Byline: by IAN LADYMAN
Manchester City 2
Bayern Munich 0
A DEBUT Champions League season that has embraced drama, controversy and no little excitement ended in disappointment and flat anti-climax for Manchester City last night. For the world's richest club, the Europa League awaits.
City manager Roberto Mancini will try to win it, of course. He said as much to his staff on the plane home from Naples a fortnight ago and that decision will only harden now that neighbours Manchester United will be in it, too.
Nevertheless, City have paid a high price for some early nerves in this competition and a sense of letdown will linger stubbornly at the Etihad Stadium over the coming days. This was not, as they say, part of the plan.
'We go into the Europa League -- it's another trophy and it's an important trophy for Manchester City,' Mancini said afterwards, before admitting: 'It's a disappointment because we wanted to play in the Champions League.
'It is tough going out with ten points.
We are a good team. We played well, we're very sorry for our supporters and I'm sorry for our players.
'I think we need to improve as a team because we got a tough group (in the Champions League) this year.
'Now we are the top of the Premier League and the season will be long, but we want to improve on last year in the Premier League.' Briefly last night, hope flickered. As City stole into a 2-0 lead against the group winners early in the second half, Napoli were struggling to score the goal they needed at Villarreal and had been reduced to 10 men.
Ultimately, though, the strength of the Ital-ian club's desire saw them score twice in the last half-hour at Stadio El Madrigal and City were sunk.
City are out of the competition for two reasons. The first is that they were drawn in a tough group. The second is that they started like the novices they are and, by the time they found their feet, it was too late.
It was the failure to beat the Italians at home on day one. That was City's worst night in the Champions League and it was one from which they never recovered.
Just what the impact of this failure is remains to be seen. The Europa League could feasibly impact negatively on City's season at home.
Mancini and his players must now adjust to Thursday night European football and, just as importantly, an increasing amount of Sunday football in the Barclays Premier League.
If they were totally honest, City would rather not be in Europe at all than play in the Europa League. Quite simply, it is a competition that gets in the way.
That debate, though, is for another day. Last night, City did their job impressively and emphatically. That was all Mancini could ask of them really.
Certainly, City were helped by Bayern's team selection. Coach Jupp Heynckes had said beforehand that his team were in Manchester to win. However, his selection seemed to suggest otherwise.
With first position in the group already secured, Heynckes chose only three of the team that beat City in September and even left his star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer on the substitutes' bench.
Had Napoli not earned the result they needed in Spain, then the Italian club would doubtless have had something to say about Bayern's approach. …