AJAX 3, MANCHESTER CITY 1
Manchester City were stunned in the Amsterdam ArenA and look to be on the brink of another Champions League exit at the group stage as Ajax ran out 3-1 winners.
Samir Nasri opened the scoring against the run of play but goals by Siem De Jong, Niklas Moisander, and Christian Eriksen sealed a deserved win for the Dutch and left City with only point from three games in Group D.
There were signs of dissent in the City camp after defender Micah Richards appeared to criticise the defensive tactical changes deployed by manager Roberto Mancini who later admitted that City would need a miracle to qualify.
“I think we were beaten by a very good side and in the second half, after the second goal, we just crumbled. The lads are very disappointed with the way we played.” said Richards.
“It is something that we have not worked on very much and it is the second time we have conceded after going to a back three. We will have to work on it. We are happy just to play, but I think the players prefer a back four. It is what the manager wants.” he continued.
“It is hard. We want to come here and win and we’ll have to look to the next match and see what happens.”
Roberto Mancini took the blame for the defeat but denied that his tactical tinkering was the cause.
“Ajax played better than us.” conceded the Italian. “Congratulations to them.”
“In the Champions League when you have a chance when you don’t play well you need to score.” said Mancini as he again bemoaned City’s profligacy in front of goal.
“It’s my fault, we didn’t prepare well. I take all the blame.” conceded the Italian. “I thought the game would go one way but it was a different game.”
Mancini may have taken the blame for the performance but bristled at suggestions that his tactical tinkering was at fault.
“If you have spirit you can play in the Champions League. It’s not the tactics. We had eleven players on the pitch and I only changed to three at the back for five minutes.” claimed Mancini.
“There’s one team with seven points (Borussia Dortmund), one team with six (Real Madrid) and one with three (Ajax). It would be a miracle to qualify now.”
City will need to beat Borussia Dortmund away to have any chance of qualifying from Group D after the Germans beat Real Madrid to sit a point ahead of the Spanish side and crucially six points ahead of City in the table. Realistically the English champions may need to win all three of their remaining games to go through.
Defensive errors undermined what on-paper was a strong City line-up but once again they were outplayed once again away in Europe as their zonal marking system was undermined by individual errors.
Despite hardly featuring in the first half, City took the lead through a counter-attack after Richards found James Milner who fed Nasri on the overlap before the Frenchman scored. Ajax levelled shortly before half time after Gareth Barry failed to cut out Ricardo van Rhijn’s low cross allowing de Jong to curl a shot past Joe Hart leaving Vincent Kompany and Milner isolated.
Eriksen’s second-half corner was headed in by an unmarked Moisander with Joleon Lescott at fault before the Danish super-kid wrapped up the points by escaping Kompany and firing in a low shot which wrong-footed Hart after deflecting off Gael Clichy’s studs.
Mancini had to throw caution to the wind and chances started to arrive but Edin Dzeko spurned a late chance to pull one back after being put through by Sergio Aguero.