Manchester City crash out of Champions League after Real draw

At least Manchester City spared themselves another defeat on their way out of the Champions League. They salvaged a point, and a modicum of pride, from a match that had threatened to run away from them early on and, through their perseverance, they walked off to sympathetic applause. When the opposition was Gillingham 14 years ago to the night, the crowd can be fairly forgiving if the modern-day City find Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo et al tough going.

It was, however, another galling night for a club of this ambition, laying bare their shortcomings at this level. They have taken three points from five games and, for a good hour, they were outplayed so comprehensively it was reckless from Madrid's perspective that all they had to show for it was Karim Benzema's 10th-minute goal.

The penalty Sergio Agüero put past Iker Casillas after 74 minutes was generous in the extreme, and it probably says more about how City have done in the Champions League that they seldom threatened to take advantage of the fact Alvaro Arbeloa was sent off in the process. The late onslaught that might have been anticipated never really materialised. Madrid saw out the game with little problem and, tactically, this was not Mancini's greatest night, experimenting with a three-man defence only to rip it up and start again in the midst of a first-half blitz. Without a hint of exaggeration, José Mourinho's team could have scored half a dozen times inside that period.

At least Mancini was willing to change his 3-4-1-2 formation when it was patently not working. On the other hand, it was basically an admission of failure from the manager. Mancini had tried to outwit Mourinho with his tactics and, barely a quarter of the way through the game, the City manager was ordering a switch back to an orthodox back four.

The cold, harsh reality was that Madrid had made light work of their opponents at the start. City, in fact, may never have had a more dishevelled 20 minutes under Mancini than they did after Benzema's goal. Even in the second half, when there was a noticeable improvement, it had to be balanced by the fact that Madrid had started to play within themselves, operating on the counterattack. Joe Hart, reflecting on City's place at the bottom of Group D, said the team had surprised themselves in "a very, very bad way". Mancini argued it was "crazy" to think a team could win the Champions League at their second attempt but, equally, it must be galling not to be able to reflect on a solitary victory. All they have left is a game against Borussia Dortmund and the possibility of a place in the Europa League. On this evidence, it is only an outside chance.

To give them their due, City did recover from a terrible start. Agüero was full of hard running and Mourinho nodded his head approvingly afterwards when asked about David Silva's performance. Samir Nasri, however, was on the edges. Yaya Touré could not find his usual authority and Edin Dzeko, starting ahead of Carlos Tevez, did little to repel the sense he will be back on the bench at Chelsea on Sunday.

The opening exchanges were brutal. Sami Khedira flashed one shot wide, did the same with a header and saw a third effort saved by Hart. Matija Nastasic hooked one off the goalline after Ronaldo had run clear. Ronaldo was a heartless opponent. The crowd booed him in some moments; in others the noise when he was on the ball was a sharp, collective intake of breath.

Benzema had struck from close range, with the marking almost non-existent, and once again we saw that expression Mancini wears when his defence has been guilty of a severe form of sloppiness. He was smiling, but he was also striding towards the edge of the pitch to eyeball the offenders. Maicon, starting the match as right wing-back, was the defender who let Benzema run free to turn in Angel di María's deep cross, but none of the three centre-halves had been alert to it either. Benzema was alone, inside the six-yard area, when he applied the final touch.

City improved after Mancini brought on Tevez for Nasri after the hour to make a three-man frontline. Even so, the Italian referee, Gianluca Rocchi, was wrong to decide that Arbeloa had fouled Agüero for the penalty. The unfortunate Arbeloa was shown a second yellow card when the first, for another foul on Agüero, was actually committed by Xabi Alonso. Mancini's team, however, seldom troubled the 10 men and Mourinho enjoyed his moment against an old adversary. It was, he said, "incredible" a club with City's resources had not qualified two years in a row.

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