CSKA Moscow 2 Mancester City 2
Manchester City surrendered a two-goal lead as they again stuttered on the Champions League stage, drawing 2-2 amid more controversy at CSKA Moscow.
City looked to have ignited their Group E campaign as they claimed a commanding lead with well-worked goals from Sergio Aguero and James Milner at the Khimki Arena.
But CSKA – who officially had no support in a game played behind closed doors but actually appeared to have 200-300 chanting fans – hit back through Seydou Doumbia and a contentious late Bebras Natcho penalty.
Natcho struck after Doumbia appeared to go down theatrically in the box under a challenge from Aleksandar Kolarov.
That left City, who had hit the woodwork when leading 2-0, hanging on for a point but the result may still have done significant damage to their hopes of progress.
The match was played almost a year after another encounter between the same two sides at the stadium was marred by racist chanting aimed at City’s Yaya Toure.
That was the first of three offences in a year which led to their latest meeting being played in a closed stadium.
Yet while three sides of the ground were shut, some 650 people were allowed entry to the main stand. Of that contingent, 300 were set aside for sponsors, and it appeared that a number of that allocation ended up in the hands of CSKA fans.
Whether or not that affected City is debatable, and they seemed far more irriated by the foul given against Kolarov.
It was a position City should not have ended up in after taking command in the first half after an initial CSKA flurry.
Zoran Tosic, the former Manchester United winger who scored against City last season, combined well with Ahmed Musa before whipping in a cross which evaded everyone.
Musa went close with a fierce drive from distance which flew just wide.
City first threatened when the advancing Pablo Zabaleta chested down a Toure cross but volleyed narrowly side.
As temperatures plummeted and light snow fell, it took some time for City to find their flow.
But they burst into life to claim the lead just before the half hour as David Silva released Edin Dzeko with a defence-splitting pass.
The Bosnian raced in on goal and then unselfishly squared for Aguero to tap home the opener.
Dzeko might have doubled the lead moments later but his well-struck shot was claimed comfortably by Igor Akinfeev.
City took a firm grip with a second well-worked goal after 38 minutes.
Zabaleta raced onto a long ball over the top from Toure and nodded down to Aguero. The Argentinian looked to scuff a shot but it rolled straight into the path of Milner who made no mistake from in front of goal.
City almost had a third before the interval as Kolarov fed Dzeko from the left. Dzeko appeared to be impeded as he weighed up a shot – and possibly could have gone down for a penalty – and the ball ran through to Milner, who hit the post from a tight angle.
CSKA regrouped at the interval and returned with greater determination.
City attempted to take the sting out of their game but the hosts gradually began to gain a foothold.
Roman Eremenko was inches away from levelling as he met a Georgi Schennikov knock-down with a shot on the half-volley that flew just over.
The pressure from CSKA mounted and City were breached after 64 minutes when Musa broke free down the right and pulled the ball back for substitute Doumbia to bundle in.
City immediately tried to repair the damage but Akinfeev easily dealt with a Toure shot.
CSKA continued to force the pace and City began to look ragged and like a side holding on.
Despite that, the Russians did appear to be lacking that vital cutting edge until Doumbia went down in the area.
Natcho stepped up to rifle home, to the delight of the CSKA supporters in attendance.
Their presence was sure to prompt questions, but City boss Manuel Pellegrini may also face some searching ones as his side again failed to get the result they needed.