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City's title hopes hit by home draw to Sunderland

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The Canadian Press
4/16/2014 5:44:50 PM
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MANCHESTER, England -- The Premier League trophy could be out of reach for Manchester City after a 2-2 home draw with last-placed Sunderland on Wednesday that capped a demoralizing four days for title chasers.

Samir Nasri's 88th-minute equalizer at Etihad Stadium will be of little consolation to City, which is now six points behind league leader Liverpool and four points behind second-place Chelsea.

Third-place City has a game in hand but the surprise result against Sunderland, coupled with Sunday's 3-2 loss at Liverpool, may be a setback too far in its bid for a second championship in three seasons.

"I think we are more mentally tired than physically tired," said City manager Manuel Pellegrini, who is still not giving up hope. "Remember this team, two years ago, were six points behind the leaders and ... won the title at the end. So it is difficult, but it is not the last game we play."

Pressure also seems to have struck Everton's battle for the last Champions League spot with Arsenal.

Everton became the latest team to slip up against Crystal Palace, losing 3-2 at home to end its seven-match winning run and miss the chance of reclaiming fourth place from Arsenal, which is one point ahead with four matches remaining.

"We wanted to win so much that we stopped being ourselves," Everton manager Roberto Martinez said, "and that is what we have to learn from."

Palace's fourth straight win means the side can surely start preparing for another season in the top flight and lends further weight to many pundits' argument that Tony Pulis is the manager of the season. When Pulis took over in November, Palace was bottom and six points from safety -- now, it is 11th and 10 points above the relegation zone.

Sunderland is six points from safety with a game in hand, but could have been a lot closer if goalkeeper Vito Mannone had gathered Nasri's shot rather than fumbled it into the back of the net. That could be the difference between staying in the Premier League and being relegated.

"It's one more blow," Sunderland manager Gus Poyet said. "I tell you what, I'm testing my heart this year."

Without the injured David Silva and Yaya Toure and with star striker Sergio Aguero lacking match sharpness, City lacked its usual creativity going forward and was sloppy in possession.

Fernandinho gave City the lead in the second minute, running onto a short pass from Aguero that was dummied by Alvaro Negredo and scoring inside Mannone's near post, but Sunderland had the better of the chances for the rest of the first half.

Connor Wickham finally took one of them in the 73rd minute, volleying in a cross from substitute Emanuele Giaccherini, and the same players combined for Wickham's second that came on the counter-attack in the 83rd.

City escaped with a point thanks to Nasri, but Liverpool and Chelsea will be celebrating another twist in the title race.

"We believe we can win the title," Fernandinho said. "Chelsea and Liverpool have four games and they may drop some points -- we think we can still win the title."

At Goodison Park, Jason Puncheon scored his fourth goal in three games before Scott Dann added a second for Palace for a 2-0 lead after 49 minutes.

Substitute Steven Naismith reduced the deficit in the 61st before Palace restored their two-goal advantage through striker Cameron Jerome in the 73rd. Kevin Mirallas scored Everton's second goal in the 86th.

Dzeko and Brown (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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