By Tom Smart
City arrived in
Porto with the recent memory of being dumped out the Champions League in December. City entered the Europa League after a 2-0 home victory against Bayern Munich was not enough to see them through to the next stages of the competition. A return to a knockout competition appeared a welcome one amid the defeats in both the FA Cup and the Carling Cup that the New Year had brought.
With the renewed interest that this season has brought the Europa League as a result of the exciting teams and ties that are in the competition, all eyes appeared to be on the league champions from Portugal and the league leaders from England.
City were delighted to welcome back the defensive reinforcement of experienced centre-back Kolo Toure and his brother, the midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure after their cup final appearance in the African Cup of Nations. With no game at the weekend, the visitors were able to field a strong side that could compete effectively in
as both legs lay ahead for City consecutively. Portugal
The opening 5 minutes saw the charismatic and talented Hulk attempt to get behind the City defence with a number of step-overs and flicks that failed to challenge the defensive technique of Micah Richards.
Despite this it was the opening of the game that City looked extremely pressed within their own half.
Porto pressured the City defence and midfield effectively as the blues were unable to get the ball out of their half for the majority of the opening 20 minutes despite keeping possession.
A minute later however,
Porto were able to break the deadlock. An accurately drilled cross in to the area from the left via Hulk, found Varela at the front post whose pace beat Clichy, giving him the freedom to tuck it home and give the Europa League holders the advantage.
City responded to going a goal down with some insightful attacking football. A delightfully lofted through ball by Nasri found Mario Balotelli, who beat the offside trap and half volleyed the ball toward goal. Helton, the
Porto goalkeeper, made an excellent save to prevent the Italian with some criticising the time spent on the ball by the striker. Micah Richards was also frustrated by Helton after a half volley towards goal was palmed away with City beginning to press.
It wasn’t until after half-time that City’s attacking presence was truly felt by
Porto. The 54th minute saw a diagonal ball driven forward by Yaya Toure towards the run made by Balotelli. The two went for the ball with the Italian hitman looking to have potentially shoved . The ball struck Pereira on the shoulder, which took it past Helton and bounced comfortably into the Pereira Porto net. City back level thanks to a lack of communication between the Porto defence and goalkeeper.
Despite pulling the tie back, Porto were able to dominate territorial possession again much like they did in the 1st half with City being penned back into their own half. Again despite the domination, Porto were unable to create a clear scoring opportunity as a result of the resolute and tight defending that the blues defence were able to stimulate.
The 78th minute saw Balotelli leave the field of play to be replaced by Aguero and within 5 minutes the small Argentine made his impact. Yaya Toure again the architect played a neat one-two with Samir Nasri. Toure rushed into the
Porto penalty box and laid a comfortable pass for Aguero to slot the ball home into a virtually empty net sending the City faithful behind the goal into scenes of mayhem.
The game ended with the visitors taking away a 2-1 advantage back to
of which they hold 2 away goals leaving the 2nd leg completely in their own hands. A resilient performance from a City team making their presence known in the Europa League, despite coming up against the holders of the competition. Manchester
The only disappointment that appears on the evening is the official complaint that the club have lodged to UEFA about the racial abuse that was being targeted at Mario Balotelli & Yaya Toure throughout the game. UEFA are yet to respond to City’s report.