Manchester City 1 Juventus 1
Manchester City survived a late scare to collect a point from their high-profile Europa League clash with Juventus.
Roberto Mancini’s men had run out of attacking ideas themselves when veteran forward Alessandro Del Piero strode up to blast a free-kick off the underside of Joe Hart’s crossbar.
Del Piero claimed the ball bounced in, but the merits of a goal-line assistant were plain to see as the official correctly ruled it had come down straight onto the goal-line.
It ensured parity for City against the team Mancini used to travel 10 hours on a bus to watch as a six-year-old after Adam Johnson had levelled Vincenzo Iaquinta’s early opener before the break.
City did not really deserve any more – and Emmanuel Adebayor was particularly poor.
However, if they can come out on top in back-to-back meetings with Polish champions Lech Poznan which now follow, the Blues should advance to the knock-out phase without too much trouble.
There are an elite group of clubs around Europe who, no matter what their current fortune or status, bring an element of stardust with them wherever they go.
It is that kind of resonance City’s ambitious and very wealthy owners are trying to create.
Yet all the money means little if, when the game actually starts, the players freeze.
There was no obvious reason why it should happen but that is how it appeared as City found themselves on the back foot from the start, unable to retain possession for any decent length of time.
On his long-awaited first start, Jerome Boateng fired a long-range effort wide. After that it was all Juve for 15 minutes, during which time the visitors took the lead.
That Iaquinta’s blistering 30-yard effort should take the merest flick off Kolo Toure should not detract from the magnificence of his strike.
What it did do was deviate the ball off its path just enough to take it away from Joe Hart, who buried his head as net bulged.
Despite rewarding Adebayor’s superb training-ground performances with a start that shunted skipper Carlos Tevez onto the left wing, City struggled to exert any lasting pressure.
Claudio Marchisio might have booted off his own line but, if there is such a thing, it was a routine clearance and City had to wait until the half-hour mark had gone before they made their visitors shake.
By that point, Milos Krasic had been booked for diving.
The Serbian was certainly looking for contact from Vincent Kompany, so in that sense the referee got his decision correct. The fact Kompany left his leg out to fall over made Krasic’s disbelief justifiable as well.
City shook themselves out of their lethargy just after the half-hour.
Gareth Barry nudged Tevez’s cross on with an inspired back header that bounced off the far post.
As Juventus struggled to clear the rebound, Johnson nipped in and fired a shot towards the Juve goal which former Arsenal keeper Alex Manninger turned away with his legs.
City levelled on their next attack when Yaya Toure matched his eagle-eyed spot of Johnson’s run inside with an inch-perfect slide rule pass that sent the winger clean through.
Manninger tried to make himself look tall but the former Middlesbrough star kept his cool and tucked away the equaliser.
Now 35, Del Piero remains at the heart of all Juventus’ attacking play.
After substantial advantages in territory and possession had brought City no reward, the World Cup winner picked himself up after earning a free-kick by falling over Kolo Toure and fired agonisingly wide.
The visitors’ attacks were more sporadic though as Adebayor, Patrick Vieira and Barry all tried their luck, without success, and Tevez buzzed around in a frenzy.
Adebayor’s miss signalled the end of his input, those appearances on the training ground proving to be deceptive.
His replacement, David Silva, tried to bring some fresh impetus to a City attack that had started to run out of ideas.
It did not work, and if Del Piero’s free-kick had been a couple of centimetres lower they would not even have ended up with a point.