Thousands of flags and inflatable bananas helped stoke up an electric atmosphere as the teams emerged, City getting an ovation the likes of which had probably not been seen or heard since we moved from Maine Road. The 3,000 visiting fans chipped in, but the 45,000 City voices drowned them out. Whatever else happened, our amazing fans had done all they could to start the lads off in the best possible way.
Pitroipa had been a thorn in our side all last Thursday, and within two minutes he looked to have a good shout for a penalty when Richard Dunne appeared to catch him on the chest. Almost immediately Robinho went clear through the middle, but was flagged for a marginal offside decision.
Things really livened up around the eight minute mark, when Micah Richards burst into the box after fine work from Zabaleta. The defender could not put any venom into his effort, and took a knock in the process, but as he hobbled away Elano picked up the rebound and looked to have a chance to cross - but put it straight at a defender.
Micah ran his injury off, but after a promising start for City the worst possible thing happened when Hamburg took the lead. Pitroipa crossed to Olic, who held off Dunne and put the ball into the path of Jose Paulo Guerrero, who rolled the ball past Given and into the bottom corner of the net.
The home fans were stunned - but like in Germany last week when Hamburg raised their game after an early shock and equalised, so did City! On 16 minutes Elano rammed the ball into the area and it hit Trochowski on the arm, and the referee pointed straight to the spot. With Robinho having missed a spot kick a few weeks ago, it was his Brazilian team mate who strode forward to take it, and unsurprisingly Elano made no mistake, putting a perfect penalty to Rost's right. He has never missed one since joining us, and the stadium exploded - game on!
Two minutes later Felipe Caicedo found himself in space and with Robinho begging for the ball to be played in front of him, but the Ecuadorian's pass was badly underhit and could not find its target.
The game had opened up, and on 22 minutes Ireland found the side-netting after latching onto a cute ball over from Elano. Hamburg were still going for it, as Martin Jol had promised, with Trochowski forcing Given into a save with a long range shot, and Mathijsen's header at the corner being cleared by Dunne.
Wayne Bridge showed no ill-effects from his hamstring injury when he went on a run into the box on 33 minutes, exchanging passes with Ireland and laying the ball off to Caicedo, whose volley on the turn lacked power and went wide. Replays showed the young striker had had more time than maybe he realised at first, and two minutes later he had a half-chance at a Robinho cross, but Rost and a defender squeezed him out.
City's international left-back was back in the thick of it up the pitch on 41 minutes, betting into a good position on the edge of the box with players running into the danger area, however his cross was too close to Rost, who collected with ease.
Olic hauled Robinho down a minute later, and Elano was desperately unlucky not to get his second of the night, his free kick from nearly 30 yards out hitting the bar with Rost well beaten? Two inches lower and it would have been in, it was so nearly a repeat of his stunner against Newcastle last season. Was it going to turn out to be one of those nights for the Blues?
Vincent Kompany was booked just after the restart for fouling Guerrero, ensuring that the Belgian would miss the first leg of the semi final if we were to make it through tonight.
Felipe Caicedo had been caught offside and had committed a couple of fouls, enough to get some of the crowd on his case, but on 50 minutes he responded in the best way and threw City a lifeline! Ireland fed the ball across to the big 20-year-old on the edge of the box, who showed superb skill to change feet and guide the ball in around Rost to make it 2-1 on the night and now 3-4 on aggregate! Felipe bounded straight back to halfway as the crowd lifted the volume once again.
Four minutes later we were nearly in dreamland, as David Coleman once described with Scotland in 1978. Elano curled another wonderful free kick over the wall - and onto the post! Seconds later the Brazilian swung in a skiddy corner that Rost made a hash of, and Caicedo put the ball over with the goal at his mercy. The mayhem continued when Pablo Zabaleta curled a testing effort from the edge of the box that Rost was equal to, and Hamburg responded when the impressive Olic put a shot just over Given's bar.
Now it was Robinho's turn to get in on the act, racing onto a chip from Elano and putting a shot under pressure at Rost. Caicedo had the ball in the net again on the hour, but he was correctly flagged offside as Ireland made the pass to him.
Zabaleta had treatment on 63 minutes, but thankfully came back on in time to see Wayne Bridge break down the left and cross to Robinho, whose diving header went straight into Rost's hands. The Hamburg keeper required the magic sponge himself on 69 minutes when he collided with Robinho, the Brazilian trying to get onto a flicked ball over from Bridge and hitting the post after Rost had gone down - but referee Rizzoli had already blown for the foul.
Richard Dunne was already on an early yellow card, and with 15 minutes left a second booking for the skipper ensured we would have an even harder task in trying to level the tie. He collided with substitute Petric as the Hamburg player went past him towards the touchline, and the referee's immediate second yellow followed by the dreaded red meant that we were down to 10 men.
Hamburg were having their best spell and nearly sealed the game with six minutes left when Olic stabbed a cross goalwards - only to see Shay Given deny him by flinging out his right boot, a superb save.
A minute later Micah Richards spurned a golden opportunity to draw level, making a 1-2 with Robinho but getting underneath the return and putting the ball a long way over. Gelson Fernandes, now on for Zabaleta, also skied a shot past the goal and Danny Sturridge, our other replacement, stabbed a left-footed attempt wide with 60 seconds of normal time to go.
Four minutes were added on, and Micah Richards, now playing up front, did well to win a corner that even Shay Given went up for. Unfortunately Robinho's ball over missed everybody and Caicedo eventually put a shot well over. There was still time for Olic to waste time by making a meal of a foul by Ireland, but Hamburg held out and our long European odyssey, which began in the middle of last summer, was at an end.
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