Post subject: Juventus came from behind to secure a 2:1 win
15. Sep 2015, 23:06
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|A Giorgio Chiellini own goal had given the Blues a precious second-half lead, but the visitors fought back strongly, first through and then Alvaro Morata to knock the stuffing out of the hosts who had looked comfortable for most of the evening.
With an electrically-charged atmosphere inside the Etihad, it felt like the Champions League had finally arrived. City fans have often been accused of being cool towards the competition that pits the elite of European football against one another.
And it wouldn’t be unfair to say that it has been a slow-burner in terms of affection from the sky blue hordes, but with the panache and swagger the Blues have started the current campaign, so comes belief – belief that Manuel Pellegrini is fashioning a side that can genuinely lock horns with the very best.
The team also looks more confident than in past campaigns, as if an apprenticeship has been served and the shackles have been cast aside - but this is a competition that can still punish even a momentary lack of focus.
If the Blues are to progress further than ever in the Champions League, it is generally accepted that finishing top of this group is a must – to do so will almost certainly avoid the so-called big guns – but first Juventus, Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach need to be negated, and this result will make that task all the harder .
The Old Lady, last season’s finalists, were the ideal gauge for the Premier League leaders and Pellegrini welcomed two of his stellar performers this season back into the starting line-up with David Silva and Raheem Sterling both declared fit after missing the victory over Crystal Palace.
Sergio Aguero was named on the bench after recovering from a knee injury and Kevin De Bruyne joined him on the superstars-in-waiting area. It could have been the perfect start, too, with Gianluigi Buffon keeping the lively Sterling out with a fine stop after just two minutes.
It was the start of a pattern that saw the Blues dominate for large periods of the first 45 minutes – Fernandinho sent in fine efforts in the 22nd and 37th minutes – the latter a real howitzer – but the teams went into the break deadlocked.
Juventus looked livelier after the re-start but City continued to probe away with Sterling, Silva and Wilfried Bony knocking on the door without success – so who do you send for in times of need? Step forward Vincent Kompany. The skipper rose with Chiellini as Silva’s corner came in and the under-pressure Italian defender headed past his own keeper. With 57 minutes played, the Blues at last had the breakthrough.
Within 90 seconds Sterling had almost doubled the lead as Silva played him in, but again Buffon spread himself well to keep his side in the contest – and what a crucial stop that proved to be. The Old Lady wasn’t rocking, but it was doddering slightly. But they were far from finished.
City’s proud record of not conceding a goal this campaign finally ended when Mario Mandzukic ghosted in behind the Blues’ defence on 70 minutes to steer Paul Pogba’s lofted pass expertly past Joe Hart and Juventus were suddenly alive and kicking.
Kompany left the field shortly after, presumably having picked up a knock but his replacement Nicolas Otamendi could do little when, 12 minutes later, Alvaro Morata struck to silence the majority of the record Etihad European crowd with a curling shot from 20 yards that beat Hart and sent the travelling fans wild.
It hadn’t really been on the cards, but such is the harshness of football at this level. Juventus then locked down with a wall of black shirts suffocating City’s remaining attacks.
Ultimately, it was another harsh lesson for the Blues who will need to bounce back quickly when they travel to Borussia Monchengladbach next month or face another difficult passage through this tournament.