Three main culprits behind City's collapse
Our writer singles out the three main culprits in City's collapse in Moscow
CSKA MOSCOW 2
(Seydou Doumbia 64, Bebars Natcho 86-pen)
MAN CITY 2
(Sergio Aguero 29, James Milner 37)
Three games into their Champions League campaign, English Premier League champions Manchester City are still looking for their first win.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 away with CSKA Moscow. Who's to blame for the fiasco?
It seemed like CSKA Moscow striker Ahmed Musa's pre-match taunt, in which he described Manchester City's defence as "very weak", would come back to haunt him.
He was right after all. At the Arena Khimki in Moscow, City's creaky defence was frequently exposed by a speedy CSKA attack.
The root of the problem can be traced to Mangala, who has been struggling to adapt since his £32-million ($65.2m) move from Porto two months ago.
The 23-year-old France international is prone to lapses in concentration, and often depends on his central defensive partner Vincent Kompany to bail him out.
But there was little the City skipper could do when Mangala was caught out during CSKA's first goal, which proved to be the turning point of the match.
He had full view of what Musa was attempting to do, and yet allowed the striker to slip behind him to receive Bebars Natcho's perfectly-weighted pass.
It left Musa with plenty of time and space in the penalty box to pick his man, substitute Seydou Doumbia, who turned the ball in from close range.
Class may be permanent but, even then, Toure's drastic drop in performance is worrying.
The man who arguably won the Premiership title for his club last season has had a wretched start to this term, and it continued in Moscow.
There appeared to be very little urgency in the midfield giant, who looked slow and sloppy for much of the game.
As the battle for midfield dominance heated up after the break, Toure went AWOL.
Not only did he offer little help to his defenders, but he also created the mess that led to the equalising penalty.
Anyone who watched the replay of the incident knew that the referee should not have awarded the spot-kick, but Toure shouldn't have given the ball away so unnecessarily in the first place.
City were attempting to clear their lines when the ball trickled to Toure, who then attempted a backheel in his own half.
He lost the ball, CSKA launched another raid, and earned their just reward for their improved second-half display.
Toure looks a long way off his best.
Kolarov offers plenty going forward, with his crossing and set-piece ability among the best in the Premiership.
But the 28-year-old left back remains a liability in defence.
He began the match brightly, delivering several dangerous balls into the penalty box that his teammates perhaps could have done more with.
But, like most of his teammates, his performance level dipped significantly in the second half.
He has every right to feel aggrieved with the penalty decision - he barely touched Doumbia when the Ivorian went down dramatically in the box.
However, his positioning was awful.
There were four City players to CSKA's one when the cross came in, with Kolarov the one closest to Doumbia.
The Serbia international then went charging in at Doumbia to close down the space, and gave the official the chance to make the call.
Mangala didn't do Kolarov any favours too, by not cutting out the pass in the first place.
And Kolarov was made to pay when Natcho slammed in the resulting penalty.
"Football is 95 minutes, it’s not just the first half."
- City manager Manuel Pellegrini
Kompany: there's no mental block
PHOTO: ALEX MORTON/ACTION IMAGES
Captain Vincent Kompany is convinced Manchester City will find their stride in the Champions League this season.
City are facing a familiar battle to qualify for the knock-out stages after enduring frustrating results in their opening three matches in this season's competition.
Their latest disappointment came yesterday morning (Singapore time) as they surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 in a controversial Group E clash against CSKA Moscow on a freezing night in the Russian capital.
CSKA equalised after they were awarded a disputed penalty four minutes from time.
The result left City with just two points midway through the group stage, seven behind leaders Bayern Munich.
The situation has echoes of City's travails in 2011-12 and 2012-13, when they failed to advance from their groups.
But Kompany (above) said: "There's no mental block, there's just occasionally a number of performances that need to be better, that's all it is.
"But I'm not going to follow the trend and go against my team, more than the media will do already, that's their role.
"In my case, I'm 100 per cent convinced we'll overturn it. People forget we had a strong group stage last year. It's not every season the same but, this year, we've made it more difficult than it has to be."
City now seem to be in a three-way battle for second place along with CSKA and Roma, who were thrashed 7-1 by Bayern.
They had looked likely to get a crucial win thanks to two first-half strikes at a near-empty Khimki Arena - the match was officially played behind closed doors - through Sergio Aguero and James Milner. The latter almost grabbed a third when he hit the post.
CSKA responded after the break through substitute Seydou Doumbia, who was later controversially awarded a spot-kick when he went down under an Aleksandar Kolarov challenge late on.
City protested about that decision by referee Istvan Van, whom they felt denied them a penalty when Edin Dzeko appeared to be impeded in the first half.
Kompany said: "In a game of small margins, I sometimes just don't understand what's going on. I mean, where's common sense sometimes?
"If in the first half - and I don't want anyone to be sent off, let's make that clear - you're not giving the penalty, why do you want to make a decision in the second half? Why don't you just let it go? That, for me, is common sense.
"Now it's a talking point. Obviously, we can look at ourselves and it was disappointing again, but little things like this, although I do realise what we were lacking, eventually, even for someone like me who doesn't speak up about referees, it becomes frustrating. It's happened way too many times in this competition."
The other major talking point was the apparent presence of CSKA fans.
The home side, who were ordered to play three home European games behind closed doors by Uefa, had the vocal backing of about 300 fans.
It is thought they may have obtained tickets from the 300 set aside for sponsors. A further 350 people attended the game including media, club delegates and the children involved in the pre-match ceremony and their parents. - PA Sport.