Manchester City were all but eliminated from the Champions League despite producing a stirring fightback against Ajax to draw 2-2.
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Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero struck as City fought back from 2-0 down but the Barclays Premier League champions were forced to settle for a draw and remain winless in Group D despite a frantic finish.
Siem de Jong, who scored in the Dutch side's defeat of City in Amsterdam a fortnight ago, found the net twice for the visitors inside the opening 17 minutes at the Etihad Stadium.
The result left City with just two points from four games and needing two victories and other results to go their way to claim a place in the knockout stages.
City made a lively start, showing far more attacking intent in the opening minutes than they did in the early stages of their 3-1 loss in Holland.
They went close to taking an early lead when Gareth Barry slipped Pablo Zabaleta in on goal but the charging right-back fired narrowly over.
Yet while City's understanding of their group predicament may have been clear, their recent defensive frailties again proved their undoing.
Matija Nastasic needlessly conceded a corner and the hosts' defending from the set-piece was equally unimpressive.
Niklas Moisander flicked Christian Eriksen's delivery into the danger area and De Jong pounced to hook into the roof of the net from close range.
That left City chasing the game after just 10 minutes and it got worse as Ajax won another corner and doubled their lead seven minutes later.
City's marking was again slack as this time De Jong popped up at the near post and met Eriksen's cross with a header of his own which flew past Joe Hart.
City needed to respond quickly and Carlos Tevez almost set up strike partner Aguero but Toby Alderweireld managed to hack clear.
It was not long before Mario Balotelli was sent out to warm up but City managed to haul themselves back into the game without him as Toure's spectacular effort found the net.
The Ivorian, who had moved forward from midfield, did brilliantly as he controlled Alderweireld's attempted clearance on his chest six yards out and twisted to lash home a powerful volley.
City looked to build some momentum and Zabaleta found himself in another good position when Javi Garcia picked him out with a lofted ball but he could only direct a weak header at Kenneth Vermeer.
Ajax were unmoved by City's spirited recovery and continued to knock the ball around in their traditional fluid style when they got the chance.
De Jong found room for another shot from 25 yards out but dragged a low effort narrowly wide.
Derk Boerrigter also took aim from distance but curled a shot well wide of the target.
Barry got forward for City but was unable to make the most of a half chance as Ricardo van Rhijn got in the way.
City needed to raise the tempo further and sent on Balotelli for the start of the second half in place of Garcia.
The hosts went straight onto the front foot but Aguero slipped at a vital moment as he looked to create a chance for himself of the edge of the area.
City threatened again when Barry clipped in a free-kick but Nastasic volleyed over.
Tevez earned a free-kick just outside the area which Toure hit into the wall. The ball worked its way to Aguero and the striker poked home but his celebrations were ended by an offside flag.
For all City's pressure, they needed to stay alert at the back and De Jong reminded them of the dangers with a long-range strike at goal which Hart needed to push away.
Aguero went through on the hour and skilfully took the ball around Vermeer but again lost his footing at an inopportune moment as he looked to cross from the byline.
City fans breathed a sigh of relief when Ricardo van Rhijn fizzed a dangerous low ball across Hart's goal and Zabaleta's heavy touch went out for a corner rather than into his own net.
Hart denied De Jong a hat-trick again with a fine one-handed save from a free-kick but City continued to press and were finally rewarded after deciding to go long.
Balotelli leapt to win the header and Aguero raced through, staying on his feet this time, to fire low past Vermeer from the edge of the area.
Balotelli won another header from a Samir Nasri free-kick but Vermeer saved well to his left.
City thought they had snatched a winner when Aguero poked home two minutes from time but the flag had again been raised as the cross came in.
Hart saved again from Eriksen in injury time and City wanted a penalty in the dying seconds for a pull on Balotelli but referee Peter Rasmussen blew the final whistle.