MANCHESTER — Not again.
On Tuesday at the Etihad Stadium, it was another disappointing night in the UEFA Champions League for Manchester City.
Manuel Pellegrini‘s men led 1-0 with 20 minutes to go thanks to Giorgio Chiellini’s own goal while under heavy pressure from Vincent Kompany, but Juventus struck two hammer-blows as Mario Manduzkic tapped home and Alvaro Morata produced a fine finish to hand last season’s UCL runners up a vital away win in the opening game of this huge Group D encounter.
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City took the game to Juve from the get-go and Sterling should have put them up with less than three minutes on the clock. Fernandino drove forward from midfield and slotted in Raheem Sterling but the $75 million winger hit his shot straight at the imposing figure of Gianluigi Buffon. Juve settled down after that initial scare and Paul Pogba had a header at the back post correctly ruled out for offside as Alvaro Morata attempted to met the cross from the right, then moments later Hernanes bent a free kick just wide of Hart’s right-hand post.
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As half time approached City continued to look dangerous with Wilfried Bony jinxing free but blazing wide, then Juve’s Juan Cuadrado cut in from the right dangerously and smashed a shot post Hart’s post. Fernandinho smashed an effort inches wide of Buffon’s left-hand post. It was a fairly even encounter at the Etihad as the half time whistle blew, but City were far more adventurous in the first half.
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City started the second half sloppily as Juventus pushed hard for the opener but the Citizens went ahead in the 56th minute as Kompany rose above Chiellini and although it appeared City’s skipper was fouling the Italian defender, no foul was given as Chiellini deflected the ball into his own net. 1-0 to the Citizens as Juve’s players remonstrated with the officials. Soon after it should have been 2-0 as Silva raced clear and played in Sterling but the latter’s shot was saved well down low by Buffon and the legendary goalkeeper then saved Silva’s rebound with lightning-quick reflexes.
Juventus almost drew level in the 62nd minute as Morata kept a teasing ball in play and set up Stefano Sturaro but he sent his shot straight at Hart who saved down low and City cleared. The game calmed down after that manic spell, with Pogba skewing a shot horribly wide and City having plenty of possession, but then things sparked back into life. Pogba curled a wonderful cross to the back post and Mandzukic tapped home to make it 1-1 with 20 minutes to go.
City responded by bringing on Kevin De Bruyne for Sterling, then Kompany hobbled off injured as Nicolas Otamendi replaced him. But then, somewhat predictably if previous UCL campaigns were anything to go by, City imploded as a long ball forward bounced awkwardly off Aleksandar Kolarov‘s shoulder and into the path of Morata who swiveled and curled home a beauty. Just like that, 2-1 to the reigning Italian champions.
Late on Toure bent a long-range shot towards the top corner which Buffon brilliantly beat away, as the Citizens finished with Bony, De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero on the pitch but the runaway leaders of the Premier League failed to break down a stubborn Juventus defense as they lost 2-1.