Manchester City failed to bounce back from their weekend disappointment as they ground out a 2-2 draw against Sunderland on Wednesday.
Sunday's 3-2 defeat at Liverpool had handed the Anfield outfit the upper hand in the Barclays Premier League title race and Man City looked set to bounce back in the best possible way at the Etihad Stadium against bottom side Sunderland when Fernandinho broke the deadlock in only the second minute.
However, the hosts failed to build on their advantage and Connor Wickham made them pay in the 73rd minute when he volleyed in Emanuele Giaccherini’s cross.
And Wickham – recalled from a loan spell at Leeds United last month – silenced the home crowd by burying an effort in the bottom right-hand corner in the 83rd minute.
But Samir Nasri had the final say as his drilled effort two minutes from time was spilled by Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone before trickling over the line to earn a point for City.
Failure to seal victory finds City six points adrift of leaders Liverpool with a match in hand, while a well-deserved share of the spoils for Sunderland lifts them to within six points of safety – again with a match in hand over the teams above them.
City needed a response after their defeat on Merseyside and it came without delay, with two of Manuel Pellegrini's five additions to the starting XI heavily involved in the build-up as the home side went ahead inside two minutes.
Sergio Aguero slid the ball to Alvaro Negredo, whose dummy on the edge of the penalty area completely fooled defender Wes Brown – scorer of the own goal that led to his side's 1-0 defeat against Everton on Saturday – and Fernandinho made no mistake in squeezing his strike between Mannone and the right-hand post.
Former Manchester United defender John O'Shea rose well to meet an Adam Johnson free-kick from the right flank four minutes later, but the Irishman headed harmlessly wide of the target, before nodding another effort narrowly over the crossbar.
Manuel Pellegrini’s charges might have doubled their advantage when Fernandinho scooped a volley over the crossbar 11 minutes in, but Sunderland were pressing well and may well have drawn level eight minutes later had Fabio Borini squared to a team-mate rather than go for goal himself from a narrow angle.
Despite the early breakthrough, City were struggling to impose themselves on their lowly opponents. Substitute Stevan Jovetic tried to slot the ball beyond Mannone shortly after the hour mark, but his effort was tame and comfortably collected by the Italian.
Joe Hart then had to make himself big at the other end after 72 minutes when Jack Colback found himself through one-on-one, but Wickham then turned the occasion on its head as he tapped home Giaccherini's cross before firing an unstoppable effort into the bottom right-hand corner to deal City's title hopes a second huge blow in the space of four days.
Nasri's late shot that prompted the error from Mannone did at least earn City a point before the Frenchman blasted over the crossbar soon after, but in the end it was a point that will have left Liverpool and Chelsea fans the most pleased with the evening’s events.
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini: "We did not play well but we had in our mind the game against Liverpool [on Sunday]. We did not deserve to win."
"[Adraw] is not enough because we have Liverpool and Chelsea on top of the table and we needed to add three points – will see in the future what will happen but our chances are less.
"The team missed a lot of things, the way we played, the way we defended and our character – we could not take out of our mind the game against Liverpool.
"At this moment it is more mental than physical. When it no longer depends on what you can do it is very frustrating but we must finish season the way we have done practically the whole season; we must try to win our last five games – and hope that the team will do it."
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet: "I haven't had the heart attack that football is trying to give me every game! We deserved better. We conceded a goal after two minutes at Manchester City and every single person in the world expected us to lose from there.
"But we passed the ball and create chances. We kept believing."
|27 Apr 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|21 Apr 2014||v West Brom (H)|
|07 May 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|
|03 May 2014||v Everton (A)|
|11 May 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|20 Dec 2014||v Man City (H)|