City lose cool, stay on edge

Sports

GRAHAM DUNBAR

The most compelling Champions League group delivered more drama on Tuesday as Manchester City and Real Madrid both scored late equalisers in separate 2-2 home draws. Premier League champion Man City dodged elimination when Sergio Aguero's 74th-minute goal completed a comeback started by Yaya Toure after Ajax had taken a 2-0 lead by the 17th minute.

Mancini, who was rewarded for winning the English title with a five-year contract, will do well to avoid a second straight group-stage exit. Ajax exploited slack defending at corners when Siem de Jong struck with a shot from a tight angle in the 10th and the captain followed up with a powerful near-post header in the 17th.

Toure cut the deficit five minutes later with a scissor-kick volley, and Mancini sent on Balotelli as a substitute for the second half. The Italian forward flicked a header into Aguero's path for the Argentine to shoot across goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer and into the far corner of the goal.

Angry scenes

DEEP into stoppage time, Balotelli fell to the floor trying to turn and shoot as defender Ricardo van Rhijn tugged at his left arm. Referee Rasmussen immediately blew the final whistle and was pursued by angry City players, who were joined by Mancini wagging a finger at the match officials.

The action continued after the final whistle when coach Roberto Mancini and several players surrounded Danish referee Peter Rasmussen to argue that Mario Balotelli should have been awarded a penalty in a last desperate attack. Aguero had also had a late strike disallowed for offside. "The referee and the linesman were really poor. It was a penalty and it was a goal,'' Mancini said.

Madrid twice trailed against group leader Borussia Dortmund and relied on Mesut Oezil to level in the 89th minute. With two games left, Dortmund has eight points, the Spanish giant has seven and Man City, last, with just two points, must beat both to have a chance of advancing.

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