Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta baffled by Euro failure

Zabaleta is puzzled as to why City have failed to win any of their first five Group D games

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is at a loss to explain the team's latest Champions League disappointment.

City's 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday condemned the Premier League winners to elimination before the knockout stages for a second successive season.

As with last year, City faced a tough group, drawn against the might of Real as well as two other domestic champions in Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.

But with City boasting plenty of world-class talent of their own, Zabaleta is puzzled as to why they have failed to win any of their first five Group D games.

The Argentina international said: "We are obviously a bit disappointed about the result as we needed three points.

"It was our last chance to get close enough to Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, and play the last game with an option to go through to the next stage.

"Now, the chance has gone and it's hard to understand.

"It's the second year in a row that this has happened - it's hard to see, when you see the players that we have.

"The group was very tough. Borussia Dortmund did very well and maybe Real Madrid were the second best team in the group and that's why we didn't qualify for the next round."

City remain bottom of the group with just three points and will now battle it out with Ajax for a consolation spot in the Europa League.

To achieve that they will need to win their final game at Dortmund, who are confirmed as group winners, and hope that Ajax do not beat Real at the Bernabeu.

There is a feeling among some observers that City might now be better served in their quest to retain the Premier League title by being out of Europe altogether.

But Zabaleta feels they must make the most of any opportunity to play on the continental stage.

The 27-year-old said: "We expected more. When you see the squad that we have, you want to try to go through to the next round.

"Now we have a chance to qualify for the Europa League.

"It is always good to play in Europe. That was not our target at the beginning but now we need to go to Germany and beat Borussia Dortmund and wait for the result between Real Madrid and Ajax."

City needed to beat Real to retain any hope of reaching the last 16 but their hopes were almost killed off in the opening half-hour as Real frequently tore through their defence.

Karim Benzema struck after 10 minutes and the visitors had a handful of other gilt-edged chances as City again looked uncomfortable playing in a 3-5-2 formation.

City finally began to gain a foothold in the game after manager Roberto Mancini reverted to flat back four and they equalised with a second-half Sergio Aguero penalty following Alvaro Arbeloa's sending off.

Aguero went close to a second but was denied by a brilliant point-blank save from Iker Casillas and the hosts failed to take several other chances.

Zabaleta, who began the game as a right wing-back but moved to left-back in the reshuffle, said: "We started the game really slowly with some defensive problems, and then we changed to 4-4-2 as we felt more comfortable with that system.

"We conceded three or four chances at the beginning of the game and that cost us a goal.

"In the second half we showed a different spirit, created more chances and maybe deserved a second goal - but we didn't get it."

City showed similar spirit to come from 2-0 down to draw their previous game against Ajax, when again they were left to rue defensive lapses.

They must quickly put their disappointment behind them as they travel to title rivals Chelsea in the Premier League this weekend.

City are waiting on an update on the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany, who could be doubtful for the trip to Stamford Bridge with a knee injury.

Kompany was hurt in a challenge with Cristiano Ronaldo 10 minutes from time against Real but battled through to full time.

He underwent lengthy treatment after returning to the dressing room and was due to have further assessment.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power