MANCHESTER City boss Manuel Pellegrini admitted his side are suffering a crisis of confidence after defeat to Russian champions CSKA Moscow at the Etihad Stadium last night left their Champions League hopes dangling by a thread.
CSKA hitman Seydou Doumbia enhanced his status as the scourge of the Etihad with a double strike – taking his tally to five goals in four matches against City – either side of Yaya Toure’s leveller before he and Fernandinho were both sent off.
If Pellegrini’s side fail to beat Bayern Munich at home in their next group game and either CSKA or Roma record victory in the other fixture then City will be dumped out of Europe.
The reigning Premier league champions have now lost three of their last four matches in all competitions and face Champion League elimination in the group stage for the third time in four attempts, with Pellegrini unable to explain the extent of his side’s alarming slump.
“It is a crisis of confidence of course but we must find why,” said Pellegrini.
“It is difficult to understand why we play so bad. From the beginning we were so nervous that we lose so many passes and give their two goals and really we didn’t play. It is difficult to know why we had such low performances from important players.
“I don’t think it is just this competition. In the last two weeks we are not playing the way we normally do. I don’t understand why but we must find the reason.”
Pellegrini had barely taken his seat when Doumbia gave CSKA an early lead, deceiving the attentions of Toure to head home unmarked following Bibras Natkho’s free-kick from the right-hand side of the penalty area.
Toure made amends and hauled City level on eight minutes when he nonchalantly whipped the ball over the wall and beyond the outstretched dive of Igor Akinfeev, finding the top corner of the CSKA net from 25 yards.
But City’s disjointed performance continued and the visitors regained the lead shortly after the half-hour mark, Natkho sliding the ball through for Doumbia to finish past Hart following Gael Clichy’s wayward clearance.
Half-time substitute Fernandinho was shown his second yard card for blocking Ahmed Musa on the edge of the City box, while CSKA appeared to benefit from a case of mistaken identity when Greek referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos cautioned Sergei Ignashevich as opposed to the already booked Pontus Wernbloom for tugging back Aguero.
And City’s task became mission impossible when they were reduced to nine men with eight minutes remaining after Toure shoved Roman Eremenko to the ground.