Manchester City stumbles vs. CSKA in front of empty arena, in CL peril
MOSCOW (AP) — Manchester City was left struggling in the Champions League on Tuesday after squandering a two-goal lead and conceding a late penalty to draw 2-2 at CSKA Moscow in an empty stadium.
Goals from Sergio Aguero and James Milner gave City a comfortable two-goal lead by halftime at Arena Khimki, where CSKA was made to play behind closed doors as punishment for racist behavior by its fans.
CSKA substitute Seydou Doumbia pulled one back in the 65th minute off a cross from Ahmed Musa and Bibras Natcho leveled in the 86th from the penalty spot after Doumbia was fouled by Aleksandar Kolarov. Having had the match under control, the result leaves City third in Group E with two points from three games. City is four points off leader Bayern Munich and two behind second-placed AS Roma, who play each other later Tuesday.
"Of course I'm very disappointed," City coach Manuel Pellegrini said. "It seemed so easy after the first half."
He added that City now needed to show the free-scoring form that has taken it to second place in the English Premier League in its final three group matches.
"I said today we must win the last four games. I think really we were very near to winning this game, but things like this happen in football," he said. "Now there are nine points more to play for, so I hope we will see the team that you saw in the first half and the team that you see in the Premier League."
On a freezing night, City went ahead in the 29th minute when David Silva played Edin Dzeko through with a fine chipped pass and the Bosnian laid the ball off for Aguero to score. The Argentine then turned provider for City's second goal nine minutes later, picking up a Pablo Zabaleta header and sending the ball toward the far post, where Milner tapped it in.
CSKA ventured forward more after the break, substituting a defender for Doumbia. The home team was rewarded when the Ivory Coast striker steered home a cross by Musa. Doumbia was also involved in the equalizer, when the referee ruled he was tripped by Kolarov. CSKA's Israeli midfielder Natcho stepped up to take the spot-kick in the 86th minute, putting the ball just beyond the reach of Joe Hart.
Late on, CSKA came close to a winner when Musa worked his way into a good position, but his shot went wide of the post. City has failed to advance from the Champions League group stage in two of the last three seasons. CSKA is fourth in Group E with one point after ending a run of six defeats in Champions League games stretching back to last season.
CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky said he was "very pleased" with the result after coming into the game with "a difficult team situation" due to injuries.
Almost a year to the day after CSKA fans abused City's Yaya Toure with monkey chants, the match was played without fans as part of CSKA's punishment for racist behavior and violence by fans in last month's 5-1 defeat to Roma. That was CSKA's third case of racism in less than a year and prompted a UEFA punishment of three home games in an empty stadium and two away games without CSKA fans.
However, around 200 CSKA fans were in the stadium, apparently having obtained tickets intended for sponsors. Many more CSKA fans gathered outside the stadium to support their team and their chants were audible from inside the ground.