Champions League: City continue continental stutter

Ross McLean
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Sergio Aguero scored City’s opening goal in Moscow

OPTIMISTIC Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini refused to accept the odds are now stacked against his side qualifying for the Champions League knockout phase despite surrendering a two-goal lead against CSKA Moscow in the Russian capital yesterday.

Israel’s Bibras Natkho held his nerve to convert a late penalty and complete the home side’s comeback after substitute Seydou Doumbia had halved the deficit following first-half strikes from the prolific Sergio Aguero and James Milner.

City face a battle to qualify after accruing just two points from their opening three group matches and trailing in the wake of European heavyweights Bayern Munich and Roma, although Pellegrini insists the task is far from unsurmountable.

“Of course I am confident we will qualify,” said Pellegrini. “Why are we outsiders? We have nine points to play for. After we have played those nine points we will see which team has the most points.”

City found themselves two goals to the good before the break, Aguero tapping home from Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko’s unselfish square ball before the Argentine’s scuffed effort across goal from Pablo Zabaleta’s neat header was converted by Milner.

Forced to play in an empty Arena Khimki following the racist behaviour of travelling CSKA fans in Rome in September, the hosts rallied and breached City’s defence on 64 minutes, Doumbia bundling home Ahmed Musa’s cross. And with only four minutes left, Aleksander Kolarov was judged to have fouled Doumbia, with Natkho earning his side a point.