City rue late referee decision in draw

CHELSEA DRAW::West Bromwich Albion scored two equalizers through Craig Gardner and James McClean as the champions’ revival was slowed by the 2-2 result

AFP and AP, LONDON and MANCHESTER, England

Fri, Jan 15, 2016 - Page 19

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,” City manager Pellegrini said. “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,” he said.

City’s failure to score at home in the league for the first time since losing 2-0 to Arsenal on Jan. 18 last year left them three points behind both Leicester, who won 1-0 over Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal, who drew against 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, but we have another 17 games and the important thing is to continue in the way we are,” Pellegrini said. “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,” he said. “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.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez said 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 past 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.

“Not long ago we were on the receiving end of a really poor decision right at the end in the last minute against Stoke” City in a 4-3 home defeat, Martinez said. “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.”

Only a superior goal difference is keeping Arsenal above Leicester after the Gunners drew with Liverpool at Anfield, while Leicester remained three points clear of third-placed Manchester City.

Tottenham still occupy the last Champions League qualifying spot, but their grip on fourth place in the Premier League is loosening, with West Ham United moving to just one point behind in fifth.

A late equalizer deprived Chelsea of victory, with the champions’ revival under new coach Guus Hiddink being slowed by a 2-2 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion.

As a top-four finish becomes an increasingly plausible proposition for Leicester, Chelsea must be preparing for potentially missing out on the Champions League next season.

Although remaining unbeaten under Hiddink, Chelsea were 12 points behind fourth-placed Tottenham.

West Brom, who were a place above Chelsea in 13th, twice equalized at Stamford Bridge.

Craig Gardner canceled out Cesar Azpilicueta’s opener before halftime and then James McClean pounced in the 86th minute to level for good at 2-2.

There was more drama in south Wales with six goals — half of them from Jermain Defoe’s hat-trick — as Sunderland swept to a 4-2 victory over 10-man Swansea City.

Sunderland made an ideal start, with striker Defoe scoring after just three minutes.

Swansea equalized in the 21st minute when Gylfi Sigurdsson converted a penalty, but they were reduced to 10 men in the 37th after a red card for Kyle Naughton.

The setback did not prevent Jordan Ayew from putting the hosts ahead just three minutes later.

Sunderland needed only four minutes after the restart to level, with defender Patrick van Aanholt driving a shot into the top corner.

Adam Johnson put Defoe through for his second goal just after the hour mark and the forward rounded off the scoring in the 85th.

Southampton secured only their second league win in nine games by beating Watford 2-0 with goals by Shane Long and Dusan Tadic.

Stoke City moved up to seventh after a 3-1 win over Norwich City, who had to play for an hour with 10 men after Gary O’Neil hacked down Stoke’s Ibrahim Affellay for a straight red card.

Jon Walters struck four minutes into the second half, Norwich leveled through Jonny Howson, but Joselu restored Stoke’s lead and Ryan Bennett added another.