Let’s be honest enough to admit that this result was not good enough for a serious contender to the Champions League trophy. Let’s just admit that today Pellegrini was at fault for his tactical dispositions, and he did not get the team sufficiently prepared during the half time break. And let’s face it; our players never looked like taking all the points back home as the second half progressed.
“It was a game of two halves”. It may be an old and worn expression, but in Moscow today it looked like City fielded two completely different teams in the two halves.
Towards the end of the first half City attacked freely, scored two goals, and had two good claims for a penalty turned down. The home team looked shell-shocked, uncertain, and nowhere close to scoring, despite a few early scares in the beginning of the half. Dzeko beautifully set up Aguero for the opener after 29 minutes. The Bosnian got away from the defence and instead of challenging the goalkeeper he slid the ball to his right for Aguero to slot home in the easiest of ways.
Milner was creative the whole time, and deservedly got a goal after 38 minutes. Zabaleta set up Aguero who mis-kicked the ball just enough to set up Milner at the far post. Milner later hit the post after Dzeko was chopped down from behind inside the area. Milner was himself knocked to the ground in the process, and the City players were keen to remind the Hungarian referee of these incidents when the game was finished. Still; City were 2-0 up into the break, a comfortable lead on away ground. But there was always a second half to be played.
The truth is City didn’t show up in the second half. It looked like the whole team were mentally packing their bags and waiting for the plane to bring them back to England. And the cold and ambient atmosphere in the almost empty Arena Khimki was not giving them any excuse to stay.
But the home team was not going home just yet and when Doumbia slid the ball home after 65 minutes. It was almost a reprise of Milner’s goal from the first half. Surely now the City players would wake up from their sleep-like performance.
Not quite so. Navas replaced Silva in a move that could have proved to be a masterstroke. The only problem was that City didn’t manage to counter-attack at all. Too often Toure, Aguero, Fernando and even Mangala missed with their passes and the home team could counter-attack instead. Navas remained un-employed on the right, and when even he misplaced his pass to Zabaleta it became clear that this was not going to be an easy wrap-up for the Blues.
CSKA got their penalty only 5 minutes from time. It looked soft, like so many times before against City in Europe. The City players must have gotten flashbacks to the first half when both Dzeko and Milner were fouled inside the area within seconds without getting anything. Doumbia surely made a meal of Kolarov’s challenge, but this is not the Serbian’s first clumsy tackle inside the area. He really should have known better. Natcho made no mistake from the spot and the game ebbed out at an even 2-2. Even it was also in attempts on goal. It ended 10-10, which means City had no shots on target in the second half.
If City’s chances to advance in the Champions League were in question before the game, it’s now becoming a matter of crunching numbers. City will reach 2nd spot if we win the last remaining 3 games, and Roma take nothing from Bayern today (at the moment they are 5 down). It may not sound too hard and two of the games will be played in Manchester. But to put it into perspective; City haven’t won any of the three games so far and we are 2 points behind the Italians, and will face them away. That will probably be the deciding game. Are we never going to take the easy route?
Established the Manchester City supporters' homepage in November 1994 which at the time was the first ever Web-page dedicated to Manchester City. Became part of the MCIVTA-team in the early days, and is still maintainer of the site mcivta.com which has merged the newsletter and the Supporters homepage into one service.