Manchester City’s Champions League campaign reached crisis point as they were beaten by CSKA Moscow on a desperate night at Etihad Stadium.
Not only did they lose to two first-half goals from Seydou Doumbia, they also saw midfielders Fernandinho and Yaya Toure sent off after the break and ruled out of their next home game against Bayern Munich.
Toure had equalised Doumbia’s first goal but that was a rare high spot in a dismal performance by Manuel Pellegrini’s side, who simply cannot solve the Champions League puzzle.
City now have no wins and only two points from four group games and could still be eliminated even if they win their final two group games – against Bayern Munich and Roma.
They will be out before the final round of matches if they fail to beat Bayern and there is a winner in the match between CSKA and Roma.
And on the evidence produced so far, it is hard to see a team that mysteriously looks so ill-at-ease in this tournament turning their performances around to produce the results to qualify for the knock-out stages.
City’s fans were furious with Greek referee Tasos Sidiropolous at the final whistle, not only for the two red cards but also for a case of mistaken identity that spared CSKA’s Pontus Wernbloom a dismissal.
The bottom line, however, was that this was a shocking performance from the Premier League champions, especially in defence in the first half when they conceded the goals that condemned them to another defeat.
CSKA were without midfield man Zoran Tosic because of problems with his visa, but it was City bogeyman Doumbia who did the damage as he now has five goals against them in four Champions League games.
It was exactly a year ago, on Bonfire Night 2013, that Alvaro Negredo’s hat-trick gave City a 5-2 win here against CSKA, but this was a far cry from that as this performance summed up all the struggles they have had in this tournament.
City face a huge task against all odds to escape this group because nothing they have offered up in the Champions League suggests they will see off Bayern and Roma.
It will also leave Pellegrini facing awkward questions because their efforts this season suggest they have gone backwards in their attempt to challenge Europe’s elite.