City held to a draw by Stoke

2010-11-27 20:23

Stoke - Matthew Etherington was Stoke's last-gasp hero as Manchester City were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.

City boss Roberto Mancini was about to celebrate his side's second away win inside six days and confirmation that his big-money stars were finally beginning to gel together as genuine Premier League title contenders.

But Etherington changed all that in the blink of an eye two minutes into injury time with his dramatic equaliser.

Now, the questions which will be asked again is whether City really do have the steel to win the title.

Micah Richards was poised to be the unlikely hero after he scored his first league goal since last January nine minutes from time.

It looked like it would be enough to earn City a barely deserved three points - until Etherington intervened.

A trip to the Britannia Stadium on a freezing cold afternoon was always going to be a stiff test of City's true championship mettle, but for most of the first-half they were found wanting and looked a pale shadow of the side which had triumped so impressively against Fulham six days earlier.

They took 36 minutes to produce their first shot on target - a long-distance effort from Aleksander Kolarov comfortably saved by Asmir Begovic - and spent most of the opening half trying to play keep-ball and being hustled out of their stride by Stoke.

The only other real glimpse of goal fell to Carlos Tevez, who showed he was as alert as ever when he almost seized on a weak back pass by Danny Collins.

Stoke, by contrast, showed why they had overcome Birmingham, Liverpool and West Brom in their three previous fixtures by going for the throat.

They mixed-up their approach, playing some neat football in-between the usual Rory Delap missiles hurled goalwards every time they got a throw-in deep inside the City half.

Jermaine Pennant and Robert Huth both had chances as Mancini's side defended the set-pieces edgily, but their best opportunity of the first 45 minutes fell to Ricardo Fuller.

The Jamaican opened up City's defence by swapping passes with Kenwyne Jones, only to drag his shot wide.

It was far more encouraging for Mancini as his side at last played the ball around with purpose after the break, though Stoke still threatened from set-pieces and Ryan Shawcross steered a difficult header over the bar after substitute Tuncay's corner was only half-cleared.

City went desperately close to snatching a 74th minute lead when Kolarov whipped the ball across the face of goal and it needed just the slightest of touches from Mario Balotelli to turn it over the line. But he failed to make any contact.

Stoke went even closer three minutes later when Jones bundled the ball goalwards from Etherington's corner and Milner smuggled it off the line.

City finally got the goal they craved in the 81st minute through an unexpected source.

Milner played the ball into Richards and he drilled his shot low into the corner of the net from 15 yards.

It looked like it would be enough, until Etherington burst through on to Tuncay's back-heel in the second minute of injury-time to beat Hart.