STOKE Battered and bruised Manchester City were left fuming by Stoke’s physical approach after suffering a major blow to their Premier League title dreams by being held to a 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium.
Manager Roberto Mancini was so enraged by Stoke’s treatment of his team that he refused to shake hands with rival manager Tony Pulis at the end of the game and asked assistant David Platt to speak to the media while he attempted to cool down.
Mancini was furious at the manner in which Mario Balotelli appeared to be targeted by Stoke defenders, while David Silva suffered a cut ear and was forced to wear a head bandage after being hit by Dean Whitehead’s elbow as they challenged for a header.
‘Robbie is worried that he might say something that gets him in hot water,’ said Platt. ‘It is very difficult when you come here and you look for a bit of protection.
‘You know Stoke are going to compete and go for every ball. But after 90 minutes like that, you might get a different view if you watch it back on the video. I wouldn’t accuse the player of going for David Silva, I think he’s just competitive and that’s just the way they play.’
Stoke’s tactics ensured City were far from their best and after a Peter Crouch wonder goal broke the deadlock in the second half, the striker teeing up the ball then volleying in from 32 yards, it took a deflected Yaya Toure shot to earn a point and leave City top on goal difference, having played a game more than title rivals Manchester United.
Platt shrugged off suggestions that the mind games played by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who claimed City were desperate for recalling Carlos Tevez to their ranks, were responsible for the slip-up.
Platt said: ‘You don’t win the league through mind games, it’s about players going onto the pitch to win and gain points and if we have more points than them at the end of the season, everyone will perceive that Robbie has won that war of words.’
Stoke manager Pulis dismissed Mancini’s refusal to shake his hand, saying: ‘He’s got to do what he’s got to do.’ Pulis claimed Stoke should have had a first-half penalty for a Gareth Barry challenge on Glenn Whelan.
Asked about Stoke’s approach, Pulis added: ‘If people want to question their commitment, honesty and togetherness then so be it, but they are an honest group of players who work very, very hard.
I thought Peter Crouch was fantastic tonight, the best player on the pitch. It was a fantastic goal, but he’s a technically-gifted lad.’