Man City struggles in UCL opener

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City mimics United’s mixed result

Roberto Mancini wanted to impress his toughest critic tonight: his father, Aldo, who flew in to see City take on Napoli at the Eastlands. The results were decidedly mixed. While the Blues indeed scored their first goal in Europe in 43 years, they also needed rescue against a Napoli side they allowed back into the game after a series of near-misses.

Credit Walter Mazzarri’s defense first-tactics that blunted the pressure of Sergio Aguero, a resurgent Edin Dzeko, and the guile of Samir Nasri and David Silva. With those four well-contained, channels opened up for Cavani and Marek Hamsik to do damage. Ezequiel Lavezzi silenced the Eastlands when he smacked an early foray off the bar to indicate that Joe Hart would not have an easy night.

Tough night at the office: Aleksandar Kolarov’s facial injury didn’t stop him from scoring in the 74th minute. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)  

City were clearly the better side, but the same tendencies that have bedeviled them in the past — wastefulness and nodding off in the back — came back to haunt them in the second half. It was Nasri who gifted Christian Maggio the ball some 40 yards out with a slack pass to set up Cavani’s opener, and Vincent Kompany was later called upon to clear the ball off the line after his support vanished. However, Kolarov rescued with an immaculate free-kick that finally showcased some real will. For a team that is off to a flying start in the Premiership, there will be some re-thinking from City before they face a tough Bayern Munich side in two weeks’ time.

No help for Yellow Submarine

Speaking of Bayern: no Arjen Robben? No problem. Bayern Munich put Villarreal to the sword with cool efficiency thanks to Franck Ribery and an early goal from Toni Kroos. Rafinha added a late capper coming off the bench to the put the game out of reach. Bayern were so dominant for so long, that had Diego Lopez not turned in a superior performance in the nets tonight, this could have easily been a six goal game.

Nothing went right for the Submarine, even with the resourceful Giuseppi Rossi steering the attack. Without the suspended Borja Valero, manager Juan Garrido didn’t have enough firepower to crack what may be the Champions League’s best defense. Manuel Neuer remained untroubled much of the evening, as Phillip Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger cleaned everything up.

Doumbia double trips Lille

In France, Lille were left with egg on their faces after they allowed a two-goal lead to crumble, to a gutsy CSKA Moscow side that looks to be better than many had thought. After bossing large swaths of play thanks to the vision of Florent Balmost and the cut of Senegalese striker Moussa Sow, Lille deserved a 2-0 lead after Benoit Pedretti’s strike in the 57th minute. Horribly for Lille, this wasn’t the case: Seydou Doumbia kick-started the comeback with a virtuoso solo run with twenty to play, then finished after a lovely flick on from Alan Dzagoev in the final minute to stun the Metropole crowd.

The match was easily the most entertaining of the day and signaled that Group B – which sees Trabzonspor on top – could be a wilder one than we had originally thought.

Madrid more effective than flashy

Real Madrid were never in trouble in Zagreb, but managed just one goal and needed one big save from Iker Casillas before Angel Di Maria got the necessary tally.

As usual, Jose Mourinho’s team made sure there were no openings at the back before beginning to turn the screw on attack. Casillas had to stand up and make a two-hand block, when Ante Rukavina got in alone in the 34th minute and likely should have put the home side ahead.

Zagreb `keeper Ivan Kelava preserved the 0-0 scoreboard, when he made a brilliant double save to deny Di Maria and Mesut Ozil just before the break. Nonetheless, the Zagreb goalkeeper could do nothing in the 52nd minute when his defenders ball-watched as Real Madrid passed along the 18-yard line. Marcelo sprung Di Maria with the final pass and the Argentine finished perfectly past the diving keeper.

A negative for the Spanish side was a yellow card shown to Marcelo for diving later in the half. The Brazilian defender received his second booking in the 73rd minute and will serve his suspension in Madrid’s next Champions League match.

Complacent performance yields no goals in Amsterdam

Ajax and Lyon walked through a 0-0 draw in Amsterdam that will frustrate both sets of supporters.

The home team seemed content to maintain a slow pace, relying on set pieces to create chances. They probably should have scored at least once, but Miralem Sulejmani misfired on a close-range header.

Lyon, which has shown that it can attack when at home, again produced an away performance of defensive resolve and attacking timidity. If this was truly a battle for second place in a group headed by Real Madrid, then the French will probably feel they have gained a slight edge.

Frei and Frei for the win in Basel

FC Basel picked up a victory at home but hardly deserved it against the visiting Romanians, who carried much of the play, but wasted far too many chances in a match between outsiders.

Basel went ahead in the 39th minute when the Otelul defense fell asleep. Marco Steller collected a simple throw in down the line, got to the byline and crossed for Fabian Frei to finish. Otelul got even in the 57th minute when Liviu Antal’s drive could only be parried and Marius Pena snapped up the rebound, but a penalty cost the visitors the match.

Steller was brought down by Adrian Salageanu, who was also shown red on the play, and Alexander Frei buried the 83rd minute award. Basel lost Benjamin Huggel to a second yellow card with three minutes left, so both of the minnows will face Benfica and Manchester United missing key defenders.