Another poor performance from Manchester City proved costly in Poland where they were soundly beaten 3-1 by a hard-working Lech Poznan side.
Emmanuel Adebayor smashed home early in the second half to cancel out Dimitrijie Injac's first hald opener. City looked average at best throughout the game and two late goals, from Manuel Arboleda and Mateusz Mozdzen, inflicted a third consecutive defeat to pile the pressure on manager Roberto Mancini.
Both teams started the game at a high tempo, with Manchester City not afraid to spread the ball wide quickly. England winger Adam Johnson took just four minutes to cause problems to the Lech Poznan right-back, Marcin Kikut. But the ball fell loose a few inches too many away from James Milner and his toe-poke was easily blocked.
Just moments later City created another chance, this time coming from their right-hand side. A good one-two by Micah Richards and Shaun Wright-Phillips created a shooting opportunity for Emmanuel Adebayor. The angle was tight but Adebayor’s shot appeared to be heading for the top corner before it was tipped wide by Jasmin Buric in the Polish side’s goal.
The home team might have City’s right-back Richards as a potential weakness and their first proper attack came when Richards was caught out of position following a broken-down City attack. Krivets found himself with acres of space on the left wing but dallied on the ball for far too long, allowing Wright-Phillips to get make up the space and retrieve the ball for City.
It was City who undoubtedly had the best chance to take the lead in the 17th minute - with three chances coming from the same attack. With plenty of white shirts in the box, an Adebayor header was cleared of the line by a Poznan defender.
The ball was scuffed clear to Patrick Vieira and his dink back in to the box clipped the crossbar on its way to Johnson. The winger took his team and measured a perfect cross on to the head of young defender Derek Boyata who somehow headed straight at ‘keeper Buric from no more than six yards.
Instead of capitalising on their near misses, City appeared to sit back and invite the Poles on to them. Poznan obliged and fizzed two long-range shots wide within minutes. The first, a free-kick by Slawomir Peszko, went straight through the three-man wall and although Shay Given appeared to see it wide, it almost shaved the post.
Despite reports that the Polish fans were unhappy at the appointment of new manager, Jose Maria Bakero, yesterday, there was a fantastic atmosphere inside Stadion Miejski – with the home fans chanting almost constantly in the first half.
And they certainly had something to cheer in the 30th minute when, almost out of nowhere, they took the lead. Another Poznan counter-attack left too many City players high up the pitch. Krivets' cross was headed clear by Vieira but when the ball broke free 25yards from goal it was Dimitrijie Injac who was first on the scene. Milner could not close down the midfielder quickly enough and Injac's crisp left-footed shot arrowed past a despairing Given’s dive in to the bottom left corner of the City net.
The goal appeared to settle down the home side and for ten minutes the English Premier League team saw very little of the ball. Cynical fouls within two minutes of each other by Richards and Wayne Bridge brought yellow cards for the full-backs - showing the pressure that City found themselves under.
Fortunately for them, Poznan appeared to lose their composure in the City half. A good example came in the 40th minute when the free-kick gained from Bridge’s foul was over-hit by Peszko and drifted harmlessly out of play.
City had a free-kick of their own just before half-time, but Johnson did exactly the same as Peszko had moments early – wasting a good position and leaving the scarf-bearing Roberto Mancini looking extremely disappointed on the touchline.
Roberto Mancini decided that he needed to make a change at half time if his side were to turn a defeat into a victory and ensure qualification from Group A of the Europa League with two games remaining. The disappointing Shaun Wright-Phillips was the player removed, with Mancini hoping that his replacement, David Silva, could provide some of his trademark magic to unlock the Polish defence.
Silva had a few neat touches of the ball but without him even having time to settle in to the game, City were back on level terms. An in-swinging Johnson corner in the 51st minute was met by a towering Adebayor, whose header from eight yards was well parried by Buric. Unfortunately for the Poznan ‘keeper his defenders were not quick enough to react to his save, leaving Adebayor to smash the ball in to the roof of the net from just four yards.
Apart from a short rendition of ‘Blue Moon’ from the City faithful, the equaliser did little to quieten the vocal home crowd. Their side responded by picking up the tempo and not allowing City to gain any momentum. However, both sides appeared happy to let the other have the ball inside their own half – confident that their opposition had little to offer up front.
It was Poznan who were the first to create a goal scoring opportunity, ten minutes after City’s equaliser. Good work down the right flank gave Artjoms Rudnevs his first sight of goal. The striker, who famously scored a hat-trick against Juventus earlier in the competition, fired his shot straight at Given who was fortunate that his poor parry fell near two of his defenders.
Both teams lacked quality in the final third of the pitch in a game where both sides appeared to be content to take it in turns to try and create openings. Amongst a game dominated by short, sharp passing it was a more direct pass that led to a penalty appeal from the Polish side.
A long ball down the right-hand side saw winger Peszko turn inside Bridge just inside the area. Whilst the ball went past the City left-back, in running back to make up the ground he clearly impeded Peszko – who went to ground. Surprisingly there were few appeals from both Poznan players and the crowd, but replays showed that Bridge, who was replaced by Aleksandar Kolarov just moments later, would have had little complaints had the Dutch referee pointed to the spot.
With just fifteen minutes remaining, both sides appeared keen to pursue a winner by attacking in numbers and not worrying about leaving gaps behind them. Poznan had a good chance to capitalise on a broken down City attack in the 71st minute but Injac chose to ignore men either side of him and his shot was easily blocked by Joleon Lescott.
From the resulting counter-attack, Adebayor skipped past his marker and fired a pass at Silva. The Spanish midfielder did well to trap the ball but his powerful shot flew over the bar. City had a few similar counter-attacking opportunities but they were often halted by the impressive Ivan Djurdjevic, a centre-half by trade but playing in a holding midfield role in this game.
Despite knowing that a draw would leave Group A extremely close and that a win would guarantee their place in the knockout stages of the tournament, Mancini appeared to settle for a draw when he replaced Milner with Vincent Kompany.
The home side appeared to be content with a draw also, with their players looking tired as the game entered the final ten minutes. However, in the 86th minute Poznan got a humongous slice of the luck to sensationally take the lead.
Krivet's free-kick was whipped in from the left hand side straight on to Boyata's head. The young defender appeared in control of the situation but his clearing header was directed straight at Poznan defender Manuel Arboleda who knew nothing about it as the ball flew past Given to stun the City defenders.
As expected City rallied, but the closest they came was a pullback to Silva, who should have done better from just seven yards as he blazed the ball over the bar. Whilst commentators wondered if City could force an equaliser as the game ticked in to extra-time, it was Poznan who killed the game off.
If the second goal was one of footballs' uglier goals, then the third was a stunner. Substitute Mateusz Mozdzen picked the ball up 30yards from goal and took a few touches before unleashing an incredible strike that flew in to the very top left-hand corner of the goal.