A Peter Crouch wonder-goal meant Manchester City’s Premier League title challenge continued to stutter, as they could only draw 1-1 at Stoke City.
Crouch’s fantastic strike half way through the second half gave Tony Pulis’ side the lead in a hard-fought tie at the Britannia Stadium.
Yaya Toure’s deflected pile driver drew Roberto Mancini’s side level but they could not find the winner against a resolute Potters defence.
In a forgetful first half Stoke waited for set pieces to trouble the City defence as they seemed content to sit back most of the time and frustrate the Citizens creative players.
Edin Dzeko was off target a couple of times when he should have done better, but both defences were solid.
The talking point from the first half was the injury to David Silva after a collision with Dean Whitehead that gave the Spaniard a nasty cut on the head.
Mancini was incensed on the sideline, seemingly convince the contact from Whitehead’s elbow was deliberate but referee Howard Webb did not agree.
The second half seemed to be heading in a similar direction to the first until just before the hour mark and Crouch’s spectacular intervention.
The England striker messed up a headed flick on but second half substitute Jermaine Pennant teed it up for his team-mate to take one touch and hit a phenomenal volley from over 25 yards out on the right hand corner of the area and over the helpless Joe Hart.
It was easily the goal of the season so far and was made more astonishing by the realisation that it had started from a kick by Stoke ‘keeper Asmir Begovic and did not touch the floor until it fell just under the bar of Hart’s goal.
The goal brought City to life and they were level again in little over 15 minutes when Yaya Toure hit a fierce shot from all of 40 yards that was sailing straight at Begovic, only to take a late deflection off the head of Robert Huth that the ‘keeper could not react to in time.
Mancini’s men pushed forward at every turn but could not create an opening, while Stoke were looking increasingly dangerous on the break.
Carlos Tevez was introduced and the Citizens ended the game with a number of attacking players on the pitch.
Manchester United will be delighted with the Stoke City performance, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men can go three points ahead of their rivals should they defeat Fulham at Old Trafford come Monday night.
City, however, will need a re-think and will be hoping the return of Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero for next weekend’s game with Sunderland can breathe life back into their ailing title bid.