but they didn’t have a great deal to cheer about as City were dominating the game. City should have taken the lead on 26 minutes, when Ireland stole the ball from Omonia’s captain on the corner of the box, and bore down on goal. He squared it to Jo, who managed to produce a thin air shot with an open goal at his mercy.

City piled on the pressure at the end of the first half and Jo thought he had made up for his earlier mistake, but after a neat touch and a slide-rule finish, he watched as his shot bounced back off the inside of the post to safety.

Wright-Phillips then missed a good chance, before the rebound from an Elano shot left Robinho with defenders, but no goalkeeper to beat, but City’s record signing volleyed over.

>Just a minute before the interval, Stephen Ireland managed to hit the post from an impossible angle, as he stretched to keep the ball in play and the teams went in level, despite City’s dominance.

Two minutes into the second half, Vincent Kompany mistimed a tackle on the edge of the box, which resulted in a free kick for Omonia 20 yards from goal. Duro hit it and it stayed hit, flying past Hart, taking a touch off his fingertips, into the top corner of the goal. Despite their dominance, City found themselves behind.

City looked to respond quickly, as Kompany played the ball over the top to the on-running Stephen Ireland, but the ball didn’t sit up for him to lob the keeper and when he did get a shot away, it was straight at Georgallides.

Three minutes later, Jo must have been wondering what he had to do to score tonight, as he broke free in the box and smashed a shot towards goal, only to be denied by the crossbar.

City were pushing forward, but had to be aware of Omonia’s threat on the break, as their right back Ndikumana let fly from long range. There were a few City hearts in City mouths, but luckily for the blues, the ball whizzed past Joe Hart’s post.

It looked like City were letting their heads drop and could end up getting nothing from the game, but on the hour, Wright-Phillips squared for Jo and this time the Brazilian made sure, knocking the ball into the empty net with his left foot.

Just after City had levelled the game, they almost fell behind, when Dunne was beaten on the left and Christofi dribbled into the area, before squaring to Aloneftis, but the Omonia man hit wide when he really should have scored.

Then, on 72 minutes, City finally grabbed the lead and Omonia couldn’t say it wasn’t coming. Pablo Zabaleta broke down the right and his deep cross fell to Jo at the back post. He took one touch with his thigh, before smashing the ball cleanly along the ground and into the back of the net.

Duro had another go from distance, with his long range effort hitting the bar and going over with Joe Hart struggling.

City brought on Fernandes and Hamann and set about keeping possession to see out a 1-2 away victory in the first round proper of the UEFA Cup. And with two away goals to counter, it’s difficult to see Omonia getting to the group stages, but City shouldn’t take the return leg for granted. Advantage Mark Hughes.

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