Joe Hart's heroics and a late penalty from Mario Balotelli helped Manchester City salvage a point
Preamble: The reigning champions of England against the reigning champions of Germany? Yes please. Not least when the other match in Group E pits the reigning champions of Spain against their Dutch counterparts. Let's face it, you'd need a heart of stone not to be excited by a Champions League group featuring so many genuine Champions League contenders and Ajax.
Having failed to qualify from a decidedly difficult group last season, Manchester City's efforts to go one better this time round got off to a shaky start when they threw away a 2-1 lead against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. In such a horrible group, they'll be eager to get three points on the board against Borussia Dortmund this evening. The German outfit needed a late goal from Robert Lewandowski to edge past Ajax at the Westfalenstadion in their opening match and they'll be confident of winning another point or three tonight as they take on a defensively suspect team that has failed to keep a clean sheet in any of its nine matches to date this season.
Financially prudent after years of behind-the-scenes chaos and with a recent habit of producing the kind of end-of-year accounts that would bring a smile to the chops of even the most stony-faced bean-counter, Borussia Dortmund couldn't be less like Manchester City off the field of play. But while extreme caution is the watchword behind the scenes, their manager Jurgen Klopp has ensured that the club's on-field ethos is anything but. Their eye-pleasing, swashbuckling style has served them well on the domestic front over the past two seasons, but not so well in Europe. In last season's Champions League they finished bottom of their group, hopelessly adrift of the more canny and experienced Arsenal, Marseille and Olympiakos, but tonight's encounter should provide some indication of how far both they and City have evolved in their bids to establish themselves as more mature forces to be reckoned with in Europe.
Some stuff you might like: My colleague Marcus Christenson may be a Swede but he's no turnip, so if he writes a 686-word primer on Borussia Dortmund and their hopes for this season's Champions League, you could do a lot worse with your time than read it.
Alternatively, you can read Paul Wilson's match preview, which also features video footage of Roberto Mancini's press conference from the Etihad Stadium yesterday.
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Manchester City: 1-Joe Hart; 5-Pablo Zabaleta, 4-Vincent Kompany, 33-Matija Nastasic, 22-Gael Clichy; 42-Yaya Toure, 14-Javi Garcia, 8-Samir Nasri; 21-David Silva, 10-Edin Dzeko, 16-Sergio Aguero
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Milner, Kolarov, Rodwell, Tevez, Balotelli.
Borussia Dortmund: 1-Roman Weidenfeller; 26-Lukasz Piszczek, 4-Neven Subotic, 15-Mats Hummels, 29-Marcel Schmelzer; 16-Jakub Blaszczykowski, 8-Ilkay Guendogan, 6-Sven Bender, 11-Marco Reus, 10-Mario Goetze; 9-Robert Lewandowski
Subs: Langerak, Kehl, Leitner, Grosskreutz,
Schieber, Felipe Santana, Perisic.
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic)
Linesmen: Roman Slysko (Slovakia) and Martin Wilczek (Czech Republic)
Goal-line officials who some pundits still think do nowt: Radek Pfhoda (Czech Rep) and Micahal Patak (Czech Republic)
How City will line up: In a 4-2-3-1, almost certainly, with Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy bookending Matija Nastasic and Vincent Kompany on the right and left of a back four protected by the defensive midfield screen of Javi Garcia and Yaya Toure. In front of them, David Silva and Samir Nasri will play on the right and left of Sergio Aguero, who'll be buzzing around in his own inimitable way behind lone frontman Edin Dzeko.
How Borussia Dortmund will line up: With seven Germans, three Poles and a Serb, that's how. They too will almost certainly play a 4-2-3-1, with Messrs Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels and Schmeizer lining up from right to left in front of goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender will protect the back four, while Jakub Blaszczykowski, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus will form an intimidating attacking trio behind Robert Lewandowski.
Happy birthday to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who turned 32 today. I thought he was older.
In the Sky Sports studio, Graeme Souness speaks: "I hope City are very, very aggressive against this German team today. They need to get them on the back foot and score a goal early. You can't allow this German team to come here and play their football because they are a very, very good team and they will create chances tonight."
Not long now: Vincent Kompany exchanges pennants with his opposite number Roman Weidenfeller and the referee tosses the coin.
1 min: City kick off playing from left to right and Samir Nasri gets away the first shot in anger, linking up well with Edin Dzeko before bringing a save out of Weidenfeller with an effort from distance.
2 min: It's been a lively start. Sergio Aguero goes down in the Dortmund penalty area under a challenge from Mario Gotze, but no penalty is forthcoming. Moments later, Vincent Kompany puts the heart crossways in Joe Hart with a less than assured backpass.
4 min: Dortmund attack down the right flank courtesy of Mario Gotze, who appears to have taken up a position on that wing instead of Jakub Blaszczykowski, who's tucked in behind his compatriot Robert Lewandowski.
5 min: Manchester City are wearing their customary home attire of light blue shirts, white shorts and light blue socks. Dortmunds players are kitted out in yellow shirts with black (or is it navy?) stripes, black (or is it navy?) shorts and yellow socks with black (or is it navy?) hoops.
6 min: Dortmund attack down the right flank again, with full-back Lukasz Piszczk lofting a cross into the centre. Robert Lewandowski wins the aeriel duel but is unable to control his header and sends the ball high and wide.
8 min: Sergio Aguero takes advantage of the high line being played by Dortmund's defence to get in behind Neven Subotic on the edge of the penalty area and latch on to a through ball from David Silva. His shot is blocked by Weidenfeller, but the ball breaks to Silva, who tees up Zabaleta this time. He snatches at the ball and shoots it high over the crossbar.
11 min: Borussia Dortmund take on City down the right flank again, with Robert Lewandowski teeing up Mario Gotze. He unleashes a scorching drive from about 18 yards, which Joe Hart tips wide via his right post. Nothing comes from the ensuing corner and Manchester City clear their lines.
14 min: Zabaleta gets on the end of a beautifully angled David Silva pass on the right-hand side of the Dortmund penalty area and tries to shimmy and wriggle his way towards goal from the goal-line. Referee Pavel Kralovec spots an infringement and penalises the Manchester City right-back.
15 min: With 15 minutes gone, the rain is pouring down there's been no let-up in the furious pace at which this game is being played. It's splendidly entertaining stuff, but Manchester City fans will be concerned by the manner in which their team is being forced to play on the back foot at home in such an important game. The early stats show they're dominating possession 62%-38%, but that's not the way it look in terms of chances created and threats posed.
17 min: On the edge of the final third, David Silva tries to cut in from the right-hand touchline but concedes a throw-in under pressure from Gotze.
20 min: Perhaps it's because of the rain, which is bucketing down, but the game has got a lot more scrappy in recent minutes, with lots of congestion and general faff in the middle third of the field. The camera cuts to Alex Ferguson, who is present this evening, just as the Manchester United manager cuts loose with a massive yawn.
21 min: Manchester City try to play the ball through the centre and Sergio Aguero does well to lay it off to a team-mate while surrounded by four opposition players.
24 min: Manchester City try to play it out from the back and win a free-kick just inside the Dortmund half for an Ilkay Gundogan foul. The Dortmund defensive midfielder gets a ticking-off from the referee for kicking the ball away, but is spared a yellow card.
26 min: Edin Dzeko times his run perfectly to split central defenders Subotic and Hummels and get on the end of a Silva pass from deep and shank his effort over the bar. Even if he'd scored it wouldn't have couldn't as the linesman had flagged, incorrectly, for offside.
27 min: Silva picks out Aguero with a splendid pass down the inside right channel. The Argentinian shoots across the face of goal, bringing a decent save out of Roman Weidenfeller.
29 min: Play switches to the other end of the field, where a free-kick swung into the Manchester City penalty area by Marco Reus briefly causes pandemonium. Good defending from Zabaleta, followed by the intervention of Joe Hart, allows City to clear their lines.
30 min: There's a big shout for hand-ball as Edin Dzeko tries to get the better of Marco Reus on the right flank, deep in Dortmund territory. No free-kick is forthcoming.
32 min: Javi Garcia goes down clutching his thigh and calls for medical assistance. He'll catch his death of cold on that wet grass.
32 min: Manchester City substitution: Jack Rodwell on, Javi Garcia off.
33 min: David Silva shimmies this way and that before picking out Sergio Aguero a couple of yards outside the Dortmund penalty area. He looks up and shoots on sight, forcing Roman Wedienfeller to tip the ball over the bar for a corner, from which Dortmund break on the counter and win a corner of their own.
35 min: Marco Reus takes the corner, City fail to clear properly and a bizarre attempt to hack the ball out of defence by David Silva results in it dropping kindly for Subotic. He shoots diagonally from right to left and his low drive fizzes a couple of feet past Joe Hart's right post.
36 min: Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp likened his side's style of play to Arsenal yesterday and the similarities become apparent here. With four or five men committed forward, they try a pass too many and attempt to walk the ball into the net when a more direct approach to goal might have yielded a score.
41 min: Wonderful, lightning fast football from Dortmund results in Mario Gotze being left shaking his head in disbelief after being denied by Joe Hart. The German winger had latched on to a return pass from Robert Lewandowski and looked set to put his side ahead, only for Hart to charge off his line, narrow the angle and deny him from close range.
43 min: Dortmund win a free-kick not too far inside the Manchester City half. Reus attempts to play the ball into the penalty area, but his delivery is poor. The ball is cleared, makes its way to Jakub Blaszczykowski on the right flank and he whips in a marvellous cross that somehow manages to evade Gotze and Lewandowski loitering on the edge of the six-yard box.
45 min: City go close again. Zabaleta loops a cross into the Dortmund penalty area from the left. It's a fraction too high for Dzeko and drops just behind the big striker, where David Silva tries to kung-fu kick the ball past Weidenfeller from six yards, but succeeds only in slashing it over the bar.
45+1 min: Joe Hart is left horribly exposed when Ilkay Gundogan finds himself unmarked in front of goal with the ball bouncing kindly for him and only the goalkeeper to beat. The Dortmund midfielder pulls the trigger, but Hart keeps the scoreboard operator idle with another splendid save from point-blank range.
Half-time: It may be scoreless, but this match has been anything but dull. Chances have gone a begging for both sides, but both goalkeepers deserve credit for putting in superb shifts thus far.
SB Tang writes: "I dunno why everyone, including it seems Herr Klopp, compare Dortmund with Arsenal and Barca," he says. "The comparison's only valid insofar as all three sides practise attractive, technically proficient football. In terms of playing style, Dortmund are completely different to Arsenal and Barca. The latter two aim to dominate possession and territory, whereas Dortmund are a speedy, vertical, counter-attacking side who don't mind enjoying a minority of the possession because they can smash the opposition with a quick, incisive counter-attacking move consisting of approximately five passes or less (instead of the double-digit numbers favoured by Barca and Arsenal)."
And here's the proof: "The first half of this match has amply demonstrated that point," he says, adjusting the hood of his anorak. "Dortmund enjoyed only 37 per cent of possession but managed more shots on target (5 to 4) and more total shots (10 to 6). As armchair viewers I reckon we can all anecdotally agree that they're had more chances and of a better quality than City."
Second half: Borussia Dortmund get the second half underway. There was an interesting vignette just before they did so, when the Manchester City players were shown pausing at the mouth of the tunnel before returning to the pitch. It turns out they were waiting for Yaya Toure, who was delayed leaving the dressing room. Perhaps he was looking for his mojo, which seems to have deserted him thus far tonight. He's had a poor game by his own imperious standards.
46 min: Błaszczykowski tries his luck with a shot from distance, but doesn't trouble Joe Hart.
49 min: Weiderfeller spreads his arms in exasperation as he waits to take a goal-kick, as if to implore one of his team-mates to make a move so he can kick it their way. Possibly in protest at their lack of enthusiasm, he eventually punts it down the right flank and out of play.
50 min: With Dortmund attacking City on the break again, Pablo Zabaleta performs heroics to get back and help out his centre-halves with a beautifully timed tackle on Marco Reus on the edge of the City penalty area. He's been everywhere tonight.
53 min: Another save by Joe Hart, who flings himself to his right to tip yet another rasping effort from Mario Gotze around the post for a corner, from which nothing comes.
56 min: Zabaleta sends a cross in from the right and Weidenfeller darts of his line to punch clear, but misses. From the ensuing scramble, City win a corner, but nothing comes of it and Dortmund clear.
57 min: Manchester City substitution: Aleksandr Kolarov on, Samir Nasri off.
58 min: Manchester City switch to a back three, with Vincent Kompany playing centre-back and Gael Clichy and Matija Nastasic to his left and right. Zabaleta and Kolarov are playing wing backs.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-1 Borussia Dortmund (Reus 60) Jack Rodwell is left hanging his head in shame after playing a loose pass without looking where it was going in midfield. Marco Reus sprints on to it, gallops through on goal like a rugby player greedily accepting an interception and flicks the ball past Joe Hart and into the bottom left-hand corner. Hart got a hand to the ball, but was unable to keep it out.
65 min: Joe Hart is forced into action once again as Reus latches on to a ball played through the City defence and tries his luck with a low diagonal effort from right to left. Hart dashes off his line and block the shot. I think it's probably fair to say that City's tactic of playing with a back three is not working.
67 min: Ilkay Gundogan tries his luck with a curling effort from the edge of the penalty area. City are forced to rely on Joe Hart to get them out of jail again and he does exactly that, leaping high to his left to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.
68 min: Manchester City earn some much-needed respite by winning themselves a corner. Nothing comes of it and Dortmund clear.
69 min: Kolorav puts Aguero through on goal with a perfectly weighted through-ball down the inside left. Weidenfeller dashes off his line to narrow the angle, so the Argentinian attempts to square the ball to Edin Dzeko. His pass is intercepted by Neven Subotic, who plays it out of defence.
71 min: Borussia Dortmund substitution:Mats Hummels off, Felipe Santana on. Borussia Dortmund booking from 10 minutes ago that I haven't got around to mentioning yet: Jakub Blaszczykowski.
74 min: On the touchline, Mario Balotelli has been instructed to peel off his tracksuit and prepare for action.
76 min: With the outside of his right foot, Robert Lewandowski misses one of the easiest chances he'll ever be presented with. Latching on to a beautifully curled cross into his path from Ilkay Gundogan on the right flank and with Joe Hart at his mercy, he scuffed the ball wide of the left upright when scoring looked a far easier option. That's a dreadful miss.
79 min: Ilkay Gundogan goes down as if shot in the back under a challenge from Pablo Zabaleta and there's a minor skirmish between assorted players from both teams when City, quite correctly, decline to put the ball out of play so he can receive medical attention.
81 min: Manchester City substitution: Gael Clichy off, Mario Balotelli on. That's the last of City's three substitutes on now. Borussia Dortmund substitution: Ilkay Gundogan off, Kevin Grosskreutz on.
83 min: City are starting to look a bit clueless and out of ideas. They pretty much matched Borussia Dortmund chance for chance in the first half but have created very little since the break.
84 min: Nastasic lumps the ball forward into the Dortmund box from deep, trying to pick out Edin Dzeko. The visitors clear.
85 min: Yaya Toure is booked for a foul on Mario Gotze.
87 min: Good work by City, who create a decent chance after good link-up play by Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko down the right. Dzeko crosses into a crowded penalty area and picks out Sergio Aguero, but his on-target header is saved by Weidenfeller.
88 min: Penalty for Manchester City. Subotic is penalised for handball. On first view it looks a decidedly strange decision and one which quite a few referees might not have given.
GOAL! Manchester City 1-1 Borussia Dortmund (Balotelli 89pen) After completely ignoring Wedienfeller jabbering in his ear as he waited to take the spot-kick, Mario Balotelli takes his run-up, stops and then waits for the goalkeeper to dive towards one corner before nonchalantly rolling the ball into the other. He wheels way doing a yap-yap-yap lobster impression with one hand.
90 min: First Reus and then Lewandowski go close for Borussia Dortmund. The latter's effort forces another fine save out of Joe Hart. There'll be four minutes of injury time and this match could still go either way.
90+1 min: So, that penalty - having seen a replay I can confirm it was a shocking decision. Subotic was contesting the ball with Aguero, it bounced up, hit his arm and he was judged to have controlled it with his hand.
90+3 min: A foul by the substitute Santana gifts Manchester City a free-kick within shooting range for Kolarov, wide on the right. His effort is poor and fails to clear the first man.
Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeep! Referee Karlovec blows for full-time and draws the curtain down on a wonderfully entertaining match. I don't think it's unfair to say that Manchester City escaped from jail there, having been soundly thrashed in the second half. But for a generous decision from the referee, the heroics of their goalkeeper and the profligacy of Borussia Dortmund in front of goal, they could easily have lost by three or four. Elsewhere in this group, Real Madrid have seen off Ajax 4-1 in Amsterdam to go top of the group with six points ahead of Dortmund (four points) in second and City (one point) in third.