Two goals from Seydou Doumbia either side of a Yaya Toure free kick gave CSKA Moscow a 2-1 victory over nine-man Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday, leaving the English champion bottom of Group E with two games remaining.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side trailed at halftime, and as it chased a much-needed victory in the second half of the match in an attempt to move closer to the knockout stages, it lost its discipline.
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Fernandinho, a halftime substitute, was sent off in the 70th minute for two bookable offences before Toure was dismissed 11 minutes later for pushing over Roman Eremenko in frustration at losing possession.
Pellegrini could not explain the underwhelming performance by his side.
”It’s very difficult to understand why we played so badly,” Pellegrini said. ”From the beginning we were so nervous and we gave them the two goals. Really, we didn’t play. The first half especially, we didn’t see the team we normally see. We didn’t shoot once at their goal, we just had Yaya’s free-kick, and we gave away two easy goals.”
City’s night began in the worst possible manner. Gael Clichy was penalized for blocking a cross with his hand, and Doumbia escaped the marking of Toure to head the resultant free kick from Bebras Natcho past Joe Hart to put CSKA ahead in the second minute.
Toure made amends for his defensive lapse six minutes later, curling a sublime free kick into the top corner from 25 yards out to quickly haul City level.
But CSKA continued to take the game to City, not allowing the host to build any momentum despite quickly levelling. Doumbia missed an opportunity to put the Russian side back into the lead in the 18th, shooting wide with only Hart left to beat.
Eventually, it reclaimed the advantage in the 34th minute when a lazy clearance from Clichy found Natcho, who threaded the ball into Doumbia and the striker made no mistake with his next chance, beating Hart from just inside the penalty area.
Fernandinho was a halftime substitute alongside Samir Nasri, but the Brazil midfielder’s evening lasted only 25 minutes. He received his first yellow for a foul on Alan Dzagoev in the 62nd, and eight minutes later had his second for obstructing Ahmed Musa.
But seven minutes later, CSKA should have been down to 10 men when Pontus Wernbloom, booked in the first half for fouling Toure, should have been carded again when he pulled Sergio Aguero’s shirt.
But referee Tasos Sidiropoulos mistakenly booked Sergei Ignashevich instead, much to the dismay of the City players. The players repeatedly remonstrated with Sidiropoulos but to no avail.
Their anguish only increased when Toure was red carded for needlessly shoving Eremenko five minutes later.
Despite being left with nine men, City still pushed forward in search of an equalizer and felt it should have had a penalty when Aguero burst into the penalty area in the last minute before tumbling over, but Sidiropoulos rushed over to book the Argentina striker for diving. Television replays showed it to be the correct decision.
City is bottom of the Group E standings with only two points, and faces Roma and Bayern Munich in its two remaining fixtures, while CSKA is third with four points.
Pellegrini refused to comment on the Fernandinho and Toure red cards, but said he needs to get a better performance from his side if it is to reach the knockout stages of the competition.
”It’s a crisis of confidence, of course, I don’t understand why but we must find a reason, talk with the players every day and try to win again,” Pellegrini said.