Mancini still harbours title hopes

  • Last Updated: February 4 2013, 7:59 GMT

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists the Barclays Premier League title race is not over but admits his side may have to win all their games to retain their crown.

A 2-2 draw at home to Liverpool was secured thanks to Sergio Aguero's angled strike 12 minutes from time after Daniel Sturridge, against his former club, and Steven Gerrard had turned things around after Edin Dzeko's opener.

However, City have dropped further behind leaders Manchester United and the gap is now nine points but Mancini said that was far from insurmountable.

"Absolutely not," was the Italian's response when asked whether the championship was over.

"Two years ago Chelsea were nine points behind and when they went to play at Old Trafford two games from the end (of the season) they were only two points behind.

"Two games and the championship is reopened. I don't think this is finished but probably now we have to win all the games but if not then 11 or 12 games.

"But in football this can happen sometimes.

"Last year we recovered eight points in six games so I don't know why it can't happen this year.

"We have 15 games and they (United) have to play in FA Cup and the Champions League so the season is long - three months - and we are confident.

"It is enough to recover three or four points in three games.

"For us it is important to play the derby (at Old Trafford on April 6) two or three points behind and we have time to recover these points.

"Today we didn't play like we had in the last month but we are confident."

Dzeko's close-range strike in the 23rd minute was the most routine goal of the afternoon as Sturridge's equaliser, his fourth in six matches since his £12million move from Chelsea, was tinged with controversy.

Mancini felt Daniel Agger should have been punished for a foul on Dzeko but referee Anthony Taylor played on and despite the boos Liverpool declined to put the ball out of play with the City striker laid on the turf and scored several seconds later.

"Liverpool played better than us in the first half but I am disappointed for the first goal," added the Italian.

"If Vinny (City's captain Vincent Kompany) did that foul it would probably be a red card. Instead the referee didn't say anything,"

"For 10 minutes he saw all the fouls for Liverpool and he didn't see this. Agger did a foul.

"I think the referee should whistle: in the last two games there were fouls for us - there was a penalty against QPR which the referee didn't see.

"Probably they (Liverpool) should have stopped because they scored after 15 seconds or so when Dzeko was on the floor and we didn't know what was wrong.

"But in the end the result was correct. I am disappointed because I think we didn't played well."

Sturridge - who netted with a fierce drive in the 29th minute, six minutes after City's opener - said he and his team-mates had been told by referee Anthony Taylor to continue playing when Dzeko went down.

"From our viewpoint, the referee said to play on - he said not to kick the ball out," the Liverpool forward said.

"It is not our job to kick the ball out. If the referee says to kick it out we will do that, and if he says play on then we'll play on.

"That is what the ref told us to do, we played on and we scored."

Sturridge picked up a booking for diving in the box in the second half following a coming-together with Joleon Lescott, and he denied after the game that he had gone down on purpose.

"I apologised to Joleon," he said.

"It wasn't that I actually dived, I just lost my footing, and I apologised to him, and obviously there is no hard feelings.

"I'm not a player who dives."

Overall the 23-year-old, a January signing from Chelsea, put in an impressive display and Sturridge was pleased with his showing, but ultimately disappointed that seventh-placed Liverpool, who held the lead themselves for only five minutes, could not come away with a victory.

Asked if he thought it was his best performance for Liverpool yet, the England international said: "I'd say so, although I've not been here very long.

"In the first few games I've lacked fitness, but I feel sharp now and I feel like I am playing and training more like myself.

"There is more to come from me, but I was pleased with the performance today.

"It was end-to-end stuff, great for the neutral.

"We are gutted, though, to be fair, because I think we should have come out of the game with three points.

"We are disappointed, but I suppose it is a point against a team who are challenging for the title, so we will take that."

Sturridge played through until being substituted in stoppage time despite sustaining a leg injury in the first half, which he is set to have a scan on.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers disagreed with Mancini's version of events regarding their first goal.

"The first goal was clear: both bodies get tangled up, Dzeko thinks it's a free-kick but you're talking about a minute or so after (until Liverpool scored)," he said.

"The referee told a couple of players - Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard - to play on which is why they kept going.

"There was one in the second half when Daniel kicked the ball out. There was no injury to Dzeko, it was purely the referee's decision.

"That (the controversy) probably takes it away from what was a great strike from Daniel."

Despite failing to hold on having taken the lead from Gerrard's superb 30-yard dipping volley, Rodgers was pleased with the performance.

He was unhappy with the mistake by Jose Reina that led to City's equaliser, the goalkeeper charging needlessly out to the left edge of his penalty area only to see Aguero turn and drill home from a near impossible angle out near the touchline.

"That was an outstanding performance today coming here, which is notoriously difficult place where it is even difficult to score goals," Rodgers added.

"We were brilliant. The only disappointment is that we were outstanding in our work but mistakes have cost us.

"Aguero's finish for the second was unbelievable but from our perspective we are bitterly disappointed he was in that situation.

"It was a mistake, everyone is clear on that, but I can't fault the players."

There was yet more praise for Gerrard, with Rodgers saying: "It was a brilliant goal from him to beat Joe Hart from that distance.

"I thought his performance was immense."


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