Can Pelle escape hell?
City manager is on a tightrope after failing to take full points against Sunderland
MAN CITY 2
(Fernandinho 2, Samir Nasri 88)
(Connor Wickham 73, 83)
They took the lead just two minutes into the game.
Then they saved a point two minutes from time.
This was a stumble no one saw coming, and an Easter gift neither Liverpool nor Chelsea were expecting.
Manchester City's 2-2 home draw with bottom-dwellers Sunderland yesterday morning (Singapore time) leaves their Premiership title hopes dangling by a fraying thread.
It propelled leaders Liverpool into a stronger-than-ever position to capture their first league trophy in 24 years.
City lag six points behind the leaders, although they can narrow the gap to three if they win their match in hand.
Even Chelsea are ahead of City in the pecking order now.
A season that began so promisingly for Manuel Pellegrini is on the brink of ending in a disaster by City's expectations.
A League Cup triumph is scant consolation for a team assembled so expensively, and primed for much bigger things.
When seen in isolation, the Champions League defeat by Barcelona in the first knock-out stage represented a minute improvement, considering the Citizens were knocked out in the group phase for two seasons running.
But the Premier League is one competition they were expected to dominate.
They had the best squad in the country.
The crumbling of Man United's empire set the stage perfectly for a peaceful takeover.
Alas, they had cold feet when it mattered.
City's Middle-Eastern owners don't take kindly to defeats.
Just ask Roberto Mancini, sacked a season after leading the club to their first top-flight triumph in 44 years.
The loss to Sunderland came hot on the heels of a defeat by Liverpool.
It is interesting to note that Chelsea completed the league double over them this season.
David Moyes has copped plenty of flak for United's demise.
Likewise, and quite rightly so, questions too will be asked of Pellegrini's ability to rally his troops when the stakes are raised.
The owners, not a patient lot to begin with, are bound to have misgivings over how their investment is being run.
Unless the team's fortunes improve dramatically over the next month, it won't be hard to imagine private helicopters ferrying managerial candidates to the club's headquarters as part of their season review.
City won't face the problem of a lack of eager candidates.
One name in particular comes to mind.
Juergen Klopp, for so long fighting with one hand tied behind his back at Borussia Dortmund, will be licking his lips at the prospect of running a team on Nasa budgets.
Pellegrini has five games to turn City's season around, and possibly to save his job.
It's a different set of rules they play by at the Etihad Stadium, where success is sweetest when instant. They are not in the business of pandering to logic.
Poyet: Suarez will be pleased
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet admitted his compatriot Luis Suarez would be delighted after the Black Cats' 2-2 draw at Manchester City handed Liverpool a huge boost in their title charge.
City needed a late equaliser by Samir Nasri to avoid defeat by the Premier League's bottom club, but Liverpool are now six points ahead and Chelsea four points in front, though both have played a game more.
Sunderland's survival chances remain slim but Connor Wickham's double - his first league goals for Sunderland since October 2011 - after Fernandinho had given City an early lead, keeps their hopes alive.
Poyet will next face another title contender Chelsea on Sunday morning (Singapore time), but he insists they are not trying to benefit leaders Liverpool or his fellow Uruguayan, Suarez.
Poyet said: "We are playing for ourselves - we are not playing for Liverpool. Maybe we helped them, and I am sure that Luis Suarez is going to be happy because there is one team less."
The Black Cats' boss did rue City's late equaliser - agonising for goalkeeper Vito Mannone who got a hand to the ball but saw it squirm over the line.
Poyet added: "It's one more blow. I tell you what, I'm testing my heart this year. Every week, I'm realistic and I'm not going to change now. We played a great game and took something from it."
City manager Manuel Pellegrini conceded that their title hopes have suffered a serious blow and blamed Sunday's defeat at Liverpool for affecting the players.
He said: "Of course, the chances are less than before the match.
"It was very important for us to win the three points, for different reasons, we couldn't but we will fight to the end.
"I think we couldn't take out of the mind the game against Liverpool and that was the consequence why the team didn't play well.
"We needed more intensity but our mind maybe was not in the moment to do it.
"Maybe in this moment, Liverpool and Chelsea have better chances than our team because we are in third position but we still continue fighting until the last game."
SAME AS 2012
Pellegrini pointed out that City had come from six points behind to win the title in 2012.
"We have to play five games more, so we continue having chances, less chances than before this game, but we continue having chances," he added.
"Remember this team two years ago were six points behind the leaders and they won the title at the end.
"So it is difficult but it is not the last game we play." - PA Sport.