By Tom Smart
The City faithful embarked on their 2nd trip to Portugal this year after successfully defeating the reigning holders of the Europa League in the form of FC Porto.
However full of hope and promise the travelling supporters were, they made their way to Lisbon only to be disappointed as City failed to get a crucial away goal that could be taken into the 2nd leg.
Joao Pereira struck the first threatening effort of the game in the 9th minute with a strike from just inside the area that Joe Hart was able to palm away to safety. It appeared to be the wake up call that the blues needed.
2 minutes later and a clever short corner from Milner and Silva gave Milner the space to lob a well-placed cross into the penalty area, from which Kolo Toure forced Rui Patricio into a superb close-range save.
In the 12th Minute City captain Vincent Kompany had to be substituted with a strained calf injury that saw the introduction of Joleon Lescott who also took the captains armband. After the game it was announced that Kompany will be out for what is suspected to be around 2 weeks, potentially meaning he could miss the upcoming games against Swansea, Sporting Lisbon & Chelsea.
City continued to press and in the 23rd minute another short corner courtesy of Milner resulted in Gareth Barry firing wide from just inside the 18 yard box. City’s best opportunity of the game so far with the first half coming to an end with neither team creating an excessive amount of goal scoring chances.
The 2nd half began with Sporting earning themselves a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Matias Fernandez stepped up and fired a well struck shot towards the bottom left hand corner. Hart was able to prevent the ball from going in initially and then for a second time from close-range, but an excellent improvisational back-heel from Xandao saw the ball home for the hosts.
The game continued as at had in the first half with neither team able to create anything clear-cut following the opening goal, yet City continued to dominate possession. Mancini spotted the lack of edge in the attack and brought on Mario Balotelli for Edin Dzeko. It wasn’t the Bosnian’s best performance for City in a blue shirt despite having scored in his last two games for City.
The introduction of Mario Balotelli saw City rejuvenated in attack and an impressive unorthodox cross from which David Silva narrowly missed and shot wide. Silva and Balotelli linked up again shortly as a whipped corner on the 86th minute found the head of the Italian striker and crashed against the bar before being cleared.
That was to be the last chance of the game before the referee blew for half time. City unfortunate not to take an away goal back to Manchester with them, but the performance from both sides would suggest that City are very capable of turning this tie around at the Etihad Stadium despite the one goal deficit.