City drew with CSKA Moscow in disheartening fashion, once again making a rod for their own back and choosing to travel the most difficult, most infuriating path. Here are a few (short) thoughts on whatever that was we just watched…
A Quick Summary
City looked good, scored twice, then looked bad and conceded twice. The draw leaves City with two points from three games and, yet again, an almost impossible task to qualify from the Champion’s League group stage.
More Fundamental Truths
Hardship is fine. I don’t have a problem with hardship. As a City fan under the age of 40 I was raised on hardship. Football means everything, but it also means nothing at the end of the day and in life you sometimes lose. It’s how it is.
I don’t mind decisions going against City occasionally, for instance a dodgy penalty at a crucial moment like was seen tonight. Bad refereeing and cheating is always frustrating but City get their fair share of decisions as well. Just a few days ago Lampard was the beneficiary of a soft penalty decision.
What grates, what really, really grates, is self sabotage. Why oh why do City refuse to learn the lessons so enthusiastically taught to them by the European elite?
Two goals up and coasting against an objectively inferior team and the door should have been bolted shut. There should have been no way for the Russians to get back into the game, but they did, and here we are (again).
How many times must we be taught that in Europe a persistent opponent with a loaded midfield will find a way through our simple, even naïve 442 formation? It is a recurring problem that is blatantly obvious to everyone.
Pellegrini must shoulder some blame for once again refusing to change his tactics until it was too late, making City a reactive rather than a proactive force. Yes, City were cruising in the first half and the players on the pitch had been doing fine, but it was clear to see that the intensity and concentration levels dropped in the second half and something needed to be done. Of course, nothing was. Again. Just like the last time, and the time before that. And the one before that.
CSKA were given the opportunity to gather themselves and exert sustained pressure on City for over half an hour. As soon as the home team scored their first goal it was clear to see that City were heading for a draw. When faced with adversity in Europe, City become an oil tanker heading into the cliffs, realising too late that they need to change their bearings to avoid catastrophe. This happens time and time again on the biggest occasions and it has to end.
Go on about UEFA corruption all you want. Go on about tough groups and unfair seeding and poor refereeing and bad luck, but the bottom line is that this was another in a line of unacceptable performances in Europe. City were once again embarrassing. Deeply, deeply embarrassing.
For a team made up of some of the finest players in world football, a team which has won every domestic trophy, a team made up of players valued in the tens of millions of pounds, tonight’s performance was completely unacceptable.
And it’s no one’s fault but our own.
City are not (technically) out yet and there is always a chance. Win the remaining three games and qualification might yet be on the table. Keep Aguero fit and qualification might be on the table. Get Kompany and Mangala on the same wavelength for a series of games and qualification might yet be on the table.
Personally I don’t believe City will get out of this group, but technically there is still hope. Maybe the lowered expectations will allow the players to express themselves a bit more in the return fixtures. Who knows?
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter