Manchester City lose plot as things get from bad to worse, says Gary Lim
MAN CITY 1
(Yaya Toure 8)
CSKA MOSCOW 2
(Seydou Doumbia 2, 34)
Just when one thought Manchester City's Champions League campaign couldn't get any worse, they somehow managed to do just that.
Following a shock 2-1 home loss to CSKA Moscow yesterday morning (Singapore time), the English Premier League champions are rooted to the bottom of their group, still looking for their first European win this season.
After watching his team end the game with nine men, manager Manuel Pellegrini put the defeat down to a "crisis in confidence".
But in truth, it was more than that.
City lost the plot, lost their head and lost the match.
At least Pellegrini played the gentleman's card by refusing to blame rookie Greek referee Tasos Sidiropolous, who mistakenly cautioned Sergei Ignashevich instead of the already booked Pontus Wernbloom in the 76th minute.
City fans also have reason to feel hard done by, after the official turned down several penalty appeals by the hosts.
But the fact was that City's players never got themselves into battle mode against opponents who looked decidedly more purposeful and determined.
The Citizens were careless in possession, casual in their defending and wasteful in their finishing.
They wouldn't have gone behind in as early as the second minute had midfielder Yaya Toure stuck to his defensive duty of marking Seydou Doumbia, who had the simple task of heading in the opening goal, unmarked, from close range.
Neither would they have gone behind for a second time, had left back Gael Clichy done his job properly by hacking the ball to safety, rather than inexplicably giving it straight back to the opponents in his own half.
Yet, there was still time to climb out of the hole they had dug for themselves.
Vincent Kompany and his men had close to an hour to fight back.
They created enough chances - 15 shots to CSKA's seven.
But Toure lost his way after his eighth-minute equaliser.
Sergio Aguero threatened but couldn't get past in-form CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
Jesus Navas was all speed and not much else.
But it was in the head that City lost comprehensively.
As their desperation mounted, their composure evaporated too.
When pressure exerted its weight on their shoulders, they cracked.
So brittle was their resolve.
Fernandinho, a half-time introduction by Pellegrini, lasted only 25 minutes on the field. A sudden rush of blood to the head saw him pick up two yellows in the space of eight minutes.
Down to 10 men, and sensing the match slipping away from them, nerves turned into frustration.
For Toure, it was breaking point.
So, he lashed out, taking a swipe at Roman Eremenko to get his marching orders in the 81st minute.
Already on a yellow card, there could be no excuse for such behaviour.
By then, City were dead and buried.
For Samir Nasri, the inevitable was too hard to stomach.
Minutes before the final whistle, he kicked out at Georgi Milanov.
Nasri got lucky, as the referee decided to turn a blind eye to the incident.
However, it didn't escape everyone else who witnessed the night City capitulated.
Their struggles in the Champions League have been well-documented.
But even this is a new low.
No Russian team had won a Champions League away match against an English side since Spartak Moscow beat Blackburn Rovers in 1995.
- MAN CITY: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernando (Dzeko 65), Toure, Milner, Navas (Nasri 46), Jovetic (Fernandinho 46), Aguero
- CSKA MOSCOW: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Wernbloom, Ignashevich, Dzagoev, Musa, Berezutski, Eremenko, Schennikov, Natcho, Doumbia