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Thursday 14 December 2017

city now in uphill battle to qualify

Totti strike denies Blues as Scholes scolds crowd

Manchester City were left facing another uphill battle to advance in the Champions League after an unconvincing 1-1 draw at home to Roma.

Sergio Aguero's fourth-minute penalty was cancelled out by a superbly-taken equaliser from the evergreen Francesco Totti in a clash at the Etihad Stadium dominated by the Italian side.

The result left City third with just one point from their opening two games in Group E and already five behind leaders Bayern Munich. They next face CSKA Moscow in crucial back-to-back games starting with a trip to the Russian capital in three weeks.

"We hope the next game in Russia we can win and we will see what happens against Bayern Munich," said manager Manuel Pellegrini.

"We have 12 more points to fight (for) and we will fight to the end to try and qualify."

City started at a high tempo and were almost immediately rewarded as their former defender Maicon pulled back Aguero in the box.

The Argentinian tucked home the resulting spot-kick but City failed to build on the early advantage.

Maicon served warning of Roma's attacking threat by almost instantly making amends with a shot that crashed off the bar.

Totti's sublime leveller, which at the age of 38 made him the oldest goalscorer in Champions League history, eclipsing Ryan Giggs, was deserved and came as little surprise.

The Serie A side, for whom former England defender Ashley Cole was playing his first match in his homeland since moving abroad, then created numerous further chances.

City's Joe Hart was the busier of the two goalkeepers. He saved well from Gervinho while Miralem Pjanic spurned a hat-trick of chances.

CHANCES

But the hosts did finish strongly with David Silva and substitutes Stevan Jovetic and Frank Lampard having chances and Pellegrini thought the result was fair.

He said: "We didn't play well, especially in the first half. We improved in the second half but I think the draw was the real (right) thing for both teams."

City might also consider themselves unlucky not to have been awarded a second penalty when a Jesus Navas pull-back clearly touched the hand of Kostas Manolas.

"It's a never-ending story for us in Europe - penalty, not penalty," said captain Vincent Kompany, referring to perceived past injustices.

"It's not gone our way, let's be honest.

"Eventually, and I am still waiting for it, we will get decisions going our way, so let's all be ready for it."

Cole felt the visitors, who now have four points, could easily have come away with victory.

The former Chelsea left-back said: "Maybe we should have won but the boys can be proud of themselves for going up against the champions, a great team.

"We're probably a bit disappointed we didn't win but it's a good point for us."

Meanwhile, former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes has strongly criticised the atmosphere at the Etihad Stadium, which attracted a crowd of just 37,509.

Scholes, who was working as a pundit for ITV, said: "At quarter-past seven, there's empty seats everywhere.

"When you come here it just doesn't have a European night feel to it. You go to Liverpool, you go to Old Trafford, you go to Chelsea, they have a special feeling for it.

"I don't think they realise what a big game this is.

"They've got the team, they've definitely got the players, the quality is definitely there, but do the crowd realise how lucky they are to be in this competition? I don't think they do."

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