MANCHESTER CITY 2 SUNDERLAND 2
MANCHESTER City manager Manuel Pellegrini admits his team face an uphill task to reclaim the Premier League title after their failure to beat bottom club Sunderland handed leaders Liverpool an enormous boost.
Only a late Samir Nasri strike earned City a point after Connor Wickham’s second-half brace had cancelled out Fernandinho’s opener and left Pellegrini’s men facing a humiliating home defeat. Even a draw represented a devastating blow, however, as it leaves Pellegrini’s men six points behind Liverpool and four adrift of Chelsea in what looks increasingly like a two-horse race for the trophy.
Nasri might have salvaged the evening at the death when the ball fell invitingly to him 12 yards out, but the Frenchman poked over the bar, and his manager blamed Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Liverpool for leaving his team mentally exhausted.
“It is not enough because we needed three points. We will see what will happen but our chances are less,” said Pellegrini. “The team missed a lot of things: the way we played, the way we defended and our character. We could not take out of our mind the game against Liverpool. At this moment it is more mental than physical. When it no longer depends on what you can do it is very frustrating but we must try to win our last five games.”
A draw was bittersweet for Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, whose team would have closed to within one point of Cardiff and four of safety were it not for Nasri’s 89thminute goal. “We deserved better,” he said. “We conceded a goal after two minutes at Manchester City and every single person in the world expected us to lose from there.”
Fernandinho looked to have opened the floodgates when Sergio Aguero’s run set him up to beat Vito Mannone at the near post after just 112 seconds, but the deluge did not arrive as Sunderland fought back. Their reward came on 73 minutes when Wickham volleyed in Emanuele Giaccherini’s teasing cross, and the same combination gave the Black Cats a shock lead 10 minutes later, the Italian’s scintillating break feeding Wickham to drill low past Hart. Nasri claimed the draw when Mannone got a hand to his low shot but could only grasp at thin air as it trickled over the line.