City well-placed to progress in spite of failure to find away goal

Aris Thessaloniki 0 Manchester City 0

Manchester City did not leave Greece last night with a coveted away goal, although they did their chances of Europa League progress little harm after drawing with a competitive Aris Thessaloniki side.

Their hosts have not lost a home European tie for 40 years and it was easy to see why. They were disciplined and feisty, preventing City from turning an advantage in possession into a set of goal-scoring chances. Those opportunities the visitors did fashion, most of which fell to Edin Dzeko, were smartly denied by Greece international goalkeeper Michalis Sifakis.

Roberto Mancini said afterwards that he "expects more" from his £27m striker. "Dzeko needs to improve. We had a great chance with him and he should have scored. It is important that he improves very quickly. We should cross the ball more to him. Shaun [Wright-Phillips] should have done better."

Despite his criticisms of his players, City's manager remains confident of progressing in the competition. He said: "This result is better than 1-1. We have a chance because we are at home. It will be a different pitch. It wasn't a good pitch to play football. I think it will be a different game in Manchester."

After a cautious approach in the first half, the Greek side pushed City much harder as the game went on, led by the shuttling Brazilian winger Darcy Dolce Neto. All of this took place in front of a vocal and colourful crowd in the Kleanthis Vikelides Stadium, with flags and banners in the club colours of yellow and black.

Perhaps realising that after last Saturday's derby defeat, the Europa League provides City's best chance of silverware, Mancini deployed his strongest side yet in the competition. No Shay Given, Patrick Vieira, Jo or Dedryck Boyata; Edin Dzeko led the line with support from Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Wright-Phillips.

While Aris's pressing was initially brisk, City had sufficient quality to find space in the host's half. Sifakis was forced into a sharp early save. Silva, again City's most imaginative player, spun on the edge of the box and shot but Sifakis stretched to his left to keep it out. Most of City's first-half chances, however, fell to Dzeko. The Bosnian took advantage of Silva's touch before stabbing the ball at Sifakis. Soon after he broke through again but the keeper's save was more comfortable.

City's first-half build-up play was patient enough to get bodies forward but not quick enough to break through the massed Aris lines. Mancini's team have, at times this season, struggled to break down opponents who have the intention and discipline to defend in numbers. In contrast, Aris attacked in spurts, relying on lively combinations between Neto and Argentinian forward Raul Bobadilla.

When the precision of the visitors' passing dropped, Aris broke forward quickly, and sharply. Jérôme Boateng, moved to centre-back, had to make some important interventions. It was Neto who went closer than anyone else in the first half to scoring. Joe Hart was ruled to have carried the ball out of the penalty area after colliding with Gareth Barry, and Neto's free-kick curled just beyond Hart's far post.

Aris started the second half as well as they did the first. Neto, a driving presence down the right flank, did not allow Aleksandar Kolarov to play his natural cavalier game. The Brazilian's delivery to the near post was impressive and Bobadilla headed another good chance softly wide.

While Wright-Phillips traditionally stays close to the touchline, he had City's two best chances at the start of the second half from infield areas. Twice he was found by Dzeko after running inside. The second time Sifakis had to make a save as Wright-Phillips shot at him. The Greece goalkeeper made his hardest save of the evening just after the hour mark, turning Dzeko's near-post header over the bar from Barry's expert cross. Ten minutes later, Sifakis could only watch as a shot from City's new target man flew beyond his outstretched arms, but it went wide.

Aris manager Yiannis Mihalitsios sensed that there might be a better chance to take a lead back to Manchester than he initially suspected. Unlike the first half, they did not follow a good start with a retreat back towards their goal. Rather, they continued to press and thereby provided the space required for an open game.

Mario Balotelli came on with 13 minutes left and missed with an overhead kick in his only meaningful contribution. Dzeko was withdrawn soon after, but was first denied an unlikely penalty claim by the Spanish referee.

Mancini, however, is not one to risk sacrificing a clean sheet in the desperate pursuit of a late goal. His players had a few corners in the final minutes but there was never a sense of any great siege. A stronger sense of urgency might be needed, though, when the teams meet again in eight days' time.

Aris Thessaloniki (4-4-1-1): Sifakis; Michel, Guiaro, Vangjeli, Lazaridis; Sakata, Faty, Prittas, Neto (Castillo, 88); Toja; Bobadilla (Cesarec, 72). Substitutes not used Vellidis (gk),Oriol, Kaznaferis, Mendrinos, Cesnauskis.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Kolarov, Boateng, K Touré, Richards; Barry, Y Touré; Tevez, Silva, Wright-Phillips (Balotelli, 77); Dzeko (Zabaleta, 84). Substitutes not used Given (gk), Kompany, Lescott, Vieira, Jo.

Referee A Undiano Mallenco (Spain).



News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game