Manchester City saviour Sergio Aguero rescued another faltering European adventure in the Russian capital as his late double sunk CSKA Moscow. The hosts had led through Zoran Tosic, but they then fell victim to the Argentine attacker.
Much was made of the dyed green pitch with patches of sand before a ball was kicked, but racist chanting directed towards Yaya Toure marred the match.
CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky made two changes from the defeat at Zenit St Petersburg with Igor Akinfeev returning in goal and Seydou Domubia replacing Ahmed Musa in attack.
Manuel Pellegrini meanwhile brought Pablo Zabaleta, Jesus Navas and Aleksandar Kolarov into the XI that started the 3-1 away weekend win at West Ham. Micah Richards, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy all dropped to the bench.
City failed to make the most of early opportunities. First David Silva’s corner was flicked across goal by Aguero, but Toure failed to get any contact at the back post. Argentina striker Aguero then attempted an overhead kick from a Zabaleta centre, but couldn’t pull it off.
Slutsky was forced into a bizarre early change when one Berezutskiy brother came on for the other. Vasili sprinted off the pitch on six minutes, throwing doubt over him being injured as Aleksei replaced him.
A frail City defence was so nearly undone by Doumbia, but Matija Nastasic put in a fine last-ditch tackle to deny him. The visitors’ soft centre was exploited again after half an hour, however, when CSKA went ahead through former Manchester United winger Tosic.
Diminutive Japanese star Keisuke Honda, linked heavily with a January move to AC Milan, somehow won a header from a long punt upfield. This baffled the City rear-guard and Tosic lobbed Hart.
The hosts’ lead lasted barely two minutes though. Aguero profited as Sergei Ignashevich slipped when trying to clear a Silva cross. City fell behind, drew level and then completed the turnaround in a ten-minute spell before half time.
Aguero bravely headed Alvaro Negredo’s flicked cross on the turn home ahead of the onrushing Akinfeev. The Russian goalie redeemed this error on the stroke of half time when he tipped away a Silva free kick.
Pellegrini’s City had the ball in the CSKA net for a third time moments after the break through Negredo, but he used his hand, so the referee ruled it out. Replays showed the yellow card that accompanied this was harsh as the centre from Navas came at the Spanish striker quickly.
Doumbia led the CSKA charge to try and level, but threw himself to the floor theatrically when challenged by Javi Garcia. The Ivorian frontman escaped punishment and later worked Hart with a header across goal, which the England number one well held.
Akinfeev palmed over another free kick from Toure, the subject of racist abuse from the Moscow crowd. Sub Musa then thought he had brought CSKA level with an empathic strike, but it was ruled out for a foul in the build-up. This was something of a let-off for City.
Hart then had to save superbly with his calf from Honda at the death to preserve a vital win for Pellegrini. This was extremely tough in difficult conditions, but City came through. Up next are Chelsea. Garcia’s torrid time at centre back may see him dropped on Sunday.
- CSKA: 35 Igor Akinfeev (c), 14 Kirill Nababkin, 24 Vasili Berezutskiy (6 Aleksei Berezutskiy 6’), 4 Sergei Ignashevich, 42 Georgi Schennikov, 23 Georgi Milanov, 3 Pontus Wernbloom, 21 Zoran Tosic, 7 Keisuke Honda, 8 Steven Zuber (18 Ahmed Musa 50’), 88 Seydou Doumbia 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Zoran Tosic 32’
- Man City: 1 Joe Hart, 5 Pablo Zabaleta, 14 Javi Garcia, 33 Matija Nastasic, 13 Aleksandar Kolarov, 42 Yaya Toure (c), 25 Fernandinho, 15 Jesus Navas, 16 Sergio Aguero (22 Gael Clichy 89’), 21 David Silva (8 Samir Nasri 79’), 9 Alvaro Negredo (10 Edin Dzeko 72’) 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Sergio Aguero 34’, 42’