A late goal from the substitute Martin Vingaard on his debut left Manchester City cursing their luck in the first leg of this round of 32 Uefa Cup match here in the Danish capital last night. The midfielder stepped off the bench to drag his side level in stoppage time by heading home.
It was cruel luck on City, who seemed to be heading to a morale-boosting victory thanks to Stephen Ireland's 10th goal of the season. However, they will take some consolation in that they have the benefit of two away goals in the return leg at Eastlands next Thursday. Nedum Onuoha also found the target before Ailton Almeida raised Copenhagen's spirits by pulling them level.
It was City manager Mark Hughes' side who made the early running when Ireland split the defence with a superb ball in the 11th minute. Wayne Bridge latched on to it and delivered the cross but Craig Bellamy had strayed offside and the move broke down.
The Danes responded and Micah Richards did well under pressure to clear a corner from Oscar Wendt at the back post four minutes later.
Then Shaun Wright-Phillips made space down the right, but his curling cross was easily cut out. The winger again got clear in the 20th minute and tried to pick out Robinho only for the ball to go behind the Brazilian. Robinho repaid the favour two minutes later by setting up Wright-Phillips but he saw his shot blocked by the goalkeeper Jesper Christiansen.
Copenhagen were looking dangerous from set pieces and Mikael Antonsson got clear of his marker in the 27th minute but headed over the bar following a corner from Wendt.
City made the breakthrough and took the lead two minutes later thanks to a dreadful error from Christiansen. He allowed a weak shot from Onuoha to squirm under his body and over the line. Onuoha could not believe his luck and wheeled away to celebrate.
Copenhagen hauled themselves back into the game in the 56th minute by scoring the equaliser. Almeida was the first to react when Thomas Kristensen delivered the corner and sent a header beyond the City goalkeeper Shay Given.
City regained the lead five minutes later with another goal out of nothing. A cross from Wright-Phillips went through the legs of Atiba Hutchinson and direct to Ireland. Such is the midfielder's confidence he was not going to waste the chance and he rattled a shot into the corner of the net.
The substitute Jesper Gronkjaer almost pulled Copenhagen level for a second time in the 81st minute but Dunne came to the rescue and cleared off the line. Copenhagen equalised again when the substitutes Vingaard and Dame N'Doye – both on their debuts – linked up in stoppage time for the former to head home.
FC Copenhagen (4-4-2): Christiansen; Pospech, Laursen, Antonsson, Wendt; Kvist (Vingaard, 70), Kristensen, Norregaard (Gronkjaer, 70), Hutchinson; Almeida, Santin (N'Doye, 59). Substitutes not used: Coe (gk), Niclas Jensen, Nordstrand, Jorgensen.
Manchester City (4-3-2-1): Given; Onuoha, Richards, Dunne, Bridge; Zabaleta, Kompany, Ireland; Wright-Phillips, Robinho (Caicedo, 89); Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Elano, Vassell, Garrido, Evans, Weiss.
Referee: P Kralovec (Czech Republic).