Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini claimed Peter Crouch's latest goal against his side belonged in the NBA after yet another Barclays Premier League draw at Stoke.
The champions had to settle for a 1-1 stalemate at the Britannia Stadium for a fourth consecutive season after coming from behind to cancel out a controversial Crouch strike. Crouch hit a stunning long-range volley in last season's encounter but this time he appeared to benefit from the use of his hand before tucking home in the 15th minute.
Mancini said: "If you want to start with the first goal you should talk about NBA basketball, not football. I didn't see this from the bench but I saw all my players wanted to talk with the referee. The incredible thing was the referee was behind Crouch. Sometimes it can happen that the handball is not voluntary, but not today."
Javi Garcia marked his City debut by equalising with a free header after 35 minutes and the Spain midfielder went close to snatching a last-minute winner. Garcia was again unmarked, this time at a corner, as he powered a header towards the bottom corner but Asmir Begovic did brilliantly to tip his effort onto the post.
There was still time for substitute Edin Dzeko to lob Begovic in injury time but Ryan Shawcross got back to make a superb clearance off the line.
Mancini said: "Here it is always difficult, not only for us but all the teams. We had two incredible chances at the end of the game and we were unlucky. It is a difficult pitch for us. I think that Garcia scored an important goal and he had another chance.
"He played well. Like Maicon, it was the first game for them and I think both players did a good performance. They don't know their team-mates yet and for a first game they did well."
Mancini said he did not see the off-the-ball incident between Andy Wilkinson and Mario Balotelli which ended with the Italian on the ground. Referee Mark Clattenburg spoke to the players but took no action and replays did not suggest anything too serious had occurred.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis was prepared to accept that Crouch had handled but did not complain about the incident being missed by Clattenburg.
Pulis said: "I haven't seen it but they tell me it is and I believe the ones who told me. I'll take that on the chin but it is lovely for us to have a decision."