Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini insists his team can still retain their Premier League title despite falling nine points behind Manchester United.
City were held 2-2 by Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, wasting the opportunity to reduce the deficit at the top of the table to seven points in the wake of United’s 1-0 victory at Fulham 24 hours earlier.
Ultimately, after goals from Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard, City, who had led through Edin Dzeko, required a spectacular individual effort from Sergio Aguero 12 minutes from time to collect a point.
But despite the mounting odds, Mancini remained defiant, citing last season when City won the league so memorably by recovering an eight-point disadvantage over the final six games.
“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.”
Despite the fact that Dzeko and Aguero both scored goals — the latter one of genius — Mancini was critical of his strike force.
“Very few players could have scored that,” said Mancini of the equaliser.
“It was a fantastic goal. But Sergio and Edin should play better. Today we didn’t play well.”
City received some inadvertent good news on the day of the game, however, when they learned that they will soon be re-joined by influential midfield player Yaya Toure after his country, the Ivory Coast, were knocked out of the African Cup of Nations at the quarter-final stage by Nigeria.
For Liverpool, the highlight of a fine afternoon was the performance of Sturridge who, despite suffering a first half thigh injury which may rule him out of England’s midweek friendly with Brazil, was in inspired form against his old club.
“I would say so,” said Sturridge when asked if it had been his best performance since joining Liverpool in January.
“I’ve not been here very long, it’s my first few games and I’ve lacked fitness. But I feel sharp in playing and training, more like myself. There is more to come from me, I’m pleased with the performance.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was suitably upbeat about a display that was on a par with anything produced by the side since he took over in the summer.
“That was an outstanding performance, absolutely brilliant,” he said. “It typified our season — consistency, mistakes. It’s all part of our growth and important to see quality of the players and their desire. Nobody would deny we deserved to win that game.
“We are missing maybe one or two players who can help the group, like City have. But we are building, we scored two terrific goals and unfortunately that wasn’t enough.”