MANCHESTER CITY survived a late scare to collect a point from their high-profile Europa League clash with Juventus last night.
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 goalline.
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 goalscorer Johnson revealed his goal came straight off the training ground. Johnson equalised before half-time following a glorious through ball from Yaya Toure. Johnson said afterwards: “I’ve been working on it a bit in training, running across defenders. The manager (Roberto Mancini) wants me to do it more. It was a great pass by Yaya Toure.
“We want to win every competition we play. We won our last game (against Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League) and hopefully we can continue strongly in this competition.”
City did not really deserve any more than a draw, 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 knockout phase without too much trouble.
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 the net bulged.
City continued to struggle and had to wait until the half-hour before they made their visitors shake.
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.
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. His replacement, David Silva, tried to bring some fresh impetus to a City attack that 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.
MAN CITY: Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta (Boyata 46), Adebayor (Silva 73), Adam Johnson, Boateng (Milner 84), Barry, Vieira, Toure, Tevez, Toure Yaya.
JUVENTUS: Manninger, Chiellini, Sissoko, Marchisio, Iaquinta, Del Piero, Bonucci, Grygera, Martinez (Pepe 54), Krasic (Felipe Melo 75), De Ceglie (Motta 72).
Referee: E Gonzalez (Spain).
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