Europa League Round of 32, Leg One
Thursday 16 February 2012, 20.05 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Barry, de Jong, Silva (Kolarov 83), Y Toure, Nasri (Zabaleta 88), Balotelli (Aguero 78)
Unused: Pantilimon, Savic, Pizarro, Dzeko
Goals: Pereira (OG 55), Aguero (85)
Booked: Y Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Barry, Nasri, Richards
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir
Man of the Match: Joleon Lescott
It was a typically slow start to the first leg of a European tie, with Porto seeing more of the ball in the attacking third than City, but neither side able to test the opposition’s goalkeeper. Yaya Toure burst into the box, but his cross was blocked, before Hulk couldn’t grow enough to beat Richards in the air at the back post. Rolando almost opened the scoring on 15 minutes, but Clichy was there to nod the effort over the bar, as the hosts stepped up the pressure.
Toure was brought down in the middle of the Porto half as he broke, winning City a free kick. Nasri chipped it into the box towards Balotelli, who missed it. But the goalkeeper spilled it and the Italian was almost able to connect with the rebound, but couldn’t quite readjust. Richards smashed the clearance at goal and forced a good save from Helton, before Nasri should have opened the scoring with a one-on-one shot from the edge of the box.
With 27 minutes played, the hosts got themselves in front, just as it had looked like City had ridden the storm. Hulk smashed the ball across the box and Clichy couldn’t get there ahead of Varela and the striker stabbed it into the net. Hart was unlucky after getting a leg on the ball, but it wasn’t against the run of play.
Immediately, Balotelli should have levelled the game. He was clean through on goal after a delightful ball from Nasri, but his turn and volley was well pushed away by Helton. With the amount of time and space the Italian had, it should have been City’s equaliser. Clichy put a great ball into the box for Balotelli with just under five minutes of the first half to play, but first he then the goalkeeper missed it and Silva was inches from making it even.
A neat flowing move from City as the first action of the second period saw Barry find Silva, who, in turn, found Richards on the overlap. The full back powered into the box and smashed the ball at goal. It beat Helton, but it didn’t beat the post, as it ricocheted away to safety. Balotelli was then almost slipped in by Nasri, but he couldn’t quite take it in his stride.
Ten minutes into the second half, City pulled level. Pereira flicked the ball past his own goalkeeper under a challenge from Balotelli, after Nasri had played a ball over the top towards the Italian’s run. Helton had come for the ball, but got nowhere near it and the ball trickled into the empty net off the full-back’s shoulder. Hart was then in action to deny Hulk from a free kick.
A series of Porto free kicks came to nothing, after the referee got a bit card happy, penalising nothing challenges with bookings. Richards was just offside as he tried to latch on to a Nasri through ball, before Valera skied an effort from the edge of the box. A brilliant tackle from de Jong then denied Hulk the chance to collect a return pass inside the area.
With five minutes of the game to play, City took the lead with their second away goal. Yaya Toure was played through into the area and drew the goalkeeper. He squared the ball for Aguero, who was faced with an open goal and couldn’t miss. He didn’t, rolling the ball over the line to give City the advantage. It was enough to give City a lead after the first leg.