MANCHESTER: Manchester City suffered stage fright yet again on their return to the Champions League.
Juventus, despite their poor start in Serie A, possessed far too much European competition experience even if they needed some alert goalkeeping from Gigi Buffon before asserting themselves 2-1 in Manchester.
City had only themselves to blame for defensive mistakes and some wasteful finishing. They might also consider that timidity in the transfer market cost them. Paul Pogba, whom City considered as a replacement for Yaya Toure, by far outshone the Ivorien in the key areas in midfield.
Another concern focused on the failures of £49m Raheem Sterling in front of goal. The one glaring weakness in the former Liverpool forward’s game is his inability to kill opportunities in front of goal.
No doubt he will improve in time but one early miss in particular was costly since City dared not use their unfit, talismanic top scorer, Sergio Aguero after his weekend knee injury.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini complained after the game City had played better than Juve and had “controlled a strange game.” He also defended Sterling, saying: “I don’t think this result is only about Raheem. We did not have many problems. Football is that way. Some days you score and some days you don’t do it.”
City struggled to qualify from the group stage last season and have never been beyond the last 16 but Pellegrini refused to panic. He said: “We are just starting. We still have 15 points to play for. This does not mean we are not going to qualify.”
A further injury setback saw captain Vincent Kompany go off with a calf injury. That proved a double blow. Not only did City lose their best player but substitute Nicolas Otamendi, making his debut, was not ‘match sharp’ and thus allowed Alvaro Morata to escape and score the winning goal.
At least City have an immediate opportunity to regain their balance, home to West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday.
** England leftback Luke Shaw is expected to miss the rest of the season after suffering a double leg fracture in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat at PSV Eindhoven.