ATHENS, Feb 15, 2011 (AFP) - English Premier League big-spenders Manchester City were held to a goalless draw by Greek outfit Aris Salonika on Tuesday in their Europa League round of last 32 encounter.
City, currently on course to be able to give this poor relation to the Champions League a miss next season if they can qualify for the latter, had the lion's share of the game but Salonika's defence held meaning Roberto Mancini's side must finish the job in the return leg.
|Roberto Mancini answers journalists' questions during a press conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, on February 14, 2011 on the eve of their football match against Aris Thessaloniki. AFP|
New signing from Wolfsburg Edin Dzeko might have struck first blood before the break but he could not convert from Aleksandar Kolarov's low cross, the Bosnian's header well saved by home keeper Michalis Sifakis.
Mario Balotelli, on as a late substitute, then sent an overhead kick wide in the closing stages as the Greeks' record of never having lost in 24 European matches at their Kleanthis Vikelidis Stadium remained intact.
Even so, the history books show that previous English visitors Chelsea and Ipswich were similarly unable to score a success at the venue - but then landed the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1970 and the Uefa Cup in 1981 respectively.
Mancini could not be faulted in terms of going for goals as he lined up Dzeko as well as Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Shaun Wright-Phillips - but their collective efforts came to naught.
A plus point was the return to action of youngster Ballotelli from the bench for his first appearance since injuring a knee in December.