Kolarov plays the hero after Napoli threaten to ruin City's first night

Manchester City 1 (Kolarov 75) Napoli 1 (Cavani 69)

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The Independent Online


It could only be Manchester City who wait 43 years to play in European football's premier club competition and then almost spoil the party by nearly losing the game.

After three years, close to £1bn committed, and a whole lot of effort, the Champions League finally arrived at the Etihad Stadium and, on the big night, City came close to fouling up their debut against Serie A's third-best team. Aleksandar Kolarov salvaged a draw for them with an equaliser 15 minutes from time.

Napoli came to have a go at City's defence and, with Vincent Kompany having an off day, they had by far the best of the second half.

Only when Edinson Cavani scored Napoli's opening goal did City really swing into action. They have players in their side who have won this competition before and against the weakest team in Group A, they needed to start the competition strongly. A late shout for a penalty when David Silva was shoved by Salvatore Aronica went unheeded.

City created some chances in the first half but none of them took the breath away like the moment when Ezequiel Lavezzi sold Kompany a dummy and struck a curling shot from the edge of the area that clipped the crossbar beyond Joe Hart.

The bar was rattled at the other end too 10 minutes before the break. Yaya Touré intercepted a badly judged Napoli corner on the edge of his own area and ran the ball deep into the Italians' half before pushing it out wide to Sergio Aguero in the right channel. He got away from the defender and cut it back for Touré who clipped the bar with his shot.

Having had the best of the first half, City might reasonably have expected Napoli to batten down the hatches but they went at City from the restart.

It took a block from Kompany on the line on 49 minutes to stop Marek Hamsik's backpost shot from going in. That gave Napoli a measure of belief that carried them forward in search of a goal that eventually came with 21 minutes left. Gareth Barry dithered in possession and allowed Christian Maggio to pinch the ball and surge forward. He played in Cavani who slipped the ball under Hart.

It took the jolt of Napoli's goal to waken City. They immediately looked better. Aguero hit the bar from Nasri's cross and then the equaliser came from a free-kick out on the right side of the Napoli box. Kolarov struck it with his left boot and placed it so close to Morgan De Sanctis' left post that the goalkeeper did not even bother moving when it curled into the net.