MANCHESTER: Jose Mourinho had already made up his mind. Before the game he insisted that Manchester City were already, effectively, out of the Champions League. He was right. A 1-1 draw at Eastlands sent Madrid into the knockout stage and condemned City to the exit door from the group round for the second successive season.
A consolation for Mourino’s opposite number, Roberto Mancini, was the assurance that such an outcome will not mean dismissal any time soon. City’s Abu Dhabi owners have more patience than Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich but they will expect Mancini to win the Premier League for them again, at the least.
Mancini entrusted pursuit of the near-impossible to Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian has been mostly as a substitute this season but this time he started up front alongside Sergio Aguero with Carlos Tevez on the subs’ bench and Mario Balotelli absent from the squad entirely.
Mancini has confused his own defenders this season with a three-man defence and now he changed his mind again. This time he named five defenders in a curious line-up which saw Samir Nasri partnering Yaya Toure in the heart of midfield with Aleksandar Kolorov and Maicon as the wing-backs.
Not that it made any immediate difference. Inside 10 minutes all City’s defenders stood still, waiting for someone else to take responsibility, as Karim Benzema sneaked in behind them all to put Madrid into the lead.
The Spanish champions could been have four goals clear at the interval. Sami Khedira might have scored a hat-trick inside the opening 20 minutes before City reorganised their forces, went to a conventional four-man defence and began finding more space up to give Sergio Aguero the occasional attempt at goal.
City raised the pace of their game in the second half and deserved their penalty equaliser from Sergio Aguero. Madrid were reduced to 10 men by the expulsion of Alvaro Arbeloa but held on comparatively comfortably for the draw which took them into the knockout stage, behind Borussia Dortmund.
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