Joleon Lescott concedes Champions League has been tough

 

Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott accepts the club's first Champions League campaign has proved a tough learning curve.

City's hopes of reaching the knockout stage are now out of their hands after a shattering 2-1 loss at Napoli last night.

Roberto Mancini's men have now fallen behind the Italians into third in Group A and need a huge turnaround in fortunes in the final round of fixtures to progress.

City must beat group winners Bayern Munich, to whom they have already lost, at the Etihad Stadium and hope eliminated Villarreal can collect their first point of the competition against Napoli.

Yet City, who have swept almost all before them on the domestic front so far this season, are at least looking at the situation pragmatically having never entertained unrealistic expectations.

England international Lescott said: "It is out of our hands now but we have got to focus on that Bayern game, when it comes around, to do our part.

"We are obviously going to go into that game positive, we know it is a must-win.

"But we knew it wasn't going to be easy - we looked at the group at the start.

"Napoli and ourselves were two fresh (Champions League) teams but Villarreal and Bayern are established teams.

"There were no easy games and the first game proved that, Napoli at home.

"Even though we hit the bar a few times it was still an exciting game and a good one to watch."

Lescott's thoughts were echoed by his defensive partner Vincent Kompany, the City captain.

The Belgian said: "We were in by far the hardest group of this Champions League.

"We were in pot three or pot four, so we were never going to be protected.

"That is the reason why we are still fighting for this - it is a tough group."

City made a patient start as they attempted to settle in the hostile atmosphere of Napoli's vast San Paolo Stadium.

But Napoli pegged them back with a series of swift counter-attacks and claimed the lead when Edinson Cavani met Ezequiel Lavezzi's corner with a glancing header that deflected in off Yaya Toure.

Mario Balotelli equalised after David Silva's shot was parried by Morgan de Sanctis but Cavani restored Napoli's lead by tucking away his second from an Andrea Dossena cross.

City kept De Sanctis alert as Balotelli, Silva, Aleksandar Kolarov and substitute Sergio Aguero went close but Napoli hit the post through Marek Hamsik and had numerous other chances.

City may have grown used to dominating after scoring 42 goals in 12 games to open up a five-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League but a different approach may be needed in Europe.

Lescott said: "There is no way you can point the finger.

"We are obviously disappointed to concede two goals, that is unlike us.

"But this is a hard place to come and get a result.

"We can't always expect to score three or four goals to win every game.

"Sometimes we need to be hard to beat. Obviously we had a lot of possession and maybe in the first half we could have gone in with a lead but it wasn't to be.

"In the second half they pressed us and got a good goal.

"The atmosphere was great, I wouldn't say it was intimidating. It was good. We knew they were loud.

"At the home leg there was only a thousand of them but they were vocal then. We knew it would be intense and it was."

Finishing third in the group, as now seems the most likely outcome, would put City into the latter stages of the Europa League in the new year.

But Kompany is not giving up hope of snatching that second spot yet.

He said: "In the end the most disappointing thing was just the result.

"It could have easily gone one or two goals more for them or one or two more for us.

"We have to hope for a good game from Villarreal but I am convinced we can win the next game, that is not a problem."

City must now switch their attention back to matters at home with a testing trip to Liverpool on Sunday followed by a Carling Cup quarter-final at Arsenal next week.

Midfielder James Milner said: "It was one of those nights for us.

"We need to make sure we pick ourselves up and go again on Sunday."

PA

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