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Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012

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Fair means or foul: Ajax midfielder Lasse Schone goes down under a challenge from Manchester City's Gareth Barry during their 2-2 draw at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday. AFP-JIJI

City stays alive with late draw


GENEVA — The most compelling Champions League group delivered more drama on Tuesday as Manchester City and Real Madrid both scored late equalizers in separate 2-2 home draws.

Premier League champion Man City dodged elimination when Sergio Aguero's 74th-minute goal completed a comeback started by Yaya Toure after Ajax had taken a 2-0 lead by the 17th minute.

The action continued after the final whistle when coach Roberto Mancini and several players surrounded Danish referee Peter Rasmussen to argue that Mario Balotelli should have been awarded a penalty in a last desperate attack. Aguero had also had a late strike disallowed for offside.

"The referee and the linesman were really poor. It was a penalty and it was a goal," Mancini told British broadcaster ITV.

Madrid twice trailed against group leader Borussia Dortmund and relied on Mesut Ozil to level in the 89th minute. With two games left, Dortmund has eight points, the Spanish giant has seven and Man City — last, with just two points — must beat both to have a chance of advancing.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic lifted Paris Saint-Germain toward the last 16 by creating all the goals in a 4-0 victory over a poor Dinamo Zagreb team. Group leader FC Porto progressed with two games to spare by drawing 0-0 at Dynamo Kiev.

Malaga advanced to the next round despite conceding its first goal, with Milan needing Alexandre Pato's 73rd-minute header for a 1-1 draw. Anderlecht beat Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0.

Arsenal also wasted a two-goal lead in the first half on the road to draw 2-2 with Group B leader Schalke. Also in the group, Olympiakos beat last-place Montpellier 3-1.

Mancini, who was rewarded for winning the English title with a five-year contract, will do well to avoid a second straight group-stage exit.

Ajax exploited slack defending at corners when Siem de Jong struck with a shot from a tight angle in the 10th and the captain followed up with a powerful near-post header in the 17th.

Toure cut the deficit five minutes later with a scissor-kick volley, and Mancini sent on Balotelli as a substitute for the second half.

The Italian forward flicked a header into Aguero's path for the Argentine to shoot across goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer and into the far corner of the goal.

Deep into stoppage time, Balotelli fell to the floor trying to turn and shoot as defender Ricardo van Rhijn tugged at his left arm.

Referee Rasmussen immediately blew the final whistle and was pursued by angry City players, who were joined by Mancini wagging a finger at the match officials.

In Madrid, Ozil scored with a free kick to ensure coach Jose Mourinho's team avoided a second straight defeat against German champion Dortmund, which won 2-1 at home two weeks ago.

Marco Reus gave Dortmund a 28th-minute lead with a fierce swerving shot to reward its attacking intent. The lead lasted six minutes before defender Pepe scored with a header.

Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas was beaten again in first-half stoppage time by teammate Alvaro Arbeloa's deflection from Mario Goetze's shot.

"It's not the result we would have wanted but they were a great team," said Pepe.

Ibrahimovic showed the huge gulf in class against a poor Zagreb side, creating scoring chances for defender Alex, midfielder Blaise Matuidi, winger Jeremy Menez and striker Guillaume Hoarau.

"He played for the team, as he always does," PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti said of Ibrahimovic. "He has extraordinary talent. He is a fantastic leader."

The Croatian champions have now lost 10 straight group-stage matches and failed to score in four matches this season.

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