Mancini puts on brave face

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STOKE-ON-TRENT, February 25 – Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insisted he is not under any pressure despite watching Stoke City end his side's hopes of silverware this season by dumping them out of the FA Cup.

A Dave Kitson goal gave Stoke the lead with just over 10 minutes to go before Craig Bellamy equalised moments later as a hitherto quiet game suddenly ignited.

Emmanuel Adebayor was dismissed two minutes after Bellamy’s equaliser for catching Ryan Shawcross in the throat and that gave Stoke a crucial advantage going into extra-time, during which they scored two quick goals to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since 1972.

Stoke utilised their biggest asset in the shape of Rory Delap’s huge throw as he launched a flat throw-in towards the six-yard box which allowed Shawcross to nod over Shay Given, and just four minutes later Tuncay dribbled past Pablo Zabaleta and Shaun Wright-Phillips to score Stoke’s third and send City out.

Mancini replaced Mark Hughes amid great fanfare in December and won his first four matches as manager at Eastlands. But City have now won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions and four defeats in 15 matches under the Italian compares unfavourably with Hughes’s record.

Mancini however remained in bullish mood after the encounter and shrugged off any notions that his job is at risk.

"There is no pressure," he claimed. "I’m disappointed because we lost because we had a good chance to get through to the final but this is football, we must improve.

"My opinion is that we played very well and dominated the game. We had six or seven chances to score a goal. I haven’t said anything to my players because they played well but football is strange."

The City manager felt the 83rd minute dismissal of Adebayor was a particularly harsh judgement on the Togo striker and he may have had a point.

Adebayor undoubtedly raised his arms to Shawcross and therefore contravened the laws but he only just caught Shawcross in the neck in a movement that seemed more clumsy than malicious.

Referee Steve Bennett saw differently and produced a straight red card, much to Mancini’s chagrin as he felt it swung the match in Stoke’s favour.

He said: "It was not so dangerous, when a striker opens his arms it can happen.

"Manu played very well and was fantastic tonight and at a maximum it was a yellow card.

"In the end, we weren’t having any problems but when we had 10 men we then had a problem."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis professed to not having seen the red-card incident after the match and was understandably keener to praise his side for their efforts rather than concentrate on Bennett’s decision.

This was Stoke’s third encounter with City in the space of 13 days after they drew with them 1-1 in a Premier League tie as well as another 1-1 draw which prompted this fifth Round replay and Pulis was ecstatic with the way his side managed against the world’s richest club.

He said: "We are delighted – we have played a team three times in the last two weeks and they have unbelievable resources, unbelievable quality and depth of quality and we have managed to come out on top in the three games so we are really delighted and pleased.

"In the second half through to extra time I thought we were the better team. I thought we deserved it in the end.

"I still haven’t seen the sending off. When ours are sent off I see them all the time but not this one so I don’t know if it was a soft one or whether it was right."

Stoke have never won the FA Cup and although they have a fine opportunity this season, Pulis maintains that avoiding relegation from the Premier League will remain his first priority, starting with picking up points against Arsenal this weekend.

"I said to the players afterwards that we have a massive game here against Arsenal," he added.

"Arsene Wenger will be absolutely delighted that this game went for two hours, we have to prepare now and make sure we give Arsenal a game. I don’t talk about winning things."

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