Title still in Mancini's sights despite Blues draw | sports | Hindustan Times
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Title still in Mancini's sights despite Blues draw

sports Updated: Feb 03, 2011 11:12 IST

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is refusing to give up on his team's Premier League title hopes despite seeing them lose further ground to leaders Manchester United.

The Italian watched his team twice give up the lead in a 2-2 draw away to Birmingham at St Andrew's on Wednesday in a match where the hosts ensured a share of the spoils following Craig Gardner's successful 77th-minute penalty, awarded for a foul on substitute Kevin Phillips by Patrick Vieira.

City now trail local rivals United by eight points having played a game more, a deficit which looks virtually insurmountable given Sir Alex Ferguson's team have still to be beaten in the league this season.

However, Mancini insists his side must retain their self-belief despite picking up just five points from a possible 12.

"In two or three weeks everything can change but first we must believe in ourselves," he said.

"A few months ago we were nine points behind Chelsea," Mancini added. "That's football, it can change in just three weeks."

Mancini conceded the gap is currently too great, although City will have the chance to claw some ground back in the Manchester derby a week on Saturday.

"It is too much at this moment. For us now it's very important that we start playing our football again.

"We will try (to overhaul the gap) but if we play like this it will be hard. We must wake up quickly."

A furious Mancini accused Phillips of diving to win the penalty and insisted his side should have had one minutes beforehand when Birmingham's Stephen Carr appeared to handle a James Milner cross.

"I'm very disappointed because we wanted to win There was no penalty. It was impossible. He dived. It was a penalty for us just minutes before.

"We didn't play well," Mancini admitted. "I didn't like how we played. I am disappointed that we have conceded more goals.

"It's impossible to win every game if you concede two goals."

Unsurprisingly, Birmingham manager Alex McLeish countered Mancini's claims by insisting his team were right to receive a penalty.

"He would say that," he said. "If you look at the penalties given against us this season they were much softer than that.

"For me that was a penalty because Kevin has turned Vieira, flicked the ball past him and he has clattered into him," former Scotland centre-half McLeish added. "How is that not a foul? For me it was a clear penalty.

"Kevin is not a diver. He is a true English gentleman."

Birmingham's Nikola Zigic cancelled out Carlos Tevez's early opener before City, who saw Micah Richards carried off on a stretcher, regained the lead with a brilliant free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov shortly before half-time.

The draw helped keep Birmingham out of the relegation zone, albeit solely on goal difference after West Ham climbed off the bottom of the table with a 3-1 win away to Blackpool on Wednesday.

"Without a doubt second half we were excellent. We shot ourselves in the foot by giving away two sloppy goals.," McLeish explained/

Mancini confirmed Richards was taken to hospital with concussion following a clash of heads with team mate Nigel de Jong, replaced by Vieira at half-time.

"Micah is in hospital now," he said. "He suffered concussion and he was unconscious for a short time."

Mancini was equivocal when asked if he'd drop Joe Hart in favour of the experienced Shay Given after another nervous display by the England goalkeeper.

"I don't know. Everything is possible."