UEFA Champions League Group D
Tuesday 18 September 2012, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Maicon (Zabaleta 74), Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Barry, Garcia, Y Toure, Nasri (Kolarov 37), Silva (Dzeko 62), Tevez
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Rodwell, Aguero
Goals: Dzeko (69), Kolarov (85)
Booked: Garcia, Kompany, Dzeko
Referee: Damir Skomina
Man of the Match: Joe Hart
City’s trip to the Spanish champions started with the hosts offering the early possession. The visitors, though were remaining firm and the opening efforts from Ronaldo were off target and not troubling Hart. The best of the opening exchanges, though, fell to Ronaldo, who stepped inside Kompany in the box and first at goal, but Hart turned it behind.
Three minutes later, Hart was on form again as Ronaldo got inside Maicon. The hosts were beginning to control possession and play was staying in City’s half – the former Manchester United winger took the ball inside early and fired towards the top corner. Higuain got a flicked header on it right in front of Hart, but the England goalkeeper pushed it away with Kompany completing the clearance. At the other end, Yaya Toure was inches away from slipping Silva through for a one-on-one.
City were very much on the back-foot, but when they did get forward they were looking to break quickly. Maicon crossed towards Tevez, but it was just headed away as both he and Casillas challenged to meet it. Silva almost poked the ball through for Maicon, but Arbeloa stole in before him. Higuain was onside from a ball over the top, but Hart did enough to force him wide. Khedira deflected Ronaldo’s follow-up towards goal, but he couldn’t keep it down.
Yaya Toure broke up play on the edge of the City box with just under ten minutes to go to half time and, after one of his trademark runs, the visitors found themselves with a four-on-three. Toure went right to Silva, who cut back inside onto his left foot to shoot, but Alonso charged it down. Perhaps Kolarov on the left was a better option. City were growing into the game, but the hosts were still on top.
With five minutes of the half to go, Madrid should have been in front. A ball from deep into the box evaded Kompany and Hart hadn’t come for it, leaving Higuain the chance to connect to it. He didn’t get it on target, though, blazing it over and it was a let off for the away side. Maicon then block a Ronaldo effort as the hosts piled on the pressure. City had their goalkeeper to thank that the scores were level at the break.
A golden chance to get a good ball into the box early in the second half was wasted by Kolarov as he knocked it too far in front of himself after Yaya Toure had played it through to him down the left. He made up for it, though, intercepting brilliantly as Alonso looked for Ronaldo. The Serbian slid to stretch just enough to knock it back to Hart. Toure broke from midfield to unleash a shot, but it was deflected behind for City’s first corner of the match.
Nastasic almost put Hart in trouble under pressure from Higuain and his backpass was short. The goalkeeper was off his line quickly to clear, ahead of the Madrid man. A low cross from Marcelo was begging for a touch, but Clichy was aware and able to clear when staring straight at his own goal.
With the hour mark approaching, it was again all Madrid. Marcelo unleashed a vicious shot towards the top corner and it just swerved away at the last minute; Hart had thrown himself towards it, but might not have gotten there had it been on target. Ronaldo was in place to head away a City free kick at the other end, before Tevez fired over from a 30 yard snapshot.
Despite the Madrid pressure, though, City got themselves in front. Yaya Toure did brilliantly to hold off the challenges of three players on the edge of the City box and break away. Suddenly, City had a two-on-one. Toure drew the challenge, slid it in to Dzeko and he passed the ball into the back of the net with his left foot. City had been on the back foot all game, but had a vital breakaway goal.
Straight afterwards, Madrid looked to get level. A free kick was flicked over his own bar by Kolarov, before Hart was beaten to the cross from the resulting corner. But it was City who almost had a second – Kolarov smashed a ball into the box and Casillas spilled it, but neither Dzeko or Tevez were in the right place to capitalise.
Yaya Toure had the chance to grab a second goal for City with 15 minutes to play after Tevez did well to hold the ball up and slide it through to the Ivorian. It was just too far ahead of him and, stretching, he could only find the side netting.
And it turned out to be costly. Immediately down the other end, Marcello cut inside onto his right foot and shot at goal. Hart dived for it, but was cruelly beaten by a deflection and the hosts were level. Zabaleta nearly flicked the ball past Casillas, as Tevez found him inside the six yard box. It was becoming stretched and suddenly it was an end to end game.
Despite the Madrid pressure, it was City who got the next goal. Zabaleta did well to win a free kick on the right flank and, from deep, Kolarov played a ball towards the back post. Alonso challenged and several City players stretched for it, but it bounced inside the post and the away side were back in front.
The equaliser came straight away, though. Benzema turned on the edge of the box and Nastasic couldn’t get there to block. His shot was tucked inside the post and Hart just couldn’t stretch enough to save it. City were asleep after going in front. Hart was again on form to deny Benzema, before Ronaldo won the game for the hosts. A dipping shot flashed past Kompany, who should have got the block in, and Hart couldn’t keep it out – City made them work for the points, but ultimately, it was a defeat on the opening game of the group.