Champions League - Napoli spoil Man City debut

Wed, 14 Sep 22:45:00 2011

Manchester City's Champions League debut ended in anti-climax as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Napoli at the Etihad Stadium.

2011 Manchester City-Napoli Dzeko Cannavaro - 0

Edinson Cavani completed a fine move to give the visitors the lead on 69 minutes, but Aleksandar Kolarov equalised with a free-kick five minutes later.

Both sides were playing their first match in the competition in its present format and the Serie A side - whose last European Cup appearance was in 1990 - proved formidable opposition.

Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero hit the crossbar for City, while Ezequiel Lavezzi did likewise for a Napoli team that presented a step up in quality for Roberto Mancini's side after their roaring start to the domestic season.

Though City dominated, they looked vulnerable on the counter-attack, while the visitors defended efficiently in numbers.

City might have been making their Champions League debut but their players, by and large, were not.

Seven of their starting XI had previous experience in the competition, with four more on the bench.

They started with characteristic assurance and Samir Nasri, a man with a half-century of European appearances to his name, shot just wide in the third minute.

Edin Dzeko was restored to the starting line-up having been dropped for Carlos Tevez on Saturday, and brought a superb early save from Morgan De Sanctis with a cross-shot.

De Sanctis may well have felt slightly aggrieved when the linesman mistakenly flagged for a goal-kick after the keeper tipped Dzeko's effort behind.

Napoli defended well and focused their attacking efforts to counter-attacks. The strategy nearly paid off in the 18th minute, when Ezequiel shimmied past Vincent Kompany, opened his body and curled a shot that pinged unluckily back off the bar.

City responded in kind on 35 minutes, when Toure intercepted a corner and sprinted clear on the break. He found Aguero, received a return pass and saw his shot strike the underside of the bar.

Napoli were not easily cowed, and the effervescent Lavezzi had a shot cleared off the line early in the second half - Kompany making a vital intervention from the Argentine's volley with Joe Hart well beaten.

Joleon Lescott might have scored with a free header, but by now it was the visitors carving out the better chances, and only a superb flying block by Pablo Zabaleta denied Marek Hamsik on 66 minutes.

Three minutes later, Napoli were in front. Christian Maggio nicked the ball off Gareth Barry and made a driving forward run before sliding the ball perfectly into Cavani's path - the Uruguayan placed his shot through Hart's legs.

City roared back, and Aguero crashed a shot against the bar as he met a pacy Nasri cross at the near post.

Seconds later, it was one each. Kolarov bent a left-foot shot into the near corner from the right side, 25 yards out. The otherwise excellent De Sanctis may feel he should have saved it.

A winner seemed inevitable, and it was a shock to see the in-form Dzeko blaze wide left-footed on the turn.

But Napoli regrouped, and in the end could have nicked all three points following a Kompany slip. Substitute Goran Pandev took the ball past Hart, but in doing so ran the ball out for a goal kick.

Not for nothing has Group A been christened the 'Group of Death' and further tough challenges against Bayern Munich and Villarreal await City.

Alex Chick - / Eurosport

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