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NST Online: Sports

Mancini defends City's tactics

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 09:31 AM PST

Manchester’s   Pablo Zabaleta (left) and  Arsenal's  Bacary Sagna clash  which led to both players being sent off  at The Emirates Stadium on Wednesday. — AFP picture

Manchester's Pablo Zabaleta (left) and Arsenal's Bacary Sagna clash which led to both players being sent off at The Emirates Stadium on Wednesday. — AFP picture

LONDON: Roberto Mancini made no apologies for Manchester City's negative tactics as they ground out a dour 0-0 draw at title rivals Arsenal.

Mancini's team opted for a safety-first approach to hold onto second place behind Manchester United, two points ahead of the third-placed Gunners.

The Italian believes his side are in a good position heading into the second half of the title race and he said: "I prefer to go home with one point because when you come here, it could be that Arsenal will play better than you and you must defend. This is football.

"Not all teams can play like Arsenal. I think Arsenal also have won some games they don't deserve to win. In the first half they had the chances to score.

"It's not my business. I think they are a good team. It's the same when you play against Barcelona, you must defend well if you don't want to lose the game.

"I think if we had David Silva and Mario Balotelli and all the players were 100 percent it would be another game.

"We are in a good position, like Arsenal and like United. I think the season is very long. Also Chelsea and Tottenham have lost tonight (Wednesday) but both can finish near the top."

Both Mancini and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger were united in their condemnation of referee Mike Jones's decision to send off Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta.

Mancini said: "I don't agree with the sending off because two yellow cards is enough. At that moment at the end of the game the players are tiring and the referee should understand this. I asked the referee why and he said for him it was a red card."

And Wenger added: "The frustrating thing of the night was the sending off. That showed they were happy with the 0-0 when the goalkeeper takes the free kick from the other side. When they were down they were slow to get up."

Wenger refused to be downhearted at his side's failure to score despite dominating the game and he claimed the performance only reinforced his view that the Gunners are potential champions.

"I think we had the performances and not the result. But I take a lot of encouragement from the game even if mathematically we are frustrated and the players are disappointed in the dressing room," Wenger said.

"There is no way we should lose courage or belief in our team, it's the opposite.

"We should come out with more belief in our quality and because we have shown that we have what it takes to be a serious contender in this league.

"The regrets I have is we didn't take our early chances because that would have changed the game.

"They came here to have a 0-0 and in they end they got what they wanted but if we had scored the first goal it would have changed the course of the game.

"We faced long periods in the game when we played against 10 men, even Tevez, I have never seen him so deep.

"And when we lost some freshness and sharpness in our movement we lost our threat. You have to play with sharpness against a team who defend like that.." -- AFP

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Gambhir guides India towards safety

Posted: 06 Jan 2011 07:07 AM PST

CAPE TOWN: Opening batsman Gautam Gambhir guided India towards safety -- and a share of the series -- with a cautious half century on the fifth day of the Third and Final Test against South Africa at Newlands here yesterday.

Gambhir was unbeaten on 62 as India reached 113 for two at tea, with only another 34 overs due to be bowled.

India, already assured of remaining at No 1 ahead of South Africa in the official Test rankings, have lost all their previous Test series in South Africa.

India clearly regarded a target of 340 as unrealistic on a pitch with some uneven bounce and even the normally aggressive Virender Sehwag concentrated on defence against South African fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Sehwag completed a disappointing series when he was caught at first slip by South African captain Graeme Smith off Morkel for 11 after batting for three minutes short of an hour. Sehwag scored 144 runs in the series at an average of 24.

Gambhir and Rahul Dravid defied the South African bowlers until after the afternoon drinks break in a second wicket stand of 79 before Dravid was caught at third slip for 31 when he got a ball from Lonwabo Tsotsobe which kicked from just short of a length.

Gambhir, who batted despite a left elbow injury which will keep him out of a forthcoming one-day series against South Africa, gave a sharp chance to AB de Villiers at silly mid-off off left-arm spinner Paul Harris in the next over.

Harris had earlier had what looked a good leg before wicket appeal against Dravid turned down.

The left-handed Gambhir, who was injured while making 93 in the first innings, looked in distress when he was struck by Morkel just below the injured elbow in the second over of the second innings. He received treatment on the field before carrying on batting with no further obvious signs of discomfort. -- AFP

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