Manuel Pellegrini was at a loss to explain Manchester City’s poor performance as they were beaten by CSKA Moscow to all but end their Champions League hopes.
Seydou Doumbia’s brace condemned City to a 2-1 defeat, despite Yaya Toure’s free-kick. City then had midfield pair Fernandinho and Toure sent off in the second half.
The result left them with just two points from four games and bottom of Group E.
Former City forward Niall Quinn, part of Sky Sports’ punditry team, claimed City’s players “let a good manager down” and showed “a lack of passion, a lack of courage really”.
Pellegrini was more moderate in his assessment and told Sky Sports 5: “It’s very difficult to understand why we played so badly.
“From the beginning we were so nervous and we gave them the two goals. Really, we didn’t play.
“The first half especially, we didn’t see the team we normally see. We didn’t shoot once at their goal, we just had Yaya’s free-kick, and we gave away two easy goals.
“It’s a strange moment to understand why it happened. I don’t think it’s just this competition, the last two weeks we are not playing the way we normally do.
“It’s a crisis of confidence, of course, I don’t understand why but we must find a reason, talk with the players every day and try to win again.”
Pellegrini would not be drawn on the two dismissals, saying simply: “It’s the referee that has to decide about that.”
Pellegrini named an unchanged side for the crucial visit of CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
City beat rivals Manchester United in a high-pressure derby on Sunday and Pellegrini kept faith with the same players for a game they were anxious to win to kickstart their Group E campaign.
Sergio Aguero, who scored the winner against United, partnered Stevan Jovetic up front as the Montenegro international made his first start for the club in the competition. Fit-again Eliaquim Mangala and Samir Nasri were on the bench.
SKA were also without winger Zoran Tosic amid reports he had not obtained the correct visa.
City’s night could hardly have begun in worse fashion as Gael Clichy was penalised for handball and Bebras Natcho swung in a free-kick for Doumbia to head in after two minutes.
The ground was stunned into silence and was quieter than the Khimki Arena had been when the sides met a fortnight ago in a game that was officially played behind closed doors.
Prior to kick-off many City fans had made themselves heard as they booed the Champions League anthem in protest at what they believe has been unfair treatment from UEFA with regards to the game in Moscow.
But the supporters’ attempts to follow that by generating an atmosphere to inspire City quickly fell flat as a result of Doumbia’s firm header.
Aguero twice looked to have been fouled in the box as he fought to the end but Sidiropoulos gave nothing and was surrounded by City players after blowing the final whistle.