Toure temperament costs City in Champions League Moscow madness
Manuel Pellegrini may have talked about a “crisis of confidence” following yet another joyless evening for Manchester City in the Champions League, but the blame for their latest defeat lies squarely at the door of senior players.
Yaya Toure and Gael Clichy, two of the Etihad outfit’s impressive performers in the Manchester derby victory, quickly turned from heroes to villains. In the case of Ivorian midfield powerhouse Toure, this latest outing was a particularly Jekyll and Hyde display.
Failing to mark compatriot and CSKA Moscow striker Seydou Doumbia from a set piece inside two minutes was a poor start for Toure. Clichy can at least feel aggrieved by the harsh award of the free kick that led to this opening goal, as his handball came from a practically point blank range.
Toure redeemed himself a few minutes later, however, when his dead ball delivery spoiled yet another Champions League clean sheet for CSKA and Russia number one Igor Akinfeev. It’s been eight years in Europe’s elite club competition since he and his Moscow teammates shut out opposition.
Stevan Jovetic had drawn a particularly crude challenge from Vassili Berezutskiy, which allowed Toure the chance to step up and make amends for his earlier error. Doumbia’s danger up the other end remained clear and present throughout, first popping up between City’s centre halves before firing wide.
Akinfeev then had to be on hand to twice snuff out Sergio Aguero, as Toure and James Milner combined to thread the Argentina attacker through with his first chance. With 10 minutes to go before the break, however, City fell behind again.
Doumbia fired in at the near post when Natcho found him following Clichy’s poor clearance, which only aided CSKA’s counter-attack. Pellegrini reacted to being behind at half time by throwing on Fernandinho and Samir Nasri.
It’s harsh to judge French creator Nasri, who is feeling his way back from groin surgery, but Brazil midfielder Fernandinho contrived to pick up two bookings for blocking opposition players off. Such a cheap way to ensure an early bath.
Toure, meanwhile, went down easily in the Moscow penalty area, with nothing doing from the referee other than a yellow for a retribution foul on Pontus Wernbloom, with the Swede having stopped the City midfielder in full flow during the first half.
Down to 10 men for the last 20 minutes, a mist then descended over Manchester and over protagonist Toure. He reacted with a hand in the face of Roman Eremenko, so was free to join Fernandinho in the dressing room.
Pellegrini now faces a battle with Bayern Munich, who have won Group E, without two key midfield players. There is still a slim possibility that City, 9/2 with Coral, could confound everyone and qualify from a pool which also contains Roma, but Pep Guardiola will fancy his chances with his Allianz outfit visiting Manchester next.