UEFA Champions League Group D
Wednesday 3 October 2012, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy (Balotelli 81), Y Toure, Garcia (Rodwell 34), Nasri (Kolarov 58), Silva, Aguero, Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Milner, Tevez
Goals: Balotelli (pen 90)
Booked: Kompany, Y Toure
Referee: Pavel Kralovec
Man of the Match: Joe Hart
City started the game brightly. Nasri had a low drive well saved by Weidenfeller, as the home side looked to get themselves on the front foot early on. Aguero had an effort well saved, before Zabaleta skied a shot from inside the box. It had been described as a must-win fixture and it looked like the blues were taking those words to heart. But soon it all started to slow down and the game swung towards the German opposition’s favour.
With 12 minutes on the clock, Hart pulled off his first world class save of the evening. Gotze seized upon a loose ball in the middle of City’s defence and found himself one-on-one with the home side’s goalkeeper. He drove the shot at the far post, but Hart was equal to it, fingertipping it onto the upright.
City tried to respond: Silva slipped Aguero through on goal, but the Argentine was stretching to get his shot away and could only direct it down the middle of the goal. It almost crept through Weidenfeller’s legs, but he got down well to block with his knees. The rebound fell just behind Nasri, as he tried to adjust to slot the ball into the net. Aguero then forced a great save from the Dortmund keeper from well outside the box.
But, once again, the game swung towards the visitors. Subotic fired a shot just wide of Hart’s goal, before Zabaleta had to scramble across the box to block a through ball. City were pinned in their own area and the pressure almost told when Gotze got through once again. He fired at the top corner, but Hart got his fingers to it and pushed it onto the underside of the bar.
Despite the pressure, it could have been City who went into half time in front. Aguero slipped the ball to Zabaleta as he broke into the six-yard box and he delivered a great cross to the middle, where Silva was arriving. The Spaniard, though, couldn’t control his volley and side-footed it over the bar with his right foot.
The final say of the half, though, went to Joe Hart again. Gundogen found himself with time and space eight yards out from goal, but the City keeper was off his line quickly to block his shot. It was, somehow, goalless at the break and thanks in no small part to the home side’s number one.
It was the visitors who settled in the second half the quickest. City’s right full-back Zabaleta was again in the right place to put in a crucial, last-gasp challenge to deny Reus the chance to shoot at goal, before Hart again pulled out all the stops to keep the ball out of the home side’s net. Hummels was inches away from flicking a header into the net, but Zabaleta did enough to put the Dortmund centre-back off.
But, as the hour mark came up, the visitors took the lead. A slack pass in the centre of midfield from Rodwell gifted the ball to Dortmund. With the City numbers depleted, the away side broke quickly and efficiently, with Reus going one-on-one with Hart. He got a hand to the shot, but this time the City keeper couldn’t prevent the ball from crossing the line. It had been coming.
Ten minutes later, it was beginning to feel like Joe Hart was taking on the German side on his own, as he produced yet another stunning save to block a low shot, before getting up quickly to turn an effort bound for the top corner over the bar. Lewandowski should have put the visitors further ahead, but he managed to slide the ball wide when it seemed easier to score.
With three minutes to play, City looked like they had an unlikely way back into the game. Zabaleta crossed to the back post where Aguero connected with a header. It looked destined for the net, but Weidenfeller got across his goal well to palm the ball behind. City had been struggling for chances in the second half and that looked like the best it was going to get.
But, as the clock ticked to 90, the home side were handed the chance to steal a point – a handball in the box gifted the hosts a penalty. Balotelli stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way coolly, pulling the blues level.
City could have edged ahead minutes later as they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. Kolarov was on the scene first and there was never going to be any other taker – he stepped up and tried to curl the ball into the near post, but it clipped the top of the wall and bounced away to safety.
The final say of the game, though, went to man of the match Joe Hart. With City caught out still riding the high of the equaliser, the visitors nearly won the game in stoppage time. Lewandowski fired an effort at goal from the edge of the box and it looked like it would sneak into the corner until Hart got across to push it behind.