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Manchester City 1-1 Napoli – Debutants share points in entertaining affair

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By Stephen Clark

Thursday 15 September 2011

Manchester City 1

Kolarov 74

Napoli 1

Cavani 69

Aleksander Kolarov struck a 30 yard free kick to rescue Manchester City a point from an entertaining Champions League debut from both sides.

City lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Pablo Zabaletta and Kolarov were preferred in the full back positions. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry formed the midfield screen, allowing the magical trio of Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguerro and David Silva the opportunity to display their attacking flair. Edin Dzeko was chosen to lead the line.

Napoli attempted to counter City with a 3-4-2-1 formation. The three centre backs were protected by two central midfielders, Gokhan Inler and Walter Garagano. The width was provided by Christian Maggio and Juan Zuniga. The front three saw Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi provide support for Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani.

Both sides were making their Champions League debut and it was City who settled the quickest. They produced a sustained period of pressure in the opening moments, with the Italian side looking particularly vulnerable from corners. However, they did start to worry the hosts with swift and decisive attacking breaks.

The game developed into an exciting end to end affair, with both sides looking to exploit the other with quick counter-attacks. From one of these, City came close to opening the scoring as Aguero burst forward, feeding Dzeko whose cross shot flashed across the face of goal.

However, Napoli were not toothless in their attacking exploits and came close to breaking the deadlock on 17 minutes. Vincent Kompany almost paid the ultimate price as he overcommitted to a challenge on Lavezzi, the Argentinian gliding past him before opening his body to curl an effort beyond Joe Hart but off the woodwork.

City also hit the woodwork ten minutes before half-time as Aguero cleverly drew two defenders to him on the by-line before rolling the ball back to Yaya Toure who thundered an effort from 12 yards of the underside of the bar.

The second half saw Napoli become a little tighter defensively, but no less threatening on the break. The home side were having problems breaking down the Italian side’s unusual three man back line. There was an interesting tactical battle developing. Despite all the attacking flair on offer from City, there was a hint of over-elaboration.

With City becoming increasingly desperate to make the breakthrough a noisy Eastland’s crowd desired, they began to push more and more men forward. This left them even more vulnerable to the break, and fatally so with 20 minutes left.

Gareth Barry was caught in possession and Napoli set off on the break. Maggio carried the ball forward and with City’s defence outnumbered three to two, the ball was fed to Cavani who drove a low shot through Hart’s legs for the opening goal.

City needed to find a way back into the game, and it was clear that the way to goal was going to come from the flanks, as the Sky Blues could not break through the central areas. Samir Nasri got down the left hand side and his clipped cross was met by Aguero, only to see the ball come back off the bar. However, Napoli committed a foul 30 yards out as they tried to clear, and from the resulting free-kick, Kolarov bent in the equaliser.

Man City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov (Clichy 76); Yaya Toure, Barry; Nasri (Johnson 76), Aguero, Silva; Dzeko (Tevez 81)

Napoli (3-4-2-1): De Sanctis; Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Aronica; Maggio, Inler, Gargano, Zuniga; Hamsik (Santana 89), Lavezzi (Dzemalli 57); Cavani (Pandev 83)

Did you know… Manchester City are now unbeaten in 13 home European ties.

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