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A disappointing lack of a cutting edge

30 September 2010

Emmanuel Adebayor couldn't make the most of a number of decent chances and half-chances.

Considering that they didn’t show up until the match was a half-hour old, a 1-1 draw with Juventus wouldn’t seem like the worst outcome for City. But considering that the hosts were level by half time and proceeded to control the game and dominate possession in the second half, this was a deeply disappointing result.

Much like Liverpool right now, this isn’t a Juventus side worthy of their name. They have a few good pieces, but I’m not sure there’s a single Juve player who would start for City other than Giorgio Chiellini over Kolo Touré. At home, this is a team City should’ve handled. They had the chance to grab the group by the scruff of the neck, and they wasted that chance.

For all of City’s possession — and it probably was around 70 percent in the second half, easily — they couldn’t make that translate into chances. There were long stretches where they were content to try low percentage final balls that were easily cut out by the Juventus defense, and on the rare occasions where they found a teammate in the box, it always seemed to get caught under the would-be scorer’s feet.

Vincenzo Iaquinta’s opening strike was hit very nicely, but Joe Hart should have done better. It was curling, but it wasn’t at the far post. Between that and Hart awkwardly shoveling aside a bouncing shot late in the first half and then being beaten badly by Alessandro Del Piero’s free kick late on, you wonder if Roberto Mancini is considering giving Shay Given a shot. It’s probably not the right thing to do to a young keeper, but Hart is a long ways from his stellar August form.

Yaya Touré shone brightly at times tonight, creating the City equalizer with great vision to foresee Adam Johnson’s diagonal run through the Juve defense, with the Englishman finishing relatively easily with his left foot. It was a Barcelona-quality goal and it shows what a great addition the Ivorian was. The younger Touré made a sensational run into the box in the second half before astutely finding Emmanuel Adebayor, but the Togolese striker couldn’t do anything with the ball at his feet about 15 yards in front of goal.

There are moments in almost every game in which he appears in which he looks like a man playing amongst boys. You wonder why these moments aren’t more common. If I were Mancini, I’d be figuring out how to get the ball to the big midfielder in a position where he can take on defenders, as he is excellent with the ball in close quarters and good things seem to happen when he does that.

It was a disappointing showing for Adebayor, who appeared keen to make an impression, both on his current manager and his prospective future employers. He showed commitment and played a nice part in City build-ups, but he looked rusty whenever he found himself in a position to score.

Adam Johnson got the start and alternated between making nice dribbles to get himself in a decent crossing or shooting position, and giving the ball away in maddeningly silly ways. You can see why Mancini is singling out the promising youngster, as his decision-making isn’t the best at this point and he can drift in and out of games.

The commentator was critical of Carlos Tévez’s performance, but I actually thought he did a decent job of playing the David Silva role behind the main striker, dropping pretty far back at times to get a touch and playing a big role in launching the attack. Tévez’s ballhandling is much better than I realized prior to his arrival at City, and it’s a role he plays surprisingly well.

For me the most damning statistic is the five shots on goal by the visitors to just four for City. That’s shocking the way the home side dominated possession and the way they looked so comfortable. And that’s the problem. They looked comfortable in possession when they should have been showing more urgency to get the winner and the three points.

Anyway, at least the crossbar saved Hart and City’s blushes late on, otherwise this would’ve been a depressingly poor result instead of just a disappointing one. They’re still two points ahead of Juventus, though Lech Poznań’s 2-0 win over Red Bull Salzburg means it’s the Polish club atop the group on goals scored, not group favorites City. Now a poor result at home in the next Europa League match in suddenly City are in danger of following up their Carling Cup disappointment by crashing out of Europe in the group stage, which would be an unmitigated disaster.

For now it’s back to the Premier League with Newcastle coming to Eastlands on Sunday. The Magpies have made a credible return to the top flight of English football, though the results have been up and down for them so far. A win would remove the bad taste left in my mouth by this one and send City into yet another international break on a high note and in a Champions League spot.

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