Empty seats at the Etihad as City take Euro bow
Talking point: Man City spent millions getting to the Champions League, but more fans turned out to watch Wigan
MANCHESTER City's debut in the Champions League was a curious one says James Ducker in the Times. "Anticipation among the City faithful was evident but it was a strange atmosphere. Perhaps because there has been so much talk of Champions League football in these parts that it felt more familiar to the natives than it actually is."
Indeed, there were plenty of spare seats at the Etihad Stadium as Roberto Mancini's side started well in their first European match since 1968. But despite a good first half they fell behind against Napoli in the second period before Aleksander Kolarov spared their blushes with an equaliser from a free kick. The game ended 1-1.
Afterwards the Italian manager blamed the curate's egg of a performance on first night jitters. "This game, we were so nervous – all the players. It surprised me," he said.
Among the crowd was Mancini's father Aldo, watching his son's City side for the first time. But Roberto admitted that he would not have been overly impressed. He told the Sun: "I'll wait for him to criticise me tonight, that's the first thing for me."
But he shouldn't be too harsh. Kolarov's goal at least "averted the ultimate disaster", said James Lawton in the Independent. "City had promised the world but in the end they at least preserved a little corner of it."
Of more concern would have been the attendance. "City's supporters have endured some thin moments over the years, so it was surprising that their first game in the European Cup since 1968 had not sold out," says Daniel Taylor in the Guardian. "City had fully anticipated a sell-out when the draw was made and it is a strange set of circumstances given that they have been selling out in the Premier League so far this season." He points out that there were 2,500 more fans at the Etihad stadium to watch the game against Wigan on Saturday than turned out to watch Napoli.
But City had an audience beyond Manchester, says Jason Burt in the Telegraph: "The rest of Europe was always going to take notice of this encounter even if there was disappointment that despite reducing ticket prices and carrying out an extensive advertising campaign, the stadium was not sold out."
The real worry for City's owners is that having spent hundreds of millions to get to the promised land, no-one seems that concerned. "For all the hype, the Champions League at this stage no longer has the allure of old," says Taylor. ·
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