Friday, 17 December 2010

JUVENTUS 1 MANCHESTER CITY 1


A neat finish by Jo earned Manchester City a point away to Juventus and ensured they advanced to the Europa League last 32 as group winners.
At the end of a poor first half, Juve debutant Niccolo Giannetti nipped in front of Dedryck Boyata to score.
With Lech Poznan winning, City seemed set to finish second in the group and potentially face a tougher draw.
But after 76 minutes, Jo spun on a pass from the excellent Adam Johnson and slotted home a low shot from 12 yards.
Jo, one of only two players retained from the weekend win against West Ham, and Johnson will have been relatively happy with their night's work, but few others shone in a game that often had the feel of a not particularly taxing pre-season friendly.
Both sides already knew their fate in the competition, the starting line-ups were unfamiliar with fringe players getting rare outings and it was all played out in front of a near-empty Olympic Stadium.
Indeed it was easy to imagine both managers switching their thoughts to promising challenges for their domestic titles as soon as the final whistle sounded. Few of the players coming in would have done a great deal to push their case for inclusion - with the notable exception of Johnson.
The former Middlesbrough man showed that he can be a consistent threat when given more than a brief run out late on in matches. Spending spells on both flanks, the winger tormented both full-backs and also impressed when moving inside, threading through balls into Jo and youngster Alex Nimely.
A case in point was Jo's equaliser - the finish was sublime, the Brazilian spinning and shooting past Alex Manninger in an instant, but Johnson was the instigator, cutting in from the right before picking out the run.
In a first half that quickly deteriorated after Jo took too long when presented with a chance inside 60 seconds, Johnson also had a reasonable penalty shout turned down after playing a neat give-and-go and, far more than either James Milner or Shaun Wright-Phillips, acted as a link between midfield and attack.
But for all his probing and the nous of Alessandro Del Piero for the hosts, chances were few and far between until a much-improved second half.
And when first-half chances did come they were wasted, even Del Piero guilty as he failed to get the ball out from under his feet with Simone Pepe waiting in space inside the area.
Before the break City also had optimistic shouts for a penalty turned down after Johnson's run got blocked off and Liberian forward Nimely, making his first start, headed against the post from an offside position but they were rare highlights. The opening goal, when it arrived on 43 minutes, came as a shock.
The goal owed as much to Del Piero's composure as it did to some poor City defending. Micah Richards failed to get tight enough to the veteran striker and when the cross came in Boyata was far too slow to react as Giannetti marked his debut by flicking home.
The 19-year-old striker could have doubled the lead shortly after the break - narrowly missing Armand Traore's superb cross - while Felipe Melo and Milos Krasic tested Shay Given from distance.
But as the half wore on City slowly turned the tide and should have had a penalty when Nimely's goal-bound shot struck Giorgio Chiellini. As with most moves, the man creating the chance was Johnson and the 23-year-old was also the man playing the ball through when Jo was unlucky to see an effort from eight yards ruled out for offside.
With Juventus retreating, Milner and Wright-Phillips tried their luck with ambitious efforts, Wright-Phillips trying an overhead kick from 15 yards before the equaliser arrived through a more composed piece of play.
Cutting in from the right, Johnson drew his man before playing in Jo, the striker then showing he could push for more regular inclusion by controlling on the turn before firing home to ensure City progressed from Group A as winners ahead of Lech Poznan.
On another night, with more at stake, City might then have pushed for a winner, but with the Blues third in the Premier League and the Old Lady second in Serie A the final 10 minutes were uneventful with minds on more important matters.

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