• Xandao goal gives hosts victory over sluggish City, who lost Vincent Kompany to injury
Sporting: Patricio, Carrico, Polga, Insua, Schaars, Izailov, Capel, Fernandez, Pereira, Xandao, van Wolfswinklel
Subs: Marcelo, Alberto Rodriguez, Evaldo, Pereinha, Neto, Rubio
City: Hart, K Touré, Kompany, Clichy, Barry, De Jong, Silva, Milner, Kolarov, Dzeko, Aguero
Subs: Pantilimon, Lescott, Pizarro, Johnson, Savic, Nasri, Balotelli
Ref: C Carballo (Spain)
Mercator projection is the 16th-century technique for representing the globe on a map in such a way as to make Africa and South America much smaller than in reality and Europe much more important. Those maps aren't used much beyond Daily Mail offices any more but a footballing corollary has emerged this season and become irritatingly prominent: Manchester projection, the technique for representing the entire 872-round Europa League knockout process as a preliminary for an all-Manchester final.
This is despite the fact that in European competition this season Manchester United have looked about as comfortable as a tipped cow in an abattoir, especially at Old Trafford, where they have won just one of four European ties this season. We'll see how they cope with the visit of Athletic Bilbao a little later this evening; but before that their neighbours will try to subdue Sporting Clube de Portugal - or Sporting Lisbon to you and me; they'll have to do so without Yaya Touré - the greatest midfield marauder the Premier League has seen since Roy Keane - but will still be confident of beating the team who, in their domestic league, are three places behind Porto, the team taht City savaged in the lat round. Except they didn't really savage them, did they? The scoreline looked emphatic but they were actually outplayed for considerable periods in both ties and were grateful for wretched Porto finishing. If Sporting have their shooting boot on, they could worry Robert Mancini's men.
As the teams saunter out on to the pitch, it's time to put your cartographs on the table: "You're right about the Mercator projection, oil industry now uses Transverse Mercator (TM) or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) - way more sexy," gusges Egyptian Green.
1 min:Off we pop. Good to see Sporting manager Ricardo Sa Pinto with patches on the elbows of his jacket. Such pragmatism is often sacrificed in the name of chic. I bet he has a sensible pair of mittens in his pocket too, just in case.
2 min: City are playing with a 4-4-2, with Clichy in an unfamiliar right-back position. Hart, meanwhile, had to serve as sweeper jsut now, charging out of his box to head a through-ball clear. Schaars retrieved it and attempted to lob it into the net from 40 yards, but it dropped just wide.
5 min: City enjoying lion'sahre of possession so far but clustered defence keeping them at bay.
7 min: Here's woe for City: Kompany is hobbling off, feeling his calf. They don't want to go into the Premier League title run-in relying on Stefan Savic ....
9 min: Lescott is limbering up and looks primed to replace Kompany. Micah Richards, since you didn't ask, is not even on the bench, seemingly not having fully recovered from his hamstring knack. Meanwhile, Sporting work their way down the right and into the City box, whereupon Pereira unleashes a fierce drive from 16 yards. Hart parries.
11 min: Milner exchanges a short corner with Silva and then flips in a tempting cross. Touré rises well to bonk it towards goal, bringing a fine reflex save from Patricio. " I just finished reading the Fiver before switching to the mbm - wow!" yelps Joe Pearson. "Déja vu. Is it possible to plagiarise oneself?: It is if you try hard enough. Or, as in my case, if you don't feel like trying very hard at all.
14 min: This is getting increasingly uncomfortable for City, as Sporting are showing themselves to be nimble contrivers. But it's making for a pleasing spectacle.
16 min: Aguero is looking very lively and an obvious threat every time City rumble forward. Sporting are just about containing him for now.
19 min: Kolarov has ample time and space to size up a cross from the left but it's easily cleared and suddenly Sporting tear forward on the counter-attack, with four forwards agaisnt three defenders. Unhappily for the hosts, Fernandez botched the opportunity with a wayward pass.
22 min: So a pattern seems to have been established: City enjoying most of the territory and possesion but Sporting contanstaly poised to luanch rapid counters.
24 min: Good effort by Barry, curling a shot fractionally wide from the edge of the area.
26 min: Fernandez wriggles his way into the City box before Lescott diverts the ball out for a corner. Fernandez takes, Hart claims comfortably.
28 min: Sparkling ball by Dzeko to find Kolarov, who is again in loads of space on the left. His cross was dangerous enough to force the concession of a corner, which Milner takes. It fails to beat the first man.
30 min: Balotelli gets off the bench to warm up, and Sporting manager Ricardo Sa Pinto stops him for a handshake. Is there anyonme who doesn't admire Balotelli?
33 min: Pereira's cross from the right - after sustained pressure from Sporting - flicks off Kolarov and requires an intervention from Hart, who palms it over the bar for a corner. City clear it easily. It's about time Sporting came up with a new ploy from them, as they are winning absolutely nothing in the air.
36 min: A lull on the pitch coincides with a surge of good emails to my inbox. Well, at least one. "I notice that Twente are in action in the Europa league tonight as well, and that they've been doing pretty well in the Dutch league since McClaren returned," toots David wall. "If Redknapp were to turn England down and stick with Spurs might the FA consider going back to their former employee? And would that make him second-choice-squared Schteve?" Forget Harry, it's got to Roy Hodgson for England.
39 min: Carrico decides to see whether Hart is still awake by firing in a swirling shot from 30 yards. But it swirled all the way wide.
41 min: What is the problem with Portugal and strikers? The national team haven't had a top class one for decades (Pedro Pauleta wasn't quite the beans) and Sporting, like Porto in the last round, have perfected the trick of looking really impressive and dangerous right up until they get to the box. Are there stats available on the number of bald men in Portgual? I'm guessing it's high, what with all the hair that must be wrenched out in frustration.
44 min: Izailov booked for an angry trip on Dzeko around half-way.
45 min: lescott flights in a freekick from deep. Dzeko helps it on to Aguero, who can't get sufficient power in his header to trouble Patricio.
45+1 min: The man City players dub Kung Fu Panda adds another yellow card to his collection, for a foul on his fellow Dutchman, Van Wolfswinkel.
Half-time: A ten-minutes void looms. How should we fill it?
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, at last: "I've waited many years to be one of the 1057 pedants who write in, and here's my chance!" squeals Mark Ireland. "The idea of a Mercator map is to preserve angular bearings, not relative size. It's not a right-wing conspiracy to do down developing countries, but a vital property for anyone who wants to travel from one place to another on a constant bearing – you know, like pilots, ships captains and the like. Incidentally, the Transverse Mercator has all the same properties, but is just rotated 90 degrees for mapping areas that are taller than they are wide – like the UK. By the way, this is a very timely discussion. It was Mercator's 500th birthday last Monday (though I don't think he's still around to celebrate)."
And another thing: "Regarding your comment about poor finishing and hair-pulling, may I suggest that Sporting Club de Liverpool has a certain ring to it?" parps Paul mcCormick. "I would add that as a Liverpool supporter I have also done away with the need for nail-clippers."
46 min: Game is back on and an early goal would do wonders for the spectacle: it started vibrantly enough but kind of stagnated towards the end of the first half, with Sporting unable to turn decent interplay into chances and City unable even to muster much by way of decent interplay.
48 min: Milner completely misses Kolarov's best cross of the match. No matter, it runs through to Silva ... who tonks a pitiful shot high and wide.
GOAL! Sporting 1-0 City (Xandao 51') A goalkeeping goof by Hart presents Sporting with a chance to take the lead and Xandao takes it superbly! Hart spilled a tame freekick from Fernandez and then did well to block Xandao's follow-up ... but it rebounded back to the centreback who took the goalkeeper by surprise by backheeling it into the net from five yards!
53 min: City seem to have been sparked into some sort of life, as Aguero hurtles down the left in search of an instant equaliser. His subsequent shot is decent but the angle too acute, and the keeper saves.
55 min: City may be piqued, but Sporting are buoyed so there'll be no easy route back into this game for the visitors. In fact, at the moment their pirority is on nexty conceding again. The home team have just worked Pereira into lots of space down the right and Lescott had to strain sorely to head his cross out for a corner.
58 min: Freekick to City as Pereira pushes over Aguerro at the edge of the area, but at an angle too actue for a shot. Before the freekick is taken, City make a change, withdrawing Barry for Samir Nasri.
59 min: Sporting change: Izmailov off, Pererinha on.
60 min: Excellent effort by Kolarov! Milner pinged the freekick to him at the edge of the box and with no backlift he fired a freakishly powerful shot just past the post.
63 min: Strong running down the right by Capel, who is one of the players who has helped make City look quite sluggish tonight. Clichy eventually forces him to turn back but Sporting recycle possesion well, alarmingly for City, Insua finds himself totally free in their box. As Lescott belatedly comes to challenge he pulls the ball back for Van Wolfswinkel, who shoots straight at Hart from close range! That should have been 2-0.
66 min: The night in a nutshell: Kolarov booked for taking down Carrico - it wasn't nasty, it was just that the Sporting player was quicker and more precise than the Citizen.
68 min: Capel, who has been a menance down the right all night, curls in a fine cross that City defenders watch while Pereirinha stretches out a leg to poke narrowly wide.
69 min: A Kolarov cross skims the bar, the Serbian narrowly denied a fluke equaliser.
71 min: City couldn't cross the road at the moment. Kolarov's deliveries have been mostly woegeous all night and Clichy has just emulated him, shanking the ball into the keeper's arms as team-mates awaited decent service.
72 min: City change: The ineffective Dzeko off, Balotelli on. Here we are now, Mario, entertain us.
73 min: That's a better cross from Kolarov, running all the way to nasri at the far post. The Frenchman's shot gets deflected behind for a corner.
74 min: An instant impact from Balotelli, who collects the ball on the right, drives to the by-line and then conjures an outrageous cross with his trailing leg. Silva gets on the end of it but can't steer his shot on target.
75 min: Sporting change: to a standing ovation Capel exists. Enter Carrillo.
78 min: Kolarov - the Serbian whom I may have referred to earlier on as Bulgarian, just to see if anyoine was paying attention - curls a freekick straight into the wall. Can you send a curler straight into something? OK, sorry.
80 min: Balotelli has made a difference since coming on. Pereira has just become the second player to be booked for trying to contain him illegally. "Sá Pinto (i.e. Ricardo Manuel de Andrade da Silva Sá Pinto) was forced to substitute Izmailov and Fernandez because of fitness concerns. The
pair has been injured most of the season," reveals ace emailer Antonio Castro henriques. "Renato Neto, even if Brazilian, is a product of Sporting's famed academy, just like Pereirinha, the other substitute." Thanks for the knowledge, Antonio.
84 min: Neto becomes the latest player booked for a foul on Balotelli.
87 min: Silva sends in an out-swining corner. Balotelli leaps backwards and appleis an excellent header ... that bounces down off the bar!
90 min: So close! A Clichy shot deflects into the path of Aguerro, who dinks it past the keeper ... but not Xandao, who blocked it with his thigh before hoofing clear.
90+2 min: Terrific run down the right by Carrillo, followed by an inviting crosses that narrowly eludes Pereinha.
90+3 min: Kolarov lucky to avoid a red card for a two-footed lunge. He escapes with a yellow.
Full-time: Sporting have deservedly beaten a sluggish City side, who didn't come to life until it was too late (and after Balotelli's introduction). As well as losing the first leg, City also lost their captain to injury, though the duration of Vincent Kompany's absence is not yet known. Roberto Mancini has certainly had better nights but at least City are still in this tie.