Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, remained defiant last night in face of the mounting odds against his team and their attempts to retain the Premier League title they won in such magnificent fashion last May.
A 2-2 home draw with Liverpool, 24 hours after Manchester United opened a 10-point advantage at the top by beating Fulham, left City trailing their rivals by nine points with 13 games to play.
Given that City won the league so memorably in 2012, by recovering an eight-point disadvantage over the final six games, Mancini’s optimism was understandable. But a dispiriting goalless draw at QPR in midweek was followed by another faltering display against a Liverpool team struggling for consistency and results, particularly against the division’s better teams.
“The championship is not over, absolutely not, because of last season and also two years ago,” said Mancini. “Chelsea were nine points behind and they were only two points behind when they went to United in the final week.
“I don’t think it is finished. There is room for mistakes. I think we probably need to win all of our games, but that can happen sometimes. I’m disappointed because we didn’t play well. Liverpool played better first half. Today we didn’t play well. The last month we played well in all the games. Today we were so nervous, I don’t know why.
“I think that, like last year, we recovered eight points in six games. I don’t know why this cannot happen this year. The season is long, three months to go, and United have to play FA Cup and Champions League. We are confident.
“The players believe too. It is possible to pick up two or three points soon and we can go to the derby maybe two or three points behind.”
The mathematics may be on Mancini’s side but the football gods were not in the manner in which Daniel Sturridge scored Liverpool’s first goal after City’s Edin Dzeko appeared to have been fouled by Daniel Agger. After referee Anthony Taylor waved play on, Dzeko remained on the floor and Liverpool proceeded to score.
“The first goal, I’m disappointed,” said Mancini.
“If Vinnie Kompany had done that, he would probably have got a red card, but the ref gave nothing. The linesman for ten minutes saw everything for Liverpool, but he didn’t see this.
“Liverpool should probably have stopped. Dzeko was on the floor, we didn’t know what happened. But in the end the result is correct, a draw is probably correct.”
Sturridge, however, explained that referee Taylor had instructed the visitors to play on despite Dzeko remaining on the ground.
“From our viewpoint the referee said to play on and not to kick the ball out,” he said.” The referee said it’s not our job to kick the ball out, it’s the referee’s job.
“If the referee had said to kick it out, we would have kicked it out. And if the referee says play on, we will do exactly what he says. We played on and we scored.”
Sturridge, meanwhile, also collected a thigh injury which may rule him out of England’s friendly with Brazil.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved