A superbly taken free-kick from midfield player Sebastian Mila earned Polish side Groclin Grodzisk Wielkopolski a precious 1-1 away draw against Manchester City FC in their second round first-leg UEFA Cup encounter.
City, however, were thoroughly dominant before the break and would have had the game wrapped up before the interval had their finishing been more effective. In the end they were made to pay a heavy price for spurning a succession of opportunities and now face a potentially problematic trip to Poland on 27 November.
The draw left City manager Kevin Keegan frustrated. "We showed plenty of effort but not enough finishing ability," he said. "We had a good start and created some good chances but 1-1 is not a great result."
Keegan's men began sharply and could have had more than a one-goal advantage inside the first ten minutes, with Claudio Reyna blasting over the bar early on. But the miss seemed like it would be irrelevant when Nicolas Anelka - who had recovered from a thigh strain to take his place in the starting lineup - scored his fourth UEFA Cup goal this season, delicately chipping goalkeeper Mariusz Liberda on six minutes after a raking crossfield ball from Robbie Fowler.
Groclin, in mid-table in the Polish First Division, first threatened in the 12th minute; David Seaman diving to his right to save a powerful header from Mariusz Pawlak. The home side should have doubled the advantage on the half-hour when Anelka and Steve McManaman combined smoothly on the left flank, culminating with the ex-Real Madrid CF midfield player dragging back to Fowler, who clipped his shot wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy.
At the beginning of the second half, the Groclin players sought inspiration by huddling together in the centre circle - and the motivational tactic appeared to work as they were considerably more purposeful going forward. Mila came within centimetres of chipping Seaman in the 51st minute. He was angry to waste the chance but his despair turned to joy soon after when he secured the vital leveller, bending the ball over the wall and into the top corner in the 65th minute.
Keegan then rang the changes in search of the winner, bringing on Danny Tiatto and Paolo Wanchope in place of the former Liverpool FC pair McManaman and Fowler. The away defence, though, held firm to the last. Tarnat, with a ferocious free-kick, and Wanchope both went close in the final stages but the breakthrough was not forthcoming.
"We were under pressure in the first quarter of an hour but we watched City against [KSC] Lokeren [OV] and thought we would be able to come into it," said Groclin coach Dusan Radolský. "That estimation proved correct. We created some beautiful chances and in the end we got a draw. But the return leg is going to be open."
Keegan added: "Apart from the first 15 minutes we let them in the game too much. Groclin have achieved a deserved draw.
We made life difficult for ourselves by thinking we would win it and it's going to be hard in Poland."