Sport Soccer

Saturday 16 November 2019

Suspect defence may stop big spenders living up to star billing

Jason Burt

There were two teams making their Champions League debut at the Etihad Stadium last night, but although Napoli are owned by the Italian film producer Aurelio de Laurentis, there is no question that Manchester City are the new Hollywood.

Not that they would necessarily have liked this script. Lines were forgotten, cues fluffed, not everyone lived up to their star billing.

It was a raucous, blockbuster of an occasion -- with some special effects from both sides -- but City know they will have to improve markedly if they are to leave an imprint on this competition.

City are no novices. Fourteen of Mancini's squad are veterans of the Champions League and two have won it -- Carlos Tevez and Owen Hargreaves. However they have, in Group A, been dealt some tough competition -- Napoli, Bayern Munich and Villarreal are all teams of substance.

Certainly in Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik and the lightning-quick Ezequiel Lavezzi, Napoli have one of the most potent attacks in Italian football.

City's back-line is a problem. As quick and fluid as the team is going forward, they have lost a little security in defence with both Kompany and Joleon Lescott sluggish at times, a concern if City are to mount a serious challenge in Europe this season. The injured Nigel de Jong is missed.

Going forward they can be breathtaking. But things didn't quite go as Mancini plotted. Kompany, superbly, cleared off the line from Hamsik's angled volley while City continued to be wasteful, with Lescott heading over.

Napoli sensed there was more to be gained than what would still be an impressive draw and it was Hamsik who was again denied by a block. Inevitably, Napoli did score, from another rapid break, after a sloppy piece of play by Gareth Barry. City needed to hit back immediately and did so through Aleksander Kolarov's free-kick, but they had to settle for a draw.

The supporters were happy enough, however, and had every right to be. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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