Wednesday, 14 September 2011


The anticipation for this game has been building for weeks, well it was in my case anyway. I'd never been to a champions league game before, obviously as this was our first ever one, so it felt good to be able to say that i was there on this historical night. Outside the ground I met some very friendly Italians who asked if i could take a pic of them, which i did, so it only seemed right to take one my self.

The atmosphere outside the ground was good and it only improved inside the ground. Looking around the Etihad stadium adorned in the Champions league logo's, watching the team warm up with their Champions League bibs on, and the noisy Italian Fans booing and whistling as our team was announced. The very first Manchester City 11 to have a crack at the competition. Hart in goal, Kolorov, Kompany, Lescott & Zabbaletta in defence, Barry & Toure as holding midfielders, and Nasri, Silva, Aguero and Dzeko in attack. Good to see Zabba starting and the squad being put to use, but the goose bumps really kicked in when that music started to play, the teams on the pitch, and the champions league music belting out. This was a special night to be a city fan, and as i said, i was so glad that i can say i was there.

So the match kicked off and as you would expect, City had a lot of possession, passing around, creating a few chances and looking the better team early on, but you know what you are going to get from Italian teams, sitting in and staying tight and waiting to hit you on the attack, after all, we witnessed a lot of this type of football last season, so even for all our possession and attacking, I was weary of the Italian counter, and it was a classic Italian counter that saw Napoli hit the crossbar on 20 minutes. This signaled a spell of Napoli pressure and they came back into the game for a spell, but then on  35 minutes a classic City counter, started by Yaya see's the ball swept up field and ends with Yaya hitting the crossbar. So for all our possession and all our chances we didn't manage to put any of them away and we were level at the break.

Second half continued the same way, City dominating possession but not putting the ball in the net. We'd talked about having to be patient in these games, waiting for our opportunity to come, but from where i was sitting, the movement of the front four didn't seem to be as fluid as it had been in premier league games and that Italian counter threat was always on, we'd had a warning of it when Zabba had to slide in to send a shot deflecting over the bar but on 68 minutes Napoli made one count. Barry trying a flicked pass to Nasri that didn't come off in their half of the pitch, and before you know it, the ball is driven between Joe Harts legs and the Etihad witness the first ever Champions league goal to be scored there, unfortunately scored by Cavani for Napoli. This was a test now. We'd had it pretty much our own way this season so far, brushing teams aside and scoring for fun, now we found ourselves 1-0 down at home against what was quality opposition. I will admit i didn't really know much about Napoli before the game, but i do now, and they look like a decent team. Would we have the character to fight back and get something from this game ? Aguero struck the bar again, and Clichy and Johnson were preparing to enter the fray when Zabba was bundled over for a free kick just outside the Napoli box. Kolorov eyed it up, probably knowing that Clichy was waiting to replace him. The Etihad held its breath and then burst into life as Kolorov  coolly dipped the free kick over the wall and into the net. Manchester City's first ever Champions league goal, right in front of me, Happy that we are now level, Happier that i can say i was there.

Johnson provided some spark and some width that was missing and then Tevez, replacing Dzeko provided some urgency but we were unable to force the winner and this Historical game ended, honours even, 1-1. Did we deserve to win this match ? Probably if you looked at the stats you would say yes, but this was always going to be difficult and nervous first game to get out of the way and Napoli do look like they are going to be hard to beat in this group, so i guess I'm happy that we didn't lose, especially after being behind. Our feet as City fans are now back firmly on the ground after the dream start to the season that we've had. Mancini says we'll just go to Bayern next and win, let's hope he's right. Attention now turns back to Fulham this coming weekend and even though we only drew tonight, I'm still a happy blue, happy that we have now arrived on the big stage and haven't lost. Happy to be a part of it. Thanks for reading.

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