Jerome Boateng in action against Momo Sissoko. (Photo from Getty Images)
The bloated format of the Europa League (mirroring the Champions League as opposed to a 'straight knock-out') will on occasion lead to games such as the one witnessed yesterday evening; both teams rarely getting out of second gear and seemingly content with the point that damages neither side.
The game even saw a lack of animation from Roberto Mancini. So often patrolling around the technical area ready to bellow out instruction, Mancini was far more sedate; happy to take his place alongside his coaching staff in the dug out for the most part.
It was a particular poor start, the type of slow, plodding opening that recent games seemed to have consigned to memory. Perhaps it was a result of the number of changes, to personnel and formation, that Mancini made -suggesting that he is fearful of so many games in quick succession - but there lacked a real appetite to take control of the game.
It was no surprise then that we fell behind to an early goal. Jerome Boateng, making his first start, allowed Vincenzo Iaquinta to shoot from distance and surprisingly beat Hart with a shot he could have done better with. It did however spark the side out of their funk and a smart move saw Adam Johnson latch onto to a wonderful defence-splitting ball from Yaya Toure to level.
The frustrating thing from that point on though was we had the upper hand in terms of possession, territory and opportunity but a combination of some solid defensive work from Juve and a lack of cohesion and sharpness in the final third saw the sides share the spoils - although we were treated to a del Piero 'special' with a late free-kick that crashed against the bar with Hart well beaten.
It is an interesting point that TLDORC raises in that there is a sense of disappointment and frustration at 'only' getting a draw against Juve; a sign of progression or development, call it what you will. But after two games, we are level with Lech Poznan at the top of the group on four points and there is a definite expectation of qualification.
The next two fixtures see us face Poznan home, then away. Four points against the Poles should see us looking at only requiring one win from the final two fixtures. Something that should be very attainable.