Mancini furious after Man City throw away 2-1 lead at Real
Two goals in last five minutes from Benzema and Ronaldo ruin City's dream start in Europe
Real Madrid 3 Manchester City 2. What a way to start the 2012-13 Champions League. Five goals, some thrilling football and a furious Roberto Mancini venting his spleen at the post-match press conference.
The City boss was clearly distraught at what he'd seen, and his temper boiled over when he learned Joe Hart had been bad-mouthing the team. "It's not on," the City and England keeper had muttered. "You can't go 2-1 up with five minutes to go and lose the game. Who else can we blame? We can only blame ourselves."
Told of Hart's criticism, Mancini snapped: "Joe Hart should stay in goal and make saves. If anyone should criticise the team it should be me, not Joe Hart. I am the judge, not Joe Hart."
In the cold light of day, however, Mancini will acknowledge the role Hart played in this white-knuckle encounter at the Bernabeu. He was outstanding, pulling off a string of saves from Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain in a rip-roaring first half.
The Spanish champions didn't help themselves with several wayward attempts on the besieged City goal, and when the visitors took the lead against the run of play on 69 minutes the tension rose several notches in the seething Spanish cauldron.
Yaya Toure, full of running throughout, created the opening and Eden Dzeko made no mistake with the finish, coolly drilling the ball past Iker Casillas for an improbable opening goal. Real Boss Jose Mourinho rung the changes and Real finally got the goal they craved on 76 minutes when Marcelo shook off the attentions of Vincent Kompany and his shot deflected off team-mate Javi Garcia to leave Hart helpless.
Back came City, however, countering with deadly effect despite being under the cosh and when Kolarov curled the ball into the Real net from a 25-yard free-kick to make it 2-1 the City fans went wild.
With five minutes on the clock City should have had the wherewithal to shut up shop but Real surged forward and on 87 minutes Karim Benzema turned Matija Nastasic inside out before thumping the ball into the bottom corner.
Two each but still this game had yet to run its course. Roared on by a frenzied 90,000 crowd, Ronaldo cut in from the left and unleashed a stinging drive. It was heading straight for the head of Kompany and the City skipper should have taken one for the team; instead he ducked and the ball dipped under Hart and into the City net.
Mourinho celebrated on the touchline as if he'd scored the winner himself while Mancini could only look on ashen-faced. "I don't know why he did that," he said later when asked about Kompany's act of self-preservation. "Usually he doesn't do this. It's difficult to take, and we cannot keep talking about a lack of experience with the players we have."
City's next fixture in the Group of Death is on 4 October at home to Borussia Dortmund, who last night beat Ajax 1-0, while Real travel to Amsterdam to take on the Dutch champions. "We have five [more group D] games and it is important that we beat Borussia Dortmund in the next game," reflected Mancini on his night of bitter disappointment.
Not for the last time in the Champions League, the last word belonged to Jose Mourinho. "We could have lost but we fought like animals," he said. "We showed what is in the DNA of Real Madrid."