Manchester City’s second successive away victory in the Champions League group stage was overshadowed by the chilling sound of monkey chants directed at Yaya Touré coming from a section of CSKA Moscow supporters during the second half.
The Ivorian midfielder called on Uefa to take strong action as City officials confirmed they will make an official written complaint after clearly audible racist chants emanated from behind one of the goals at Moscow’s Arena Khimki as Manuel Pellegrini’s side attempted to hold on to their slender lead late in the game. During the game, Touré raised the issue with referee, Ovidiu Hategan of Romania, but play was allowed to continue as City eventually wrapped up the win that takes them a significant step closer to qualifying for the last 16.
In May Uefa changed the sanctions for racist chanting with a first offence punished by a partial closure of the guilty club’s ground and permanent stadium closure for repeat offenders. However, Lazio, despite several trangressions in the past year, had their punishment for racist chanting during a game in September downgraded from two Europa League matches behind closed doors to the closure of just one stand at their next Serie A home game. Despite this, the two-time African Player of the Year remained unequivocal in his plea to Europe’s governing body.
“I was quite disappointed, for them to do that again was unbelievable and really, really sad,” Touré said. “Some songs from the crowd were quite stupid but I think Uefa has to do something because every time we say something and they continue [to chant]. I told the ref. I think it was unbelievable. We want to stop that.”
Asked what punishments he would like to see imposed, Touré added: “A lot. I think maybe close the stadium, maybe for a couple of games. As an African player, it is always sad when you hear something like that.”
Manager Pellegrini claimed he was unaware of the abuse, but Touré’s view was quickly endorsed by club captain Vincent Kompany, who missed the game in Russia with injury. The Belgium defender tweeted: “Racist chants again in Moscow today. We’ve all said enough. @UEFAcom, @GovernmentRF, CSKA, all eyes are on you now.. #StopRacism.”
The 2018 World Cup hosts Russia are already under the spotlight following several incidents of racism in recent years, although organisers have claimed that supporters’ attitudes towards black players are “not an issue” in the country.
The episode detracted from an otherwise outstanding result for a City side looking to banish two years of Champions League failure. Level on points in the group with their Russian opponents before kick-off and still smarting from their 3-1 home defeat to Bayern Munich last time out, Pellegrini’s side knew they dare not lose this game and the Chilean manager was grateful for the intervention of in-form Sergio Aguero after former Manchester United winger Zoran Tosic had given the reigning Russian champions the lead.
The Argentina striker equalised within 90 seconds before heading home from Alvaro Negredo’s cross three minutes before half-time to add to his two goals against West Ham on Saturday. That was City’s first Premier League away win of the season. This time they had Joe Hart to thank for a last-minute save to secure the win.
With the return fixture against CSKA up next in a fortnight and a home meeting with Czech side Viktoria Plzen still to come, Pellegrini’s side have one foot in the next round regardless of the result in the final group game at Bayern. By reaching the knockout stage, Pellegrini will have proved more successful than his predecessor Roberto Mancini, who failed on two attempts to get through.
“I’m very happy,” said Pellegrini. “This is not the last game but it is very important. Now we play the next games at home and can qualify if we win those games. I talked before the match with the players and said we must at least not lose it because then it would be very complicated. These three points do not put us in the next round but it is an important win.”
Man of match Aguero.
Match rating 9/10.
Referee Ovidiu Hategan (Romania).