City stumble as Suarez enjoys dream debut

Manchester City lost ground to local rivals Manchester United in the Premier League title race after twice giving up the lead in a 2-2 draw away to Birmingham on Tuesday.

A share of the spoils at St Andrew’s left Roberto Mancini’s men eight points behind leaders United, having played a game more than the table-toppers.

Carlos Tevez gave Manchester City a fourth minute lead with a neat, clipped finish following a pass from David Silva.

But Birmingham were level 19 minutes later when Serbia striker Nikola Zigic scored from close range after getting on the end of David Bentley’s free-kick.

City suffered a setback when defender Micah Richards, who first needed several minutes of on-field treatment, was carried off on a stretcher following a head injury.

However, they subsequently regained the lead when, four minutes before halftime, Aleksandar Kolarov curled a 25-yard freekick around the wall for a fine goal.

But City failed to press home their advantage and were punished when, following Patrick Vieira’s clumsy challenge on Kevin Phillips, the hosts equalised through Craig Gardner’s penalty 13 minutes from time.

‘Great return’
“If that was a penalty then there would be five penalties in every game,” a frustrated Mancini told the BBC.

Elsewhere, new Liverpool striker Luis Suarez marked his debut by coming off the bench to score the Reds’ second goal in a 2-0 win over Stoke,

Victory saw the Merseysiders, who lost Spain forward Fernando Torres to Chelsea on deadline day, continue their resurgence under Kenny Dalglish.

Liverpool went ahead in the 47th minute at Anfield when Raul Meireles crashed the ball in after Stoke had failed to clear a Steven Gerrard shot.

Suarez, a £22,6-million signing from Ajax on transfer deadline, came on for Fabio Aurelio shortly after the hour mark.

And in the 79th minute he sealed Liverpool’s third straight clean sheet win under Dalglish when he rounded the keeper and rolled the ball in despite a despairing attempt by Andy Wilkinson, who deflected the strike into his own net, to hack clear.

“We’re all delighted with that result — and three clean sheets in a row is a great return,” Dalglish said.

“Everyone’s pleased for Luis too. He hasn’t even trained with us yet but he showed what he’s all about tonight and I can’t wait to get working with him.”

‘Very happy’ Hammers
West Ham climbed off the bottom of the table with a 3-1 win away to Blackpool.

Victor Obinna gave the Hammers a 24th minute lead at Bloomfield Road when Blackpool goalkeeper Richard Kingson allowed a near-post shot from the Nigeria striker to squirm through his grasp.

And the London club doubled their lead when Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane, signed from Tottenham on transfer deadline day, scored on his debut to grab his first league goal since November 2009 when he followed up after two blocks from Obinna shots.

Blackpool playmaker Charlie Adam, who saw possible deadline day moves to both Spurs and Liverpool fall through, pulled one back when he beat Hammers keeper Robert Green direct from a corner.

But barely two minutes later the visitors were 3-1 up when Obinna let fly with a superb 30-yard shot.

“We scored three and we could have scored more, I am very happy,” said Hammers boss Avram Grant.

Champions League
Tottenham maintained their pursuit of a Champions League place with a 1-0 win away to Blackburn Rovers secured by Peter Crouch’s third minute header that saw them close to within three points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Life for Newcastle without Andy Carroll following the striker’s £35-million departure to Liverpool started with a 1-0 loss away to Fulham.

Damien Duff’s 67th minute goal decided the match and defeat for Newcastle was compounded by an injury to striker Shola Ameobi, who lasted just 13 minutes at Craven Cottage before going off with a suspected fractured cheekbone.

Bolton new boy Daniel Sturridge, on loan from Chelsea, struck in stoppage time after pouncing on a poor backpass from Ronald Zubar to seal a 1-0 win over Wolves that dropped Mick McCarthy’s men to the foot of the table. — Sapa-AFP

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Julian Guyer
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