Man City 1 Dortmund 1: Lessons as Balotelli rescues a point for Citizens
Man City 1 Dortmund 1: What did we learn as Mario Balotelli netted a late penalty to salvage a point at the Eithad Stadium?
Rodwell’s mistake leads to Dortmund winner
With Wednesday night’s tie virtually a must-win for Manchester City after a frustrating defeat at the Bernabeu, Jack Rodwell’s mistake looked set to condemn the Premier League champions to their second defeat in the Champions League this season. The 21-year-old played a blind pass to Matija Nastasic which was intercepted by Marco Reus. The Germany midfielder, who was re-signed by Borussia Dortmund for £14.5m this summer, has already netted six goals this season and took his tally to seven with an emphatic drive past Joe Hart in the 61st minute. It capped an underwhelming display from Rodwell, who was a 34rd-minute substitute for Javi García – and the mistake mirrored a similar error which resulted in a Southampton goal at the Etihad earlier this term. City were not aided by a brief tactical switch to 3-5-2 which left Gaël Clichy, Hart, Vincent Kompany and Nastasic exposed, and the Citizens midfield overrun. Mancini soon switched back to an orthodox 4-4-2, before resorting to an all-out-attack approach in the closing moments which led to a 89th-minute penalty when Neven Subotic was adjudged to have handled in the area. It was a questionable award but there was no doubting Mario Balotelli’s finish as City’s second-half substitute coolly sent Roman Weidenfeller the wrong way to rescue a point for Mancini’s men. The draw extends the Eastlands outfit’s unbeaten run at home to 17 games in European competitions.
Weidenfeller impresses but Hart stars
This promised to be an entertaining tie between two of Europe’s most attacking sides but in the first half, it was goalkeepers Hart and Weidenfeller who impressed with a series of top saves. The Dortmund shot-stopper was the first to be called into action when Sergio Aguero managed to beat the offside trap and race onto David Silva’s incisive pass, but the Argentine was denied by Weidenfeller, who raced off his line to block the shot. Moments later, and an almost identical move saw Aguero, who returned from a knee injury at Craven Cottage, break free from the Borussia defence again, only for the uncapped German goalkeeper to smother the chance. However, while Weidenfeller was impressive, it was Hart who produced the stand-out performance which prompted Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney to Tweet: “Have to say Joe Hart has been incredible. For me best keeper in the world”. The visitors had clearly pinpointed City’s left side as an area of weakness, particularly Clichy, and it almost paid dividends in the 11th minute. Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze combined to outwit City’s French full-back, with Hart tipping the midfielder’s shot onto his post at full-stretch. With the half drawing to a close, the Dortmund duo combined again but Götze’s effort was stopped by an impressive close-range save from the England number one, and Hart was on hand yet again in the 45th minute, miraculously blocking Ilkay Gündogan’s goal-bound effort to keep the score level at the interval. The trend continued after the break, and Götze’s bending shot was parried to safety before the former Shrewsbury Town goalkeeper had to produce a spectacular leap to tip Gündogan’s curling effort over the crossbar. Deep into injury time, and with Balotelli’s penalty restoring parity, Lewandowski’s venomous low shot was pushed wide by yet another full-stretch save, leaving Mancini to admit that without Hart, City would have conceded four or five more goals.
City need to take chances in Europe
Following a disappointing 3-2 defeat by Madrid on matchday one – City had led 2-1 with four minutes remaining – it was important Mancini’s side made a bright start against Dortmund. Unlike their city rivals in Cluj, the Citizens looked sharp and created early chances for Aguero, who was twice foiled by Weidenfeller. Pablo Zabaleta adopted a noticeably offensive attitude in the opening period and the Argentine defender latched onto Silva’s cunning pass in the seventh minute in Dortmund’s area but recklessly smashed his effort over the crossbar. City dynamo Yaya Toure was uncharacteristically muted in the first half but Silva compensated for the Ivorian’s slow start as the Spaniard created a numerous chances for his team-mates. However, it was the World Cup winner who spurned City’s best chance on the stroke of half-time – Zabaleta’s cross looped over Edin Dzeko and fell perfectly for Silva, but the former Valencia man fired wildly wide in the six-yard box. Chances are hard to come by in the Champions League and Mancini’s men were fortunate to rescue a unsatisfactory point in the dying moments of the game after struggling to test Weidenfeller in the second half.
City hampered by lack of pedigree?
Ahead of Dortmund’s visit to the Etihad, Mancini defiantly declared: “I don’t need to learn. The Champions League is a difficult competition, but the football is the same, the players are the same, it is still 11 versus 11”. It was a frank rebuttal to the accusation that the Italian is still getting to grips with a competition in which he has not enjoyed too much success in during his managerial career. During a four-year spell at the San Siro, he could only lead Internazionale into the last eight, while City were eliminated at the group stage last season. While City undoubtedly have a plethora of world-class players, only a handful have won the Champions League and the club has never tasted success on the European stage. In contrast, their group opponents – Ajax, Dortmund and Real Madrid – are all previous winners. It gives the trio a slight mental advantage as City look to establish themselves as genuine contenders for the title. Arguably, when leading 2-1 in the Bernabeu, the Citizens were overawed by the occasion, while the edginess at the Etihad Stadium appeared to suggest City have yet to establish the ‘fear factor’ associated with trips to great English stadiums such as Anfield and Old Trafford.