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Liverpool peg back City as Bale guides Spurs

ESPN staff
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Steven Gerrard's fine goal was eventually cancelled out by Sergio Aguero's impressive finish © PA Photos
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Manchester City remain nine points behind Manchester United in the Premier League title race after coming from behind to draw 2-2 with Liverpool on Sunday, as Tottenham beat 10-man West Brom thanks to Gareth Bale's fine effort to move within a point of Chelsea in third.

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Manchester City now face an uphill struggle to retain their league crown, despite Sergio Aguero scoring a fabulous late equaliser to help Roberto Mancini's side draw 2-2 with an impressive Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium.

City took the lead midway through the first half through Edin Dzeko, before Daniel Sturridge notched against his former club to restore parity. Then, with less than 20 minutes remaining, Steven Gerrard scored a blistering effort from range to put the visitors on course for victory - but Aguero evaded Pepe Reina and then turned home from an acute angle to eventually ensure the points were shared.

Both sides had chances in the opening phase of the contest - after less than a minute David Silva forced an acrobatic save from Pepe Reina - but it was Liverpool who had the best opening, Sturridge unable to find the target after a wonderful touch had taken him around Joe Hart.

After 23 minutes, however, City took the lead. Dzeko scored the goal but in truth the forward owed everything to James Milner, who did well to create space down the left before firing in a cross that had Dzeko needing to do little more than simply turn home.

Controversy surrounded Liverpool's equaliser. With Dzeko lying prostrate on the ground with an injury, City players and fans alike were screaming for referee Lee Mason to blow the whistle - but the Reds played on and, after Javi Garcia had failed to clear properly on the edge of the box, the ball made its way to Sturridge.

Twenty-five yards out, the City academy graduate took a touch before hitting a pure left-footed strike that roared low and hard beyond Joe Hart's reach - a fine goal that the England man did not celebrate out of deference to his first professional club.

Just prior to half-time City were perhaps lucky not to go behind, to a goal that would have been entirely of their own making. As the ball dribbled back into the City box Pablo Zabaleta latched onto it and, not seeing that Hart had moved off his line, kept his head down as he rolled a backpass that wrong-footed the England man. Luckily for all concerned, however, the ball trickled just wide of the near post.

It was the visitors who again started the second half the brighter - although they had nothing to show for it, bar a yellow card for Sturridge after the forward had gone down theatrically in the box under minimal contact from Joleon Lescott.

City, for their part, moved forward with ease but found it harder to create genuine openings in the final third - with Gareth Barry, perhaps to Roberto Mancini's disappointment, spurning two openings of note.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, Liverpool then took the lead through their talismanic captain. It was a trademark long-range effort from Gerrard, who glided into position 25 yards out before unleashing a laser-guided half-volley that left Hart with no chance as it nestled right in the corner.

Liverpool were perhaps worth their advantage, but they wastefully handed it right back soon after. Reina was the culprit - running from his line but failing to get to the ball - but the Spaniard still left Aguero with plenty of work to do wide on the right. Unfortunately for him the Argentinian was up to the challenge, hooking a first-time effort from a fairly acute angle that remarkably found the corner of the unguarded net 20 yards away.

The strike set up a pulsating finish, but a goal to top things off would not come. Gerrard saw a chance at a second goal blocked by a brave defender, before Maicon headed over wildly from an inswinging corner.

Sturridge then saw a potential second goal denied by Hart, but that was as close as either side came as the final whistle eventually came.

Earlier in the afternoon, Gareth Bale's superb strike earned Tottenham victory over 10-man West Brom at the Hawthorns - and closed the gap to third-placed Chelsea to just one point.

The Wales international struck his 11th league goal of the campaign mid-way through the second half to end a run of three successive draws for Andre Villas-Boas' team, as Albion played the final 42 minutes with 10 men after defender Goran Popov was sent off for spitting in the direction of Spurs defender Kyle Walker.

Tottenham took full advantage of their numerical advantage to dominate the second period despite the loss of leading scorer Jermain Defoe with an ankle injury.

Bale was a constant threat with his pace and power as he followed up his mid-week equaliser at Norwich with another crucial goal.

Popov's red card was the last thing Albion would have unwanted after all the controversy surrounding striker Peter Odemwingie's aborted move to QPR. Odemwingie was not part of Albion's matchday squad but it did not stop the Tottenham fans chanting a series of taunts aimed at the Nigeria international.

But of more concern to head coach Steve Clarke will be the fact they have now won only two of their last 14 games in all competitions.

The Baggies started well, with Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris doing well to bat away probing attempts from Romelu Lukaku and Graham Dorrans, but were undone by the dismissal of Popov. From that point Spurs were in the ascendancy and, after 68 minutes, a stunning strike from Bale put Tottenham in front.

The winger, playing in a more central role, received a pass from Walker, brushed off the challenge of Brunt and his 20 yard shot flew past the despairing dive of Foster into the top corner of the net and, ultimately, secure all three points.

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