The prospect of a second successive group-stage exit in the Champions League is staring Manchester City in the face after a 3-1 defeat at Ajax on Wednesday left them rock bottom of Group D.
The English champions were looking for their first win of the campaign, but despite taking the lead against the run of play through Samir Nasri, they fell to goals from Siem de Jong, Niklas Moisander and Christian Eriksen in Amsterdam.
The visitors finished the game with Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli all on the pitch, but by the full-time whistle they found themselves looking down the barrel of another autumn elimination. Ajax move into third place after claiming a first home win over English opposition since 1980, leaving City bottom of the pool with a solitary point to their name after three games.
Matters were compounded by Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 win at home to Real Madrid in the other group game. City now trail Dortmund by six points, Madrid by five points, and Ajax by two, and may need to win all three remaining games — starting with the return fixture against Ajax on November 7 — to stand any chance of going through.
“I think that they played better than us. They played better football,” crestfallen City coach Roberto Mancini told Sky Sports. “It’s probably my fault because I didn’t prepare the players well for this game. I accept fault for this defeat. When you prepare a game, you prepare it one way, you think it will be like this and sometimes, instead, it’s different.
“I think it’s very difficult now (for City to qualify).” Dzeko had been rewarded for his brace at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday with a starting place in the City attack, but neither he nor strike partner Aguero were given much to work with in the first half.
Eriksen, Ajax’s highly coveted Danish playmaker, helped the hosts pin City back, cracking a half-volley just off target in the ninth minute and then drilling wide from 20 yards after leaving Gareth Barry for dead.