- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 16 December 2010 20:13
- Posted by Tim Oscroft
A makeshift City side secured top spot in their Europa League group by holding Juventus to a one-all draw at a sparsely populated Stadio Olimpico.
The Blues fell behind to a Gianetti strike just before the break, but Brazilian cult hero Jo made up for some glaring mistakes in front of goal by burying the ball home with just 13 minutes to go.
Although the travelling squad was trimmed of many star names, the game represented a chance for those on the fringe domestically to impress with a raft of important league fixtures looming.
Employing 4-4-2 as before in Europe allowed Johnson and Wright-Phillips to take up station on left and right wings respectively, hopefully to supply Jo and Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely. The Liberian-born 19-year-old England youth international was making his first start for the senior side, having made a brief substitute appearance at Burnley in April. The versatile Boateng partnered Boyata at the heart of the defence
Shay Given was in goal for Europe once again, and the bench boasted five graduates of City’s youth Academy, with Scott Kay, Chris Chantler and Omar Elabdellaoui yet to appear in a senior competitive match.
City had an early penalty claim for handball ignored, and were grateful for a well-timed challenge from Dedryck Boyata on 10 minutes that denied the still-classy Alessandro del Piero a chance to threaten Given.
Much of the rest of the first half had the feel of a training ground exercise, but it was the experienced former international that helped break the deadlock just before the break. The 36-year-old made a yard of space near the by-line before finding debutante Gianetti, who nipped in front of Boyata and got just enough on the ball to roll it home.
Jo had spurned a good chance right at the start of the game, failing to connect a great low ball across from Richards, and he failed to get anything into a close-range header seconds after the break. The Brazilian did scramble the ball in a few minutes later but was flagged offside.
The classy Krasic was mostly kept quiet by Wayne Bridge, but he warmed Given’s hands with a long range shot just before being replaced. Seconds later, Boateng was in the right place to block Legrottaglie’s stabbed effort from close range.
Tchuimeni-Nimely had struggled to make an impact but he was shouting for a penalty when his fierce shot struck a sliding Chiellini’s hand, but the referee deemed it was a case of ball to hand and nothing was given.
But Jo made amends for his earlier errors when he levelled on 77 minutes. Adam Johnson, now on the right, cut inside before finding the Brazilian, who span round and drilled home a left-footed shot that gave former Arsenal stopper Alex Manninger little chance.
That put City back on top of the group and they played out the rest of the game comfortably. There was a nice moment right at the end when Chris Chantler made it number 35 for graduates of our Academy to have played for the City first team, replacing SWP, and on his 20th birthday too!
So City secured their place in pot one for the draw for the knock-out phase by winning Group A ahead of Lech Poznan on goal difference, but thoughts must now surely turn to a crucial few weeks where City could make a serious assault on the domestic front.