Manchester City 1 CSKA Mosow 2
Manuel Pellegrini claimed Manchester City’s clash with CSKA Moscow was a not "death game" for their Champions League campaign, but after this defeat to the Russians they are being read the last rites.
After just two points from four matches City are bottom of Group E and in all likelihood will suffer a third group-stage exit in four years.
The City boss said his side are going through a “a crisis of confidence”.
“From the beginning we were nervous,” said Pellegrini. “It’s difficult to understand why so many important players gave a poor performance.”
Qualification for the knockout phase is now dependent on whether City can pull something out of the bag at home against an imperious Bayern Munich side in a fortnight to give themselves a chance ahead of their final game in Rome next month.
Even in the unlikely event they win both of those games there is no guarantee they will have enough points to reach the last 16.
That they crumbled so easily will have been of greater concern. Indeed the Etihad Stadium was so devoid of atmosphere last night that it had the air of a wake, and the inquest into this debacle could be far reaching.
An improvement in Europe was demanded of Pellegrini after he delivered the Premier League title in his first season.
But the Chilean looks set to fall well below the minimum required standard with his side on the brink of elimination and inevitably he will now face question marks over his future.
Before kick-off, the home supporters showed their anger towards the European governing body Uefa for their handling of City’s trip to Moscow last month.
CSKA were handed a stadium ban for racist abuse, however, around 300 supporters of the Moscow club were present in the enclosure reserved for Uefa sponsors while visiting fans were kept out.
To vent their disgruntlement City supporters booed the playing of the Champions League anthem while a number also turned their backs.
The omens on the pitch were good for City, with CSKA having failed to win on English soil in five visits. Indeed, exactly a year ago to the day, City beat Cska 5-2 on home turf.
However, fresher in the mind was the fact Pellegrini’s side squandered a two-goal lead in Russia after CSKA punished some lacklustre defending.
And such lax play was as evident as early the second minute as they fell behind to Seydou Doumbia’s opening goal in the second minute.
The Ivorian escaped the attentions of compatriot Toure and capitalised on a lapse in concentration from Martin Demichelis to head a free-kick from Bebras Natcho past City goalkeeper Joe Hart from close range.
The goal meant City have no clean sheet in last 10 Champions League games, although they at quickly made amends at the other end six minutes later after Sergio Aguero won a free-kick on the edge of the box.
Yaya Toure nonchantly curled the dead ball over the CSKA wall and into the top-left corner of the net. Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev in the CSKA goal could perhaps see what Toure’s intentions were, but such was the quality of the strike he could do little about it.
It was a sweet moment for the midfielder, who was the victim of monkey chants by the CKSA fans when City visited Moscow in October 2013. Although things would quickly turn sour.
Pellegrini named the same starting line-up that beat United last Sunday, but the intensity of that derby display was largely absent in the first-half.
In particular the guile of the injured David Silva and Sami Nasri, on the bench and not yet fully fit, seemed most keenly missed.
Doumbia had the opportunity to put CSKA ahead again 10 minutes later when he broke clear only to shoot wide and fail to test Hart.
That should have acted as a stern warning to City’s players, however it only served to highlight the inadequacies of their leaky backline and they were punished for more an embarrassing error before half-time.
Gael Clichy was the culprit on this occasion, as he hooked a poor clearance across the face of his own goal, and Natcho fed the ball through to Doumbia and he buried a powerful low past Hart to take his tally to five goals in four appearances against them.
Pellegrini introduced Nasri and Fernandinho at half-time and Edin Dzeko not long after but the Brazilian was the only one to make an impression on the game — unfortunately by getting himself harshly sent off for two bookable offences.
City were abject but CSKA were getting all the breaks, and they were fortunate to not be reduced to 10 men when Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos wrongly booked Sergei Ignashevich for a pull on Aguero’s shirt instead of Pontus Wernbloom.
Things went from bad to worse as City imploded in the remainder of the game as Toure was shown a straight red card for Roman Ermenko and despite two late penalty appeals they could have few complaints.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-2): Hart 6; Zabaleta 4, Kompany 6, Demichelis 5, Clichy 4; Milner 6, Fernando 5 (Dzeko 65; 6), Toure 6, Navas 5 (Nasri 45; 7); Jovetic 6 (Fernandinho 45; 4), Aguero 7.
CSKA MOSCOW (4-2-3-1): Akinfeev 7; Fernandes 5, Ignashevich 7, Berezutski 5, Schennikov 6; Wernbloom 7, Natcho 8; Dzagoev 6 (Efremov 86; 6), Eremenko 6, Musa 7; Doumbia 8 (Milanov 67; 6).
Referee: Anastasios Sidiropoulos (Greece).
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