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Feb 3, 2013

Mancini won't give up on title

Roberto Mancini conceded Manchester City may need to win all of their remaining league games to retain the Premier League title but insisted the race is not over after their 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

City, who have been held by QPR and Liverpool in their last two games, are now nine points behind league leaders Manchester United with 13 games to go. But Mancini took heart from his side's comeback last season, when they were eight points adrift of United with six matches remaining and recovered to win their first league title in 44 years.

"The championship is not over," Mancini said. "Absolutely not. [Whether the gap is] seven or nine points doesn't change it, I think we can recover it.

"Probably now we need to win all the games. If not all, 11 or 12. This is football. This can happen sometimes. Last year we recovered eight points in six games. I don't know why this can't happen this year. The season is long. [There are] three months [to go] and we are confident."

Mancini also cited Chelsea's fightback when they came from behind to overhaul United and become champions in 2010, aided by a victory at Old Trafford. He said: "Chelsea were nine points behind and after they came to play at Old Trafford, three games from the end only two or three points behind. In two games the championship can be reopened.

"We have 15 games and they [United] have to play in FA Cup and the Champions League so the season is long - three months - and we are confident. It is enough to recover three or four points in three games.

"For us it is important to play the derby (at Old Trafford on April 6) two or three points behind and we have time to recover these points. Today we didn't play like we had in the last month but we are confident.''

Mancini was critical of referee Anthony Taylor for permitting Liverpool's controversial first goal, scored by Daniel Sturridge while Edin Dzeko lay on the pitch after a challenge from Daniel Agger that went unpunished.

The City manager, still annoyed by captain Vincent Kompany's sending off at Arsenal last month - though the red card was later rescinded - said: "Liverpool played better than us in the first half but I am disappointed for the first goal. If Vinnie did that foul, it would probably be a red card. Instead, the referee did nothing

"For 10 minutes he saw all the fouls for Liverpool and he didn't see this. Agger did a foul. I think the referee should whistle: in the last two games there were fouls for us - there was a penalty against QPR which the referee didn't see.

"Probably they (Liverpool) should have stopped because they scored after 15 seconds or so when Dzeko was on the floor and we didn't know what was wrong. But in the end the result was correct. I am disappointed because I think we didn't played well.''

Sturridge - who netted with a fierce drive in the 29th minute, six minutes after City's opener - said he and his team-mates had been told by referee Anthony Taylor to continue playing when Dzeko went down.

"From our viewpoint, the referee said to play on - he said not to kick the ball out,'' he said. "It is not our job to kick the ball out. If the referee says to kick it out we will do that, and if he says play on then we'll play on. That is what the ref told us to do, we played on and we scored.''

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers disagreed with Mancini's version of events regarding their first goal.

"The first goal was clear: both bodies get tangled up, Dzeko thinks it's a free-kick but you're talking about a minute or so after (until Liverpool scored),'' he said. "The referee told a couple of players - Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard - to play on which is why they kept going.

"There was one in the second half when Daniel kicked the ball out. There was no injury to Dzeko, it was purely the referee's decision. That (the controversy) probably takes it away from what was a great strike from Daniel.

"That was an outstanding performance today coming here, which is notoriously difficult place where it is even difficult to score goals. We were brilliant. The only disappointment is that we were outstanding in our work but mistakes have cost us.

"Aguero's finish for the second was unbelievable but from our perspective we are bitterly disappointed he was in that situation. It was a mistake, everyone is clear on that, but I can't fault the players.''

There was yet more praise for Gerrard, with Rodgers saying: "It was a brilliant goal from him to beat Joe Hart from that distance. I thought his performance was immense.''

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