Manchester City vs Juventus match report: Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata punish same old City in Champions League opener

Manchester City 1 Juventus 2

Click to follow
The Independent Football

The unstoppable force in the Premier League; still the improbable farce in the Champions League. If Manchester City have not learned by now, after five seasons among the elite, how to manage games such as these then you have to wonder just when the penny will drop.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team seized the lead before the hour in fortuitous circumstances and yet again they proved themselves resolutely unable to hold onto it against the champions of Italy who had come, primarily, to stall and frustrate the unbeaten Premier League leaders. In another familiar tale of missed chances and poor performances from their leading figures, City found themselves reeled in, out-thought and ultimately beaten.

The goals from Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata sealed victory for a Juventus team who sit 16th in Serie A and have lost two of their first four league fixtures of the season. They might have sold key figures this summer, they might have on-loan Juan Cuadrado, unwanted by Chelsea, on the right wing but they were distinctly more sophisticated and ruthless in their approach to the lavishly upgraded City team that is yet to concede a goal in domestic competition.

In this, their fifth season in the Champions League, City have still registered just one opening game win in the competition against Viktoria Plzen from the Czech Republic in 2013. Last season they did not taste victory until their fourth game of the group and this time around it has started with no more promise. Yaya Toure found himself passed around, David Silva barely got on the ball in the first half and Vincent Kompany withdrew injured with the game at 1-1.

For the chances they created, the best of which fell to Raheem Sterling, the goal that was put into his own net by Giorgio Chiellini should never have stood. With Kevin De Bruyne and then Sergio Aguero throw on to chase the game in the latter stages this became one of those nights when all the old problems surface.

Sterling-Reuters.jpg
Raheem Sterling had two excellent chances

In the first half, Juventus mastered that skill Italian teams perform better than anyone else, the ability to suck the life out of a game at every opportunity, a technique passed down through the generations and used to great effect. When they needed him, Gianluigi Buffon, their 37-year-old goalkeeper, was magnificent.

There were chances for City but none that were unmissable and only one in the first half that was on target. There was possession for City but not in the areas where the away side might find themselves under pressure. They faced a Juventus starting line-up of 4-4-2 which soon became 4-5-1 or just 4-6-0 when the situation required it.

This was another test on the road for City and by no means the sternest they will face. But their tried and tested ways they have were not working in the first half. There was no fluency to their attacks, not in the way that each one took so long to set-up and in between there was much ponderous passing.

In the first few minutes, Fernandinho surged forward and played in Sterling to his left and, when he really should have scored, the young Englishman putted his shot straight at Buffon. Juventus made sure that was not permitted to happen again, and there was not another shot on goal from the home side all half.

Chiellini-AP.jpg
Giorgio Chiellini scores an own goal that should not have stood after he was fouled by Vincent Kompany

In midfield for Juventus, more often than not operating as one of five, was Paul Pogba, Europe’s must-have midfielder and an elegant presence who covers the ground with such ease. There was the occasional moment of £70m-buyout clause quality from him - when he guided the ball away from Fernandinho and swayed past Samir Nasri - but this was a game when he had been told to form one crucial part of an unbreachable midfield and he stuck to that.

On the left wing for Juventus was loanee Cuadrado, that £26.8m Chelsea January signing that must elicit an uneasy silence every time his name is mentioned around the boardroom table at Stamford Bridge. He looked better against City than he ever did over five unhappy months in London, giving Juventus width and a flavour of adventure. His cross was turned in by Pogba early on but Morata had strayed offside.

As for City there was one prime moment for Wilfried Bony, Aguero’s understudy, when he caught Leonardo Bonucci with his feet planted and his legs apart and flicked the ball through. It required a mighty shot to beat Buffon from the edge of the area and Bony’s wild slice was nowhere near. By that point of the half, City’s only sights of goal were coming from further and further away.

Silva-PA.jpg
David Silva reacts after an unbelievable David Silva double save

The breakthrough for City came just before the hour when at last a bit of pressure told - although if the Slovenian referee had kept his concentration then the goal would never have stood. As Silva’s corner sailed over, Kompany’s intention was to win the ball but by the time it reached him he had pinned Chiellini to the spot and used the old defender’s face as means of steering the ball past Buffon.

Unsurprisingly this did not pass without protest from the Italian defender and a number of his team-mates, and it seemed to dawn on the referee that this was more than just the standard griping. Later, after Juventus’ equaliser, Kompany would go off injured with 15 minutes remaining and the game in the balance.

There were chances after that for City to kill the game and Silva found himself on the ball more than ever. Once again, Sterling was put in a position where he should have scored and once again he seemed mesmerised by Buffon who saved from him and then stopped the rebound from Silva.

Mandzukic-AP.jpg
Mario Mandzukic scores the equaliser after a brilliant pass by Paul Pogba

The equaliser from Juventus was a bad moment for Eliaquim Mangala who allowed the Croatia striker Mandzukic to run on his blind side to meet a Pogba cross from the left and guide it just inside Joe Hart’s far post. It had taken 520 minutes of competitive football this season for City to concede, although this one rather changed the mood.

De Bruyne was already waiting on the touchline when Mandzukic scored and he came on moments later for Sterling whose evening was full of hard work but was defined by those two missed chances in either half. Then Kompany came off injured and there was more than a hint of vulnerability about City.

Morata-reuters.jpg
Alvaro Morata curled a beautiful strike beyond Joe Hart to give Juve the victory

The winner arrived from an innocuous sequence of events: a hard run down the right from Cuadrado chasing a long ball and a collision with Aleksandar Kolarov that caused the ball to cannon off the full-back and into the path of Morata. He allowed it to pass him, turned, and hit a left foot shot first time that curled beyond the reach of Hart and in. for the first time all season, City found themselves chasing the game. One Toure shot aside, they never looked like rescuing it.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Sagna, Kompany (Otamendi 75), Mangala, Kolarov; Toure, Fernandinho; Silva, Sterling (De Bruyne 70), Nasri (Aguero 82); Bony

Juventus (4-4-2): Buffon; Lichtsteiner, Bonucci, Chiellini, Evra; Cuadrado, Hernandes, Pogba, Sturaro; Morata (Barzagli 84), Mandzukic (Dybala 78),

Referee: D Skomina (Slovenia)

Man of the match: Buffon

Comments