|Peter Crouch celebrates after scoring a cracking volley to put Stoke ahead of City [GALLO/GETTY]|
Manchester City’s title challenge suffered a setback as the leaders came from behind to rescue a 1-1 draw at Stoke after Peter Crouch’s stunning goal threatened to upset the leaders on Saturday.
Yaya Toure’s deflected equaliser late in the second half cancelled out a sublime long-range effort from Crouch and took City above arch rivals Manchester United on goal difference.
But, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men hosting Fulham on Monday, there is every chance City will soon be back in second place and three points off the top.
The Britannia Stadium has been an unforgiving venue for City ever since Stoke’s promotion to the top flight and boss Roberto Mancini might have feared the worst when Sergio Aguero pulled out through injury, with Edin Dzeko making
his first league start since early February.
Tony Pulis’s Stoke relish toughing it out against the bigger clubs and Cameron Jerome was only inches away from connecting with Crouch’s flick-on in the early stages.
And Mancini was furious with the hosts’ abrasive approach when Dean Whitehead appeared to catch David Silva with his elbow as the pair went up for a header.
Dzeko wasted two chances to cement a starting place, heading a Silva free-kick wide before fluffing an even better chance from an inch perfect Gael Clichy cross at the back post.
But Stoke came closest to taking the lead four minutes before the break when Pablo Zabaleta spared Gareth Barry from heading Matthew Etherington’s corner into his own net.
The visitors started the second period with more rhythm and Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic wac called into action to make saves from Dzeko and Samir Nasri.
Stoke were making chances of their own and England goalkeeper Joe Hart had to be alert to claw away a header from Ryan Shawcross.
It needed a moment of genius to break the deadlock – and it was the unlikely figure of Crouch who delivered it spectacularly in the 59th minute.
There seemed no danger whatsoever when Crouch picked up a Pennant flick 25 yards from the goal on the far right, but the former Tottenham striker arced an incredible volley over Hart into the top corner from around 30 yards out.
City needed to respond quickly to avoid losing more ground in the title race.
And they delivered 14 minutes from time when Toure drilled a long-range effort that took a crucial deflection off Shawcross, wrong-footing Begovic just enough to leave the goalkeeper unable to do anything but push it into the net.
Mancini urged his team to push for a winner but Stoke held out and went close themselves when Adam Johnson deflected a shot narrowly wide of his own goal.
Shawcross even turned the ball into the net in the final moments but referee Howard Webb disallowed the goal for an infringement.