Mancini refuses to give up title hope despite nine point deficit

Julian Harris
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MANCHESTER City boss Roberto Mancini last night insisted that the title race is still alive, despite seeing his team draw for the second time in a week.

City trail local rivals Manchester United by nine points at the top of the Premier League, after goals from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero could only cancel out two excellent strikes from Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard for Liverpool.

But asked if his team’s chances of retaining the trophy are dead, Mancini said: “No, absolutely not. Today we were so nervous, I don’t know why. But it is still 13 games to the end, so no, [it’s not over yet].”

But the Italian admitted that his team face an uphill struggle if they are to catch United. “I think we need to win probably all of our games and, if not, then 11 or 12 games,” he said.

City had not conceded a single goal since the start of the new year, yet could have been behind after 20 minutes yesterday. Former City player Sturridge burst to the touchline and found Suarez with a left-footed pull-back – yet the Uruguayan uncharacteristically miss-hit his shot far wide of goal.

Just four minutes later the home side took the lead. David Silva’s clever through-ball found James Milner inside the area whose low cross from the left was knocked in from close range by Dzeko.

The lead did not last long, however, as Liverpool equalised shortly before the half-hour mark. Dzeko was again involved, lying on the ground after complaining about a challenge by Daniel Agger. Referee Anthony Taylor declined to stop play, and despite protests from the home fans, Liverpool continued a patient attack that culminated in Sturridge firing into the bottom corner of the net from just outside the box.

The equaliser appeared to instil confidence in the visitors, who started the second half the strongest. And on 73 minutes the Reds took the lead.

A cross from the left was cleared by the outstretched leg of Gael Clichy but dropped to Gerrard. The captain took one touch and then let rip a stunning volley into the corner of Joe Hart’s net.

But the honour of scoring the best goal of the game was not yet decided due to a brilliant finish from Aguero five minutes later. A ball over the top into City’s inside right channel inexplicably saw Jose Reina rush out of his goal. The goalkeeper was beaten to the ball by Aguero, who touched it past him before curling home from an angle that seemed impossibly tight.

The result leaves Liverpool nine points behind a top four place.