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Man City test mettle against Juve in Europa draw

Manchester City kept Juventus at arm’s length in Europa League Group A after a 1-1 draw between the sides on Thursday, while Liverpool and holders Atletico Madrid also recorded draws.

City fell behind in the 11th minute when a long-range effort from Vincenzo Iaquinta took a deflection off Kolo Toure and fizzed past Joe Hart, but the hosts drew level eight minutes before the interval with a goal of real quality.

Yaya Toure picked up possession in the centre of the pitch and slid a beautifully weighted pass through to Adam Johnson, whose first touch caught Alex Manninger flat-footed and allowed him to toe the ball into an unguarded goal.

Alessandro Del Piero almost snatched victory for the Italians in the 85th minute but his dipping free-kick hit the crossbar and bounced on the goal-line before rebounding to safety.

“It was hard. They’re an Italian side, so we knew they’d come here and defend well,” said Johnson.

“I think we were the better team, especially in the second half.”

The English side top the group on four points alongside Polish outfit Lech Poznan, who beat Red Bull Salzburg 2-0. Juve are two points back in third.

A second-half penalty from Simao allowed Atletico to come from a goal down and claim a 1-1 draw at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen lead Group B by a point from Atletico’s matchday one conquerors Aris Thessaloniki and Rosenberg, who beat the Greeks 2-1 in Norway.

Earlier, Liverpool’s stuttering season yielded another forgettable performance when the English giants were held to a 0-0 draw at Dutch side FC Utrecht.

Roy Hodgson’s side came close to conceding on numerous occasions, with Jan Wuytens seeing a first-half effort chalked off for a foul and Dries Mertens drawing a sharp save from Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the 39th minute.

Liverpool were lucky to escape early in the second period when Raul Meireles had to head off the line from skipper Michael Silberbauer, while Jacob Mulenga poked the ball across goal and wide for the hosts late on.

“I thought it was a good point,” said Hodgson, who guided Fulham to a surprise runners-up finish in last season’s competition.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game. It wasn’t a dull 0-0. Utrecht did well. Utrecht were very committed. We saw a good team.”

In the group’s other game, Napoli hit back from conceding three goals in the first 16 minutes at Steaua Bucharest to snatch a 3-3 draw, with Uruguayan Edinson Cavani notching the equaliser in the eighth minute of added time.

The results mean Liverpool top Group K and have a two-point lead over Napoli and Utrecht.

Napoli’s fellow Serie A representatives Sampdoria won 1-0 at home to Hungarian side Debrecen in Group I, thanks to an 18th-minute penalty by Giampaolo Pazzini.

Sampdoria share the lead in the group with PSV Eindhoven, who won 2-0 at Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv.

Gregorio Manzano’s first game in charge of Sevilla saw his new charges win 1-0 at in-form Borussia Dortmund in Group J.

A goal in first-half injury-time from on-loan Napoli midfielder Luca Cigarini was the difference between the teams, while Marcel Schmelzer was dismissed for the German side after being shown a second yellow card for diving.

Paris Saint-Germain top the group after a 2-0 win at home to Karpaty Lviv gave them six points from a possible six prior to their trip to Dortmund next month.

“It’s a dream start but nothing’s decided yet,” said PSG coach Antoine Kombouare. “We expect to have a difficult time at Dortmund.”

Thu 30 September, 2010
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