Roberto Mancini risks seeing the remains of Manchester City's Champions League campaign from the stands after a furious confrontation with the referee in the wake of last night's frantic 2-2 draw with Ajax.
Uefa are likely to punish Mancini with a touchline ban after he strode across the pitch to criticise the referee, Peter Rasmussen, who had disallowed what would have been Sergio Aguero's winner three minutes from time.
Mario Balotelli, who had been thrown on as a second-half substitute, also had to be led away from the officials complaining he had been dragged down by the Ajax defender, Ricardo van Rhijn, just before the end. As he walked back to his technical area, Mancini then rounded on an ITV cameraman for trying to film him in close up.
When asked about his conversation with Rasmussen, the Manchester City manager said: "I told him: 'Congratulations, it was a goal'." Mancini said he had not seen the incident in which Balotelli was pulled down but, when asked to relay his spat with the cameraman, he said: "He wanted to do a film with me and followed me round the pitch. I told him it [the game] is finished and it is not a film about me. I told him it was finished. I told him to go."
Mancini is likely to face at least the one-match ban endured by Arsène Wenger after the Arsenal manager called the referee Massimo Busacca "embarrassing" for sending off Robin van Persie against Barcelona in March last year. Mancini's actions are unlikely to play well in Abu Dhabi, although none of the club's Arab owners were at the Etihad last night because of Sunday's Formula One grand prix in the principality.
Mancini argued vehemently that the Danish officials were wrong to rule that Aleksandar Kolarov was offside when he crossed for Aguero for a goal that would have capped a remarkable comeback.
"It was a goal and the referee and his staff were really poor," he said. "We scored three goals probably but we conceded some stupid ones. You cannot concede goals like that and think that you have played well. We played a fantastic second half but it doesn't matter now. It is finished."
However, Mancini might have been better off complaining about Van Rhijn's foul on Balotelli just before Rasmussen blew for full time. The Ajax coach, Frank de Boer, confessed that, having seen it again, it might have been a penalty. "Sometimes you are lucky with referees and sometimes you are not," he said.
Manchester City are not quite finished in the Champions League, although only two sides in the history of the competition, Lokomotiv Moscow in 2002 and Porto two years later, have qualified from the position they now find themselves in.
City have to win their last two fixtures, at home to Real Madrid and in Dortmund's 80,000-capacity Westfalenstadion, and trust that other results go improbably their way.
Mancini seemed doubtful that the Premier League champions any longer had it in them to achieve this, shrugging his shoulders when it was put to him that the campaign was still alive. The home and away games with Ajax were supposed to be the simplest fixtures of a hugely difficult group and City have taken a single point from them.
All the defensive frailties that have dogged them throughout a Champions League campaign that has been even worse than last season's were in evidence last night as Siem de Jong put Ajax two up after 17 minutes, taking the number of goals City have conceded in this group to nine.
"Maybe it is not our moment in the Champions League," Mancini said. "But, if we finish and qualify with eight points, we can win the Champions League because that will be our destiny. I always believe in my teams, although sometimes they make mistakes."
De Boer was disappointed for his players, who could have moved closer to at least ensuring they stayed in European competition via the Europa League with a victory. "It's a good sign that the players are disappointed in the dressing room after the game because they had the feeling we could make a big step forward to the next phase, in the Europa League or the Champions League," he said.
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