Pellegrini puzzled by ‘nervous’ performance as desperate City’s European bid hangs by thread

Manuel Pellegrini was at a loss to explain Manchester City’s poor performance as they were beaten by CSKA Moscow to all but end their Champions League hopes.

DOWN: Manchester City's Yaya Toure shows his frustration on Wednesday night against CSKA Moscow at the Etihad Stadium.

Seydou Doumbia’s brace condemned City to a 2-1 defeat, despite Yaya Toure’s free-kick. City then had midfield pair Fernandinho and Toure sent off in the second half.

The result left them with just two points from four games and bottom of Group E.

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Former City forward Niall Quinn, part of Sky Sports’ punditry team, claimed City’s players “let a good manager down” and showed “a lack of passion, a lack of courage really”.

Pellegrini was more moderate in his assessment, saying: “It’s very difficult to understand why we played so badly.

“From the beginning we were so nervous and we gave them the two goals.

“Really, we didn’t play.

“The first half especially, we didn’t see the team we normally see. We didn’t shoot once at their goal, we just had Yaya’s free-kick, and we gave away two easy goals.

“It’s a strange moment to understand why it happened. I don’t think it’s just this competition, the last two weeks we are not playing the way we normally do.

“It’s a crisis of confidence, of course, I don’t understand why but we must find a reason, talk with the players every day and try to win again.”

Pellegrini would not be drawn on the two dismissals, saying simply: “It’s the referee that has to decide about that.”

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho admitted his side paid the price for a lacklustre first half as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Champions League minnows Maribor.

The Blues could have increased their advantage at the top of Group G to five points with two games to play had they won in the Slovenian city but they fell behind when Agim Ibraimi curled into the top corner after 50 minutes.

Nemanja Matic equalised after 73 minutes and although the Blues dominated in the final half hour, they were thwarted by the excellent Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic, who made several brilliant saves including keeping out Eden Hazard’s late penalty.

Yet despite finishing strongly, it was a opening half performance which disappointed Mourinho.

“The first half we were poor, in the second half after their goal we played very well and normally we should win the game but when you don’t play well for 90 minutes you risk,” he said.

“In the last 30 minutes when we played really well, intense and creative and had a big desire to win we had lots of chances to do it, their goalkeeper was magnificent.”

The Portuguese reacted to a forgettable opening 45 minutes by making a double change at half-time, bringing on Diego Costa and Oscar for Andre Schurrle and Willian in an effort to spice things up.

“I wasn’t happy with the team and I was not happy with the performance. I changed at half-time with the conviction that the team was going to improve which I was proven right,” Mourinho added.

“But they scored and when they scored their belief was higher. (But) we created lots of chances and their goalkeeper was really, really good.”