UEFA Champions League Group D
Wednesday 24 October 2012, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Richards, Kompany (c), Lescott (Kolarov 63), Clichy, Barry (Tevez 71), Milner (Balotelli 77), Y Toure, Nasri, Dzeko, Aguero
Unused: Pantilimon, Nastasic, Evans, Sinclair
Goals: Nasri (22)
Booked: Kolarov, Y Toure
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen
Man of the Match: Micah Richards
The early pressure of the tie came from the home side, with City starting off on the back foot. De Jong tried an effort from range after a neat one-two on the edge of the box, but it wasn’t troubling Joe Hart. Dzeko had the visitors’ first attempt on goal from a long way out and he dragged the shot well wide. Eriksen found space on the edge of the box and tried a blast at the top corner, but it curled away from the far post and behind.
Aguero took the ball from Barry on the edge of the Ajax box and carried it along the line. He had the ball just nicked away from him as he was about to pull the trigger, but it almost rebounded back into his path on the penalty spot. At the other end, a great tackle from Kompany thwarted a breakaway from the home side.
At the 20 minute mark, it was all the home side. Eriksen touched the ball superbly past Barry and found space in the middle of the City half. He shot from range and it had Hart worried, but it just slipped wide of the post. This followed de Jong not being able to grow tall enough to nod a cross at goal.
Two minutes later, the visitors had the lead, somewhat against the run of play. Richards produced a sublime pass into the path of Milner, who broke towards goal. His route was blocked off, but that allowed him to roll the ball into the path of Nasri on the left. The Frenchman shot first time and found the bottom corner.
Just before the half hour, it could have been two for City. Richards did well to steal the ball in midfield and knock it into space. He got on the end of it and, undecided whether to square or shoot, he took his time and, when he did unleash the shot, the goalkeeper was set and palmed it away. The rebound fell kindly for the home side to clear.
Van Rhijn flashed an effort over Hart’s bar from the right corner of the box after he had cut inside Clichy. It was a relief for City to watch it behind, with there being better options for the Dutchman square inside the box. Babel had a shot from long range and it was aimed at the bottom corner, but Hart got down well to hold on to the effort.
City had dropped too deep and minutes before half time, Ajax’s pressure paid off. Van Rhijn pulled a low ball into the box and de Jong, left unmarked to drift to the edge of the area, smashed a shot into the bottom corner. Hart had no chance and could only watch it hit the back of the net.
From kick off in the second half, City could have been back in front: Aguero was found in the area by Nasri and tried to poke it past the goalkeeper, but it was blocked. The ball found its way back to him and he tried to chip it back to Dzeko, who would have faced an open goal had the ball made it, but the cross was cut out.
Despite City’s early pressure in the second period, ten minutes after the break, the visitors were behind. It was a simple goal for the home side, Moisander was completely unmarked from a corner, finding space between Yaya Toure and Lescott. His flicked header from the cross was on target at the back post and flew past Hart, who was, once again, helpless.
With just under 20 minutes to play, City’s Champions League hopes were hanging by a thread. Barry slipped under pressure in the middle of midfield and the ball broke to Eriksen on the edge of the box. He took on Kompany, beating him too easily, and fired a shot towards the far corner. Clichy stuck out a foot and redirected the shot past Joe Hart who, once again, could do nothing about the goal.
A minute later and it could have been four for the home side. Sana beat Clichy with a quick one-two to set up a one-on-one with Hart. The England international was off his line quickly to block and keep the score at 3-1. Immediately, Dzeko could have pulled a goal back as he was played in over the top, but Vermeer saved. Dzeko then found himself one-on-one and tried to go around the goalkeeper, but he recovered well to save.
Yaya Toure pulled out a brilliant ball to Nasri in the area and the Frenchman should have had a penalty for a pull-back as he tried to shoot. The effort went well wide, thanks, in no small part, to the tug. Aguero tried a shot on the edge of the box, as Balotelli lost possession and the ball broke to the Argentine, but it flashed over the bar. City were out of luck and seemingly out of the Champions League.