MANCHESTER, January 14 – Manuel Pellegrini rued a late penalty call after a 0-0 draw with Everton saw Manchester City spurn a chance to close on Premier League leaders Arsenal and Leicester City.
Raheem Sterling went down under a challenge from John Stones in the last minute of Wednesday’s game at the Etihad Stadium, but referee Roger East ignored City’s appeals and the game ended goalless.
“I don’t think I need to give my thoughts about that action,” said City manager Pellegrini. “The whole stadium could see it was a penalty.
“It was so clear, so near for the referee, and both legs of Raheem were taken and it was a clear foul from Stones. But if the referee doesn’t whistle for it, we can’t say anything about that.”
City’s failure to score at home in the league for the first time since losing 2-0 to Arsenal on January 18 last year left them three points behind both Leicester, who won 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal, who drew 3-3 at Liverpool.
City were unable to make almost constant second-half pressure count as they drew at home for the first time this season.
“For different reasons we couldn’t score and of course if you drop two points here and other teams around us win away, it’s not a good game for us,” added Pellegrini.
“But we have another 17 games and the important thing is to continue in the way we are.
“Normally we score. It’s really unbelievable, with the amount of saves and shots we had in the second half, not to score.
“We did enough to win the game, especially in the second half. It was complete dominance by us, of possession, of shots, of saves from their goalkeeper, so I think we did enough to merit winning the game.
“I am happy about the performance, although I am disappointed with the result. But nothing is finished yet.
“We are not thinking about that (Arsenal and Leicester results). Of course it’s better to keep the same amount of points between us and Arsenal.
“We still have to play them here at home, but the most important thing is for us to continue this level of performance.”
– ‘Incredible satisfaction’ -Everton manager Roberto Martinez felt that the referee made the right decision in not awarding a penalty and praised his side’s resilience in keeping City at bay.
Mid-table Everton have won just once in their last eight league games, but know a repeat of this result in a fortnight’s time will take them to the final of the League Cup at Wembley after they beat City 2-1 in the first leg of their semi-final a week ago.
“Not long ago we were on the receiving end of a really poor decision right at the end in the last minute against Stoke (a 4-3 home defeat),” said Martinez.
“It was the wrong decision at that time. What you want as a manager is a referee that is 100 percent when he gives that sort of decision.
“I am pleased that as a referee sometimes you get emotional, you go with the crowd and you go with some of an action and you give a decision that is not the right one.
“I don’t think the referee could have done it any better. If you’re not certain, you don’t want to gamble with a decision that could have been so damaging from our point of view. I just felt Roger made the right call there.”
Martinez added: “It’s over a year since City failed to scored at home and we take that as an incredible satisfaction of how well we defended. To have that resilience and defensive ability we had was very pleasing.
“Of course it can give you confidence, but I can guarantee it will be a totally different game next time.”