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Man City loses ground in EPL title race after home draw with Chelsea

Erling Haaland Manchester City Erling Haaland - The Canadian Press

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City barely avoided a first defeat of 2024 after Rodri's deflected effort salvaged a 1-1 draw against Chelsea in the English Premier League on Saturday.

The midfielder's 83rd-minute goal extended the defending champions' unbeaten run in all competitions to 15 games. But the draw at Etihad Stadium saw City lose ground on league leader Liverpool and second-placed Arsenal, both winners earlier.

“We played incredible in the second half. The first half was not our levels," City manager Pep Guardiola said, “but to compete against them teams you have to play 90 minutes not just one half.”

City dropped to third on the table, four points behind Liverpool and two off Arsenal, with a game in hand on both of its title rivals.

Former City forward Raheem Sterling gave Chelsea the lead when curling home in the 42nd.

He had the chance to extend the visitors' advantage after the break, but was denied by City goalkeeper Ederson from point-blank range.

Ederson then recovered to get to his feet and save from Ben Chilwell on the rebound.

City saw a host of chances go by as it went in search of an equalizer, with Erling Haaland missing twice from close range and Kevin De Bruyne curling a free kick just over the bar.

The defending champions eventually found the breakthrough when Rodri blasted goalwards from inside the box and his effort deflected off Trevoh Chalobah past Chelsea keeper Djordje Petrovic.

Haaland cut a frustrated figure after nine attempts on goal saw him fail to find the back of the net. It was his most shots without success in a match for City.

By contrast, Sterling came back to haunt Guardiola after leaving City for Chelsea in 2022, following seven trophy-filled years in Manchester.

His curled finished looked for a long time like being enough to secure all three points for Mauricio Pochettino's team. Even though City rallied to draw, Sterling still delivered a blow to his former club’s hopes of winning the title.

“At the end we can be pleased, but at the same time we’re a little bit disappointed. We had chances to finish the game off," Sterling said. “We knew they’re a team who use the ball really well and that there would be times when we need to use our brains. We’re disappointed not to come away with a bit more."

The draw continued a positive run for Chelsea and will ease the pressure on Pochettino ahead of next week's League Cup final against Liverpool in a disappointing league campaign.

“I’m so pleased. I told the players I feel so proud," Pochettino said. "In the last three games we’ve started to create a very good spirit. That’s the way we want to build our team. Today was a very good opportunity to show we’re going where we want.”


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