Mancini's quest for European domination ends with a whimper

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The Independent Online

A year after a rather more glorious failure in their first attempt at scaling the Champions League mountain, Manchester City were last night forced to give up on what had become an unlikely try at scrambling up the foothills to the Europa League.

A victory would have qualified them, as third-placed Ajax were never in contention to win away to Real Madrid, and against an under-strength Borussia Dortmund the possibility was there at least until just before the hour, when the reserve striker Julian Schieber scored the only goal.

The German champions could, however, easily have added to that and although City were comfortable in the first half they rarely looked like scoring even towards the end after three attacking substitutions.

In the cold light of Wednesday morning after an even colder night at the Westfalenstadion in the Ruhr industrial area, finishing bottom may not seem such a bad thing, Roberto Mancini having already hinted that he would have fielded a virtual second team in Europe so as not to distract from the main objective of retaining the Premier League title.

That target will come back into focus immediately as City begin preparing for Sunday's huge derby at home to Manchester United. There appeared to be no new injuries, which was one blessing.

There was an end-of-term air about the home side. The team indulged in some extravagant moments like the centre-half Mats Hummels beating three men in a run from the back but overall they were not as fluent as normal, probably because of the half-dozen changes from Saturday's 1-1 draw at Bayern.

It might have been seen as an illustration of Dortmund's approach that at half-time they gave Reus a rest and brought on Jakob Blaszczykowski in his familiar position wide on the right. Within 12 minutes, however, they had forced four good chances and scored from the last of them.Hummels, stretching, was almost on the end of Schmelzer's free-kick and Ivan Perisic's exciting volley from 20 yards was pushed over by Joe Hart, who then had to go low to his left to save from Kevin Grosskreutz.

Finally, in the 57th minute Blaszczykowski crossed low from the right for Schieber to slide in a goal that suddenly looked as though it had been coming. Carlos Tevez, City's best player, and then sub Sergio Aguero had shots beaten out by Roman Weidenfeller but Dortmund kept the pressure on by sending for Robert Lewandowski , who forced Hart – a hero in the 1-1 draw in Manchester – into a brave block near the end. World domination once again seemed a long, long way away.