[By Azri Firman Bin Aqil]
You have got to wonder what is going on with Manchester City in their Champions League campaign.
During the first half of their match against CSKA Moscow in an almost empty Arena Khimki, you can see that City looked like they finally brought their league form to the Champions League with a style of play they are so used to with goals from Sergio Aguero and James Milner.
City did well to defend from whatever CSKA have, in which the home side had to resort to efforts from outside the penalty box that went wide. The away side also enjoyed most of the possession but couldn’t come up with anything until near the half-hour mark. Edin Dzeko was able to beat the offside trap as he picked up the pass from David Silva and passed it across the helpless CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev only for Aguero to receive the ball and tap it into an open net.
And City kept up the pressure to find the second goal and they were duly awarded almost 10 minutes later. From a clever layoff header by Pablo Zabaleta by the edge of the box, Aguero once again was instrumental as his fluffed shot looked like it was going wide, but Milner was at the right place at the right time to tap in Aguero’s wayward shot to double City’s lead. City were unfortunate not to get a third when Dzeko and Aguero, with a chance each, couldn’t get a foot on two of Aleksander Kolarov’s low crosses at different times, although there were doubts that Dzeko was fouled when the ball was played in.
This was the City that we’re used to seeing in the BPL. However, in the second half, it all went wrong for the English champions. Perhaps the introduction of CSKA forward Seydou Doumbia for defender, Alexei Berezutskiy has something to do with it. With Sergei Ignasevich and Alexei’s brother, Vasily now mending the Center-Back role and Musa moving to his favored position on the wing, CSKA looked more threatening. Their movement looked much more agile and they showed their teamwork and confidence that was almost non-existent in the first half.
And on the 64th minute, their hard work finally paid off. From Bebras Natcho’s pass, Ahmed Musa caught the City defense napping, running into the box with no pressure at all. He laid a pass across the goal as Doumbia repaid the manager’s faith in him by pulling one back for the home side. Every time City had possession, they couldn’t penetrate the CSKA defense and this gave the home side a chance to counter attack, but they couldn’t find the equalizer until four minutes from stoppage time.
Kolarov was adjudged to foul Doumbia in the box thanks to the theatrics made by the forward while he fell down, convincing the referee to award the penalty, much to City’s dismay, especially Kolarov’s. Natcho stepped up and scored the equalizer. Though the penalty is questionable, CSKA deserved the equalizer as CSKA made them pay for not putting game away.
This match further sums up City’s European campaign so far. The results along with City’s narrow defeat to Bayern Munich and failure to take their chances against AS Roma left them in third place in their group with only two points. The only good news that City has is that they still have a chance to make it to the Round Of 16 as Roma fell to a heavy 7-1 defeat to Munich.
With half of the group matches gone, City need to step up their game. They only showed flashes of brilliance in all of their three games, only to come up with a disappointing end product. What with their failure to fill up their stadium in a Champions League game, the fans also need to show their support for their team. With City offering a ‘Buy One, Free One’ offer for tickets for their reverse fixture against CSKA at the Etihad, it’s clear that they need the fans to rally and cheer for them. As long as their problems in the Champions League remains unsolved, Manchester City can forget about winning.