Lech Poznan struck two late goals to send City skidding to a third successive defeat, though the Blues probably deserved to leave Poland with at least a point.
The Poles were under the cosh for the first half-hour before taking the lead through Injac but Emmanuel Adebayor levelled just after the break.
A draw had seemed most likely before Manuel Arboleda struck four minutes from time with a cruelly deflected header following Dedryck Boyata’s attempted clearance.
Mateusz Mozden then rubbed salt in the wounds with a spectacular third in injury time to make it 3-1 and throw the group wide open again. Now the Blues will need to beat Salzburg and perhaps take at least a draw from the remaining two games.
Defending Polish champions Poznan, with newly-installed coach José Mari Bakero overseeing his first game since taking the reins a little over 24 hours before, knew nothing less than a victory would keep their own hopes of progressing alive.
This was City’s fourth competitive trip to Poland and this was the perfect opportunity to end something of an unwanted record. The three previous trips had produced no goals, so whoever could find the net for the Blues first was guaranteed a place in the history books.
Old foes Gornik Zabrze beat City 2-0 in 1971 in the European Cup Winners’ Cup third round, while goalless UEFA Cup draws against Widzew Lodz in 1977 and Groclin Dyskobolia in 2003 meant both Polish sides progressed to the next round of the UEFA Cup on the away goals rule at City’s expense.
With crucial Premier League games against West Brom and Manchester United to come in the next six days, Roberto Mancini made eight changes to the side that lost at Wolves last Saturday.
Shay Given was handed a rare start in goal while wingers Shaun Wright-Phillips and Adam Johnson were also recalled to the starting line-up.
With Dedryck Boyata, Joleon Lescott, Patrick Vieira and skipper for the night Pablo Zabaleta included, too, there was plenty of incentive for the starting eleven to give the manager a reminder of what they are capable of.
And the changes seemed to be working as the Blues raced out of the blocks in a similar manner to the opening exchanges against arsenal and Wolves. Emmanuel Adebayor and Boyata should have given City a 2-0 lead within the first 15 minutes, but the chances were squandered.
Lescott had a goal ruled after eight minutes for offside, though the way he sublimely controlled a long ball and then volleyed home from close range was worthy of the assistant referee turning a blind eye – though he didn’t!
So superior were Mancini’s side that it seemed a matter of time before they took the lead with Poles’ defence looking wide open on occasions and Johnson causing havoc down the flanks. Yet when the ball finally did end up in the net, it was for Poznan , not City, and totally against the run of play.
When the Blues’ defence failed to clear a harmless-looking ball into the box, Dimitrije Injac drove a low drive from the edge of the box past Given and into the bottom left-hand corner to send the home fans wild. It was barely deserved, but the result of failing to turn the lion’s share of possession into goals.
In a bid to up the creativity, Mancini brought David Silva on for the start of the second half with Wright-Phillips a shade unlucky to make way for the Spaniard.
However, the decision was soon vindicated when Silva’s corner led to City’s equaliser on 51 minutes. Adebayor initially saw his header pushed out, but the Blues’ No. 9 reacted first to emphatically volley the ball home on 51 minutes.
It was the Togolese striker’s fifth goal in three starts and his fourth against Poznan – the Polish fans must be sick of the sight of him! But it was the home support who would have the last laugh with those two late goals giving the score an unrealistic look.