Manchester City vs. Real Madrid: Final Score 1-1, City limp out of the Champions League

Michael Regan

Manchester City were disappointing as they crashed out of the Champions League in the group stages for a second season running as they drew against Real Madrid.

Manchester City's Champions League campaign: it ends not with a bang, not even with a whimper, but something even worse: Sergio Aguero being substituted for James Milner.

Proceedings had gotten off to a terrible start for City, with Karim Benzema allowed to put Real Madrid ahead after just nine minutes. It was dreadful defending, but even worse, it stemmed from City's 3-at-the-back system, Angel Di Maria having acres of space to put in his cross for Benzema, who escaped the attention of the daydreaming Maicon at the back post.

The situation became even grimmer for City as Dortmund took the lead against Ajax in Amsterdam, and it almost got a lot worse for the hosts. Cristiano Ronaldo was in imperious form, first bamboozling Vincent Kompany twice to deliver two fine crosses to Sami Khedira, but the German midfielder could only direct a header and a shot wide. Shortly afterwards, Ronaldo ought to have made it 2-0 when played in on goal, but allowed himself to be dispossessed before having a follow-up effort blocked.

Manchester City, after regaining their composure, began to have a few efforts of their own. Sergio Aguero forced Iker Casillas into a fine save after attempting to curl one in from 25 yards, before Roberto Mancini admitted defeat in his tactical experimentation and switched back to a 4-2-3-1. The results were instant, as Maicon took advantage of the cover on the wing to drive infield and narrowly send a shot wide of the goal. City's defence also improved, as they managed to halt the Real attacks until the end of the half.

With City able to control the game, things quietened down, but they were also unable to force the issue. Javi Garcia's introduction at Aleksandr Kolarov's expense was an overdue one, though it was Maicon who continued to provide the threat. He set up a perfect chance for Sergio Aguero to score the equaliser, but the Argentina contrived to put the ball directly at Iker Casillas from close range.

City were soon to get a stroke of luck, however. Referee Gianluca Rocchi had attracted Mourinho's ire before after the Portuguese boss accused him of "wanting Inter to lose" when his side won a derby despite an amazing 3 red cards, and he did not endear himself to the away fans all evening. After letting Manchester City away with a string of fouls, the Italian then gave City a questionable penalty after Alvaro Arbeloa appeared to lose his footing in the box, with Sergio Aguero going down with him. Arbeloa was duly sent off, and Aguero coolly dispatched the penalty to give City a late shout.

Yet the prospect of scoring against a Jose Mourinho team determined to keep the scoreline as it is is never an easy one, and City proved unable to penetrate the Madrid defence for the remainder of the match. With the visitors focused on defending, City barely enjoyed another chance, Yaya Toure driving an effort over the bar to go the closest. It is a result which will cast serious doubts over Roberto Mancini's ability as a manager, and in particular his ability to get the best out of this City side. His mistakes were obvious - the continued experiment with a formation which has proved disastrous, and starting Edin Dzeko and dropping Javi Garcia in a game of such intensity. Roberto Di Matteo may not be the only trophy-winning boss in blue to see the exit this week.

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