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UEFA Champions League

  • October 1, 2014
  • • 02:45
  • • Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Referee: B. Kuipers
  • • Attendance: 37509

Manchester City 1-1 Roma: Stalemate leaves Blues with uphill struggle

Manchester City 1-1 Roma: Stalemate leaves Blues with uphill struggle

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Manuel Pellegrini's men are three points adrift of Wednesday's opponents and five behind group E leaders Bayern Munich after playing out a tight draw at the Etihad Stadium

Manchester City are five points off the top of Champions League group E following a 1-1 draw at home to Roma.

The hosts enjoyed a near-perfect start on Tuesday as Sergio Aguero won and converted an early penalty before familiar frailties in Europe's premier competition reared their head once again.

By Paul Macdonald

It's a new campaign but same old problems for Manchester City in the Champions League.

This team have been given dispensation for three seasons now, the fact that they lack the kind of European experience that can only be derived over time.

That excuse has expired. This is a lavish team and they are not taking the necessary step forward. Roma were excellent, particularly the talented Miralem Pjanic, but they were allowed to be by City.

With one point from two matches, and Bayern Munich on maximum points, avoiding another group stage elimination will be an arduous task.

Their defence was rarely allowed to settle as Roma flowed forward and took complete control of midfield, with Miralem Pjanic to the fore.

The Bosnia international supplied the ammunition for Francesco Totti to find a 23rd-minute leveller with a brilliant clipped finish, becoming the oldest scorer in Champions League history in the process.

Although Roma failed to recreate their first-half dominance after the break, the draw does far more favours for them in the wake of an opening-day 5-1 victory over CSKA Moscow.

The Russian champions are up next for City, who are winless in two outings and yet to score from open play.

As expected, Joe Hart returned in goal for City in place of Willy Caballero after two games on the bench, while there was also a change in goal for Roma as Morgan De Sanctis (groin) failed a late fitness test, meaning Lukasz Skorupski was handed a rare start.

Experienced City centre-back Martin Demichelis replaced Eliaquim Mangala following the latter's shaky showing in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Hull City, facing up a Roma attack featuring Totti, Gervinho and Alessandro Florenzi.

Roma right-back Maicon returned to face his former club and displayed the inauspicious form on show all too often during his season at the Etihad Stadium when he hauled back Aguero to concede a fourth-minute penalty.

Aguero coolly converted to set his side on the way, but Maicon almost made amends at the other end when he flashed a venomous strike against the underside of the crossbar, and the Italians quickly set about their rivals.

That close call appeared to rob City of their early poise and Hart was out sharply in the 18th minute after Gervinho had evaded Vincent Kompany, but the equaliser was soon to arrive from a familiar source.

Totti spun in behind Kompany to collect a perfectly weighted pass from the excellent Pjanic and lifted a superb finish over Hart, who stumbled as he rushed from his goal.

Roma were fortunate not to concede a second penalty when a prone Kostas Manolas blocked Jesus Navas' cutback with his outstretched arm, but the visitors almost led after 43 minutes when Gervinho raced beyond Gael Clichy and Demichelis to draw a fine save from Hart.

James Milner replaced Navas at half-time as Manuel Pellegrini sought to stem Roma's midfield dominance, but Hart was again the goalkeeper in action seven minutes after the restart.

Florenzi's cross struck a flat-footed Demichelis and fell invitingly for Pjanic, with the England keeper spreading himself well to keep the scoreline level.

Pjanic then arched a curling 25-yard effort narrowly wide as City laboured, despite Milner injecting energy to proceedings.

City midfielder Fernandinho exchanged passes with Yaya Toure and the recently introduced Frank Lampard to prompt a vital last-ditch challenge from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in the 60th minute.

Five minutes later Pjanic lashed a shot over from the edge of the area - a moment of wastefulness out of keeping with his all-round display - before Skorupski got down well to his left to stop Lampard continuing a purple patch in front of goal.

David Silva prodded the ball narrowly wide in the third minute of injury time, but City have plenty to do if they are to avoid a third group-stage exit in four seasons.

Bayern Munich's 1-0 win in Moscow earlier on Tuesday leaves Pep Guardiola's side on six points, with Roma in second with four points from their first two matches.