Europa League Round of 32, Leg Two
Thursday 24 February 2011, 20.05 KO
City: Hart, Boateng, Kolarov, Lescott, Kompany (Zabaleta 36), Barry, Y Touré, Silva (Wright-Phillips 81), Balotelli, Tevez (c) (Vieira 81), Dzeko
Unused: Taylor, K Touré, Wabara, Jo
Goals: Dzeko (9, 12), Y Touré (75)
Referee: Pavel Kralovec
Man of the Match: Edin Dzeko
With the vocal away support, City knew that their opponents would be up for the game and, after a goalless draw in Greece, all it would take was a single goal for them at Eastlands and it could be a difficult task for the home side. But City weren’t going to let the visitors get that good start: Kolarov whipped a first-minute free kick over the bar, before Dzeko got his angles wrong from a corner and sidefooted well wide.
Kolarov tried another free kick shortly after from the right wing, but that too was over the bar, as City tried to make their early possession and pressure pay. And, soon enough, it did: Lazaridis couldn’t deal with a ball over the top, allowed Dzeko to steal in and fire across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner with a fine finish.
Tevez and Balotelli both had a shot from the edge of the box, but both times they couldn’t generate enough power in their efforts and the goalkeeper was able to hold on to them both without too much difficulty.
But then it got better. A City breakaway down the left flank was quickly switched to the right, via Silva and then Tevez, and Dzeko switched the ball from his right foot to his left, cutting inside, and he fired it into the same corner as he scored his first to double City’s lead.
Balotelli was showing off the skills on 15 minutes, backheeling for Tevez to shoot, but it bobbled behind for a corner, before Balotelli had a go himself from a free kick from a long way out. The goalkeeper couldn’t hold it, but nobody in blue could latch on to the rebound before he dived on the loose ball.
Aris threatened the City goal for the first time midway into the first half, but Hart’s dive was just to cover his post as Vangeli shot wide. City then lost Kompany to injury, after he appeared to take a knock in going for a header.
Just before the break, a Tevez shot took a deflection that beat Sifakis, but luck was with the visitors as it bobbled just wide of his post for a corner. Zabaleta got in on the shooting action from the edge of the box, but his left footed drive was wide.
With a minute of the half to play, Dzeko should have had his first City hat trick, as he was sent clean through on goal by Tevez. The big Bosnian tried rounding the goalkeeper, but a combination of him and his defenders got enough on the ball to ensure Dzeko didn’t get his and City’s third goal.
Aris came out for the second half quicker than the home side, with a plea for a penalty for a foul by Barry, but the referee turned it down. Dzeko then shot straight at Sifakis, before Bobadilla had an effort from range, but it wasn’t troubling Joe Hart as it flew over the bar.
As the game appeared to be meandering to an end – City were keeping hold of possession and Aris were pressing, but unable to create too many clear cut chances – Balotelli almost put the tie beyond doubt. Breaking down the right, he skipped into the box and fired a low shot across goal. But it hit the post and bounced out, with Dzeko unable to re-adjust to the rebound.
Kolarov almost laid a goal on a plate for Balotelli, but Sifakis got his fingertips to the Serbian’s cross before it reached the Italian, and then Yaya Touré added City’s third of the night. A corner was cleared to him on the edge of the box and he took a touch to control before firing it back and, with the aid of a deflection, he found the bottom corner.
With just minutes to play, Dzeko could have had his hat trick, but the ball skipped off the surface and ran away from him from a Balotelli flick on. Nevertheless, City were safely through to the last sixteen and face a tie with Dynamo Kiev in the next round.