Man City a safe bet for another early Champions League exit?
Following Manchester City’s 2-2 draw away to CSKA Moscow behind closed doors, they now find themselves staring at yet another Champions League failure, after gaining just two points from their opening three games.
The Sky Blues are in their fourth successive season in Europe’s elite club competition since being bought by billionaire owners, but their furthest stage is just an appearance in the last 16, despite dominating in the Premier League.
City’s draw now leaves them in third place, and two points behind Roma, who were recently thrashed 7-1 at home by Bayern Munich. Manuel Pellegrini’s men are now third-favourites behind those two teams to win and qualify from Group E, at 25/1 and evens respectively.
What is even more disappointing is the fact that Man City even held a 2-0 lead going into half time, thanks to goals from in-form Sergio Aguero and James Milner, who nearly made it 3-0 after hitting the post.
Half-time substitute and surprise Ivory Coast World Cup squad exclusion Seydou Doumbia was to be the star for the hosts, though, as he netted the Russians’ first, before controversially being fouled late on in the area by Aleksandar Kolarov. Bedras Natcho then converted from the spot to record his side’s first point of the campaign.
In a night of Champions League filled with goal action, this fixture was only the fifth-equal highest scoreline from the eight others but City will certainly feel aggrieved after seemingly being in control.
After the encounter, the usually calm and collected Pellegrini, who served a two-game touchline ban for post match comments last season, slammed UEFA for effectively punishing City fans for a supporter sanction meant only for CSKA.
“Why the hell do we not have any fans here? What have our fans done wrong? There’s no fairness in it,” the Chilean said, after a vocal support for the hosts could still be heard.
“I don’t know who has permission to give entrance to all those people, but really it is not my duty,” he added. “I don’t want to talk about the referee or other things. I don’t want to be punished again.”
City captain Vincent Kompany, meanwhile, echoed his manager’s comments, saying: “You say no fans, all of a sudden you turn up and the team who has no fans is Man City. So who’s getting punished? Who’s being done for racism, Man City or Moscow?”
“It needs to be looked at, it needs to be changed. Our fans shouldn’t be punished.”
On the game itself, though, Pellegrini also added that the temperature was a factor in his side’s disappointing draw, saying: “Moscow is so cold that it is very difficult to maintain motivation.” But he is still adamant City can progress. “We have nine points left to play for, of course we can still qualify,” he continued.
City are now odds-on with Coral at 8/11 to be eliminated at the group stage, and 13/5 to match their achievement of being knocked out in the last 16 last season.