Manchester City remain without a win after two Champions League games following a 1-1 draw with Roma at the Etihad. Aiming to bounce back from the concession of a late winner at Bayern Munich two weeks ago, City got the perfect start when Sergio Aguero, having been pulled back by former City defender Maicon, fired home from the penalty spot just four minutes in. But the Italian visitors grabbed a fully deserved equalizer midway through the opening half when 38-year-old Francesco Totti became the oldest goalscorer ever in the Champions League with a sumptuous finish following an error from Vincent Kompany and slip by Joe Hart.
It could have been worse for City, who, not for the first time in Europe’s top competition, were overrun at times. Although the hosts got better late on when coach Manuel Pellegrini reinforced his midfield, they could not find what would have been a precious winner. The final whistle was a far more pleasing sound to Roma than the hosts, with the side from the Italian capital having begun their return to the Champions League after a four year absence with four points from two games to sit in behind maximum-points getter Bayern Munich.
The impressive way in which Roma under coach Rudi Garcia has taken to the competition only brings further scrutiny on Manchester City’s continued struggles. Despite the vast sums of money poured into the club and a collection of top quality players, City still look all too naïve at times at this most elevated of levels.
They couldn’t have gotten a better platform on which to build on Tuesday. David Silva’s chipped through ball caught Maicon yards behind the rest of his defense and, in an effort to atone for his error, he blatantly tugged back Aguero, who was running onto the pass away from goal. The Argentinean striker sent Lukasz Skorupski the wrong way from 12 yards and City were in front.
But it was a lead that immediately looked precarious. Just over a minute later, Maicon came close to real atonement for his error when slamming a shot from a tight angle against Joe Hart’s crossbar. Once again Pellegrini opted to line up with just Fernandinho and Yaya Toure in midfield, with Aguero alongside Edin Dzeko up front, and, as they have been before at this level, they were left exposed. Roma’s central midfield trio of Radja Nainggolan, Seydou Keita and Miralem Pjanic dominated for long spells, with the pace of Gervinho a constant threat.
No one in blue inside the Etihad could complain when Roma drew level in the 23rd minute. Kompany committed what, despite his general excellence, has become too familiar an error of stepping out of his defense into no-man’s land. Still, the blunder was expertly exploited by Nainggolan, who fed an instant pass through the gap left by Kompany, and, with Hart’s slip leaving him slow to come out, the veteran Totti had enough pace in his legs to get there first and deliver a typically sublime flick into the corner of the net.
Fortunately for City, Hart was more alert to stop efforts from Gervinho and fellow wide man Alessandro Florenzi either side of halftime. Pellegrini gradually woke up the problem facing his side when first replacing Jesus Navas with James Milner and then bringing on Frank Lampard for Dzeko. While it shored them up, the closest they came to getting a winner was when Silva turned Pablo Zabaleta’s low cross wide of the near post in injury time.