Belfast Telegraph

Manuel Pellegrini: Heavy ground and referee made going hard

By Ian Herbert

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was reduced to finding excuses for his players last night, after they threw away a two-goal lead to draw against the Premiership's most cheaply assembled team and failed to capitalise on Chelsea's two dropped points against Southampton.

Pellegrini's excuses for the dramatic drop-off in intensity at home to Burnley - which looked remarkably like complacency - included the heavy pitch they had faced at a snowbound Hawthorns during the Boxing Day win over West Bromwich, as well as the heavy Etihad pitch and the failings of referee Kevin Friend, who allowed the visitors' first goal to stand though scorer George Boyd was offside.

"It is difficult for all the teams, especially our team because we play on a very heavy pitch against West Bromwich in the last game, to keep the same pace in the second half," Pellegrini said. "In the first minute of the second half Burnley scored a clear offside goal. After that they scored the second from a rebound. I am not saying we are unfortunate. I don't say that. I am saying in football, just two balls can decide the score."

The Chilean's analysis was miserly towards a Burnley side who were comfortably better in the second half, having been overwhelmed in the first half hour and fallen 2-0 behind, and for whom Danny Ings also twice went close. Pellegrini, who indicated that it may be "too high a risk" to play Yaya Touré in the home game against Sunderland on New Year's Day after he missed this game with a groin strain, said that City's absence of strikers had affected the struggle to maintain intensity.

"In the way we are playing we need a lot of movements," he said. "We need to arrive from the second line in the box and you need to run a lot of metres. Maybe winning 2-0 we thought the game was over but until the last whistle the game is never finished. So we couldn't continue with the same pace."

He admitted the failure to seize on his old adversary Jose Mourinho's two dropped points at Southampton was a disappointment.

"Of course, it is a chance to have two more points but it is not a chance for anything else," he said. "We have to play a complete second round. We finished the first round with 43 points. That is a good amount of points. Not because you play at home, you must be sure you will win the points. Of course after you are winning 2-0, it is more disappointing to lose those two points but we have all the second round to see who will be the best team."

Burnley manager Sean Dyche, whose side face a critical four-game run against QPR, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and West Brom from January 10, said that they are confounding a popular narrative about them. "I can't work out why I keep reading about struggling Burnley," he said. "I am aware of the league table but when look at how team is performing, we're not actually struggling."

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