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Italian happy with "awesome" point after 10-man visitors survive late pressure to restore five-point advantage at top of the Premier League

Roberto Mancini has accused Liverpool players of persuading referee Martin Atkinson to send off Mario Balotelli during Manchester City's 1-1 draw at Anfield on Sunday.

The Italian striker, 21, was dismissed for a second yellow card following a challenge with Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel just 18 minutes after coming on as a 65th minute substitute.

Mancini, the City manager, appeared to be annoyed with Balotelli at the time, but after the game he suggested the Liverpool players had influenced Atkinson into making the decision.

“It was not the correct decision. Mario moved his arm but I got the impression the referee thought it was a free-kick but not a card,” Mancini said.

“After all the Liverpool players went to him complaining, he gave a second yellow card.

“Mario should pay attention because he knows many players will provoke him. I'm disappointed with him about the first yellow card but not the second.

"I don't think the decision was correct. I have seen it again and still think so - it isn't a second yellow card for me.

“Mario can do everything. The last three months he has played well and scored a lot of goals. He is an important player for us - we know this.”

Mancini was asked to respond to claims that Balotelli had damaged a door in the visitors' changing room at Anfield after being sent off.

He added: “Mario was disappointed about the red card. If he damaged the door, he will pay, like he did with his house!”

The result meant City restored their five-point lead over Manchester United at the top of the Premier League and remain unbeaten domestically this season after surviving late pressure from Liverpool.

Vincent Kompany gave the visitors the lead with a glancing header in the 31st minute but his effort was swiftly cancelled out when Joleon Lescott turned Charlie Adam's shot into his own net.

Mancini was delighted with the result and singled out goalkeeper Joe Hart for a series of key saves in the final 10 minutes of the game.

“I think that tonight is a good result - an awesome result - because we played the last 10 minutes with 10 men and playing at this stadium is really difficult,” Mancini said.

“It is very important to remain unbeaten because we are a strong team and many teams who come here would have lost today. It's been a happy birthday for me and I think this is a good result in a difficult game. Joe saved us an important point.

“Maybe we were not at 100 per cent but it was important to play a good game. We tried to win but this match was not easy because Liverpool are a strong team.”

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