UEFA Europa League, Playoff Round, Leg One
Thursday 19 August 2010, 20.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, K Touré, Lescott, Barry (Balotelli 55), de Jong, Y Touré, Silva (A Johnson 65), Tevez (c) (Jo 77), Adebayor
Unused: Given, Richards, Wright-Phillips, Vieira
Goals: Balotelli (71)
Referee: Florian Mayer
Man of the Match: Mario Balotelli
City began their Europa League campaign this time around in Romania, against a tough side in Timisoara. And it was the home side who found their feet the quickest, with some early pressure on Joe Hart’s goal, but it was nothing that the visitors couldn’t handle, with the best effort coming from Curtean when he fired high and wide.
City began to get their foot on the ball as the half progressed, but weren’t able to forge any chances, as a David Silva corner was easily swallowed up by the home side’s goalkeeper.
Timisoara then had an appeal for a penalty turned down as Curtean went down under a challenge from Zabaleta as the City right back appeared to catch his trailing leg. Soon after, Kolo Touré was knocked down by a shot from range as it hit him square between the eyes, but he was soon back on his feet.
The game stuttered to the half hour mark, with neither side really threatening and City in full control of the ball. David Silva won the visitors a free kick roughly 30 yards from goal, which was taken by Tevez, and forced a comfortable save from Pantilimon.
Six minutes later, the home side had a good chance to take the lead as Contra took on the shot from the edge of the box, but it was blocked by Kompany and was easy for Joe Hart to collect, with the home fans wanting a penalty for handball. It would have been very harsh on the City centre-back.
Just before the break, City put the ball into the Timisoara box from a free-kick on the left, but it was comfortably headed clear. Yaya Touré then produced a moment of inspiration, dancing into the box, beating four men, before drilling the ball into the six yard box, but it was well blocked by Pantilimon.
The second half started where the first finished – with City in control of the game. David Silva hit the bar, but was flagged offside, before Joe Hart was able to make an easy save from Axente. Balotelli then joined the action, for his City debut.
Just after the hour mark, Tevez tried an overhead kick after an Adebayor flick, but it was off target and fell to Balotelli at the back post. It looked a tap-in, but he turned to make sure it fell to his right foot and he could only hit the side netting.
Two minutes later and City should have been in front. A Balotelli corner fell to Yaya Touré at the back post and he coolly controlled the ball on his chest, before lashing a right footed volley at goal. It beat the keeper, but didn’t beat the post and it bounced clear.
But, soon after, it was a dream debut for Balotelli. Adebayor broke into the box and drilled the ball across the six yard box for his team-mate, who couldn’t miss and planted the ball into the net from close range.
With ten minutes to go, City substitute Adam Johnson carried the ball into the box from the right wing and went down under a challenge from Bourceanu, but, as with the first half and the Timisoara penalty shout, the referee turned it down.
Five minutes later, Johnson had an effort from the edge of the box after some neat interplay between him, Balotelli and Adebayor, but it was high and wide as City looked for their second away goal.
Three minutes before time and Yaya Touré could have finished the game off. He broke into the box after a neat ball from Jo, before dummying the shot to beat the defender. However, when he did pull the trigger, the goalkeeper reacted well to save.
Balotelli’s debut could have gotten better as the game entered stoppage time, as a decisive breakaway carved the home side open. Adebayor found the new signing on the left side of the box and, after cutting inside, he curled a shot inches wide of the top corner.
The game finished on a sour note for the man of the match, however. After some sterling work by the City defence to stop two Timisoara free kicks, the Italian broke into the box and went down after winning a corner. He couldn’t continue and City finished the game with ten men. There should be few problems for City in the return leg next Thursday.