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Manchester City Close to Champions League Elimination

Manchester City moved a step closer to early elimination from soccer’s Champions League for the second straight time, as Porto and Malaga became the first clubs to advance to the knockout stage.

Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Ajax last night at the Etihad Stadium. Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero scored for the Premier League champion, which is winless after four matches and sits at the bottom of Group D.

The top two teams from each of the eight groups progress to the round of 16 in Europe’s elite club competition. City also failed get out of the group stage last season.

“It’s finished,” City manager Roberto Mancini said of his team’s chances on the club’s website. “I always believe in my team but now I think it is very difficult.”

Malaga and Porto both tied on the road to guarantee a top-two finish in their respective groups. Schalke also came from two goals down to tie Arsenal 2-2, while Real Madrid and Dortmund drew by the same score.

Among tonight’s eight games, defending champion Chelsea is at home against Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic hosts Barcelona and Manchester United visits Braga.

Ajax looked poised to repeat its 3-1 win over City two weeks ago when Siem de Jong scored twice in the opening 17 minutes in Manchester. City pulled a goal back in the 22nd minute when Toure sent a volley past goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer.

City then tied the game in the 74th minute as Aguero got the ball after Mario Balotelli flicked on Joe Hart’s clearance and sent a shot from the edge of the area past Vermeer.

Late Decisions

Aguero put the ball into the net with two minutes left only for the goal to be disallowed for offside. City also had a penalty appeal denied in stoppage time by referee Peter Rasmussen after Balotelli appeared to be dragged down.

“The referee and his staff were very poor,” Mancini said. “I told the referee it was a goal. I didn’t see the last situation with Mario for the penalty decision, but the players told me it should have been.”

Mesut Ozil scored with an 89th-minute free kick to give record nine-time champion Real Madrid the home draw with German title-holder Dortmund.

Marco Reus gave Dortmund the lead in the 28th minute before Pepe scored for Real six minutes later. The visiting team then regained the lead in the closing seconds of the first half on an own goal from Alvaro Arbeloa.

Dortmund leads Group D with eight points, one more than Madrid. Ajax has four and City has two points.

Malaga Advances

Malaga, playing in the Champions League for the first time, secured its place in the round of 16 by tying at seven-time European champion AC Milan.

The Spanish club took a 40th-minute lead on a goal from Eliseu. Alexandre Pato scored for Milan with 17 minutes left.

The draw ended Malaga’s perfect start to the group stage, though gives it a five-point lead over Milan in Group C with two matches left. With Milan and Anderlecht, which is third with four points after beating Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0, still having to play each other, Malaga will finish among the top two.

Although Porto’s perfect record ended in Ukraine, the draw was enough to send the Portuguese team through. Porto leads Group A with 10 points, one ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, which routed Dinamo Zagreb 4-0. Dynamo Kiev is third with four points.

Schalke rallied from a two-goal first-half deficit to tie Arsenal in Gelsenkirchen and keep the lead in Group B.

Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud got goals for Arsenal in the first 26 minutes. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored for Schalke just before halftime and Jefferson Farfan pulled the German club even in the 67th minute.

“It was a good point in the end,” Walcott, whose last-second shot was saved by goalkeeper Lars Unnerstall, told Sky Sports. “It would have been a fantastic victory. We’ll try to win our last couple of games and as long as we do that, we’ll get into the next round.”

Schalke has eight points, Arsenal has seven and Olympiacos has six after its 3-1 win against Montpellier.

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