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Mancini fears heartstopping EPL title race

16:25 Sun Dec 23 2012
AAP

Roberto Mancini admits Manchester City's bid to catch English Premier League leaders Manchester United might prove a heartstopping affair after the champions' dramatic 1-0 win against Reading.

Gareth Barry finished off bottom club Reading with a controversial headed winner in the 93rd minute at Eastlands on Saturday to move City within three points of United ahead of their rivals' trip to Swansea on Sunday.

It was the fourth time this season City have won a league game with a goal in the 87th minute or later following similar successes against West Bromwich Albion, Fulham and Tottenham and Mancini joked that the stress of his team's performances might yet take their toll.

"I'm very happy but we've had a lot of games like today. My heart is not strong enough to take it," Mancini said.

"That win could probably be the difference come the end of the season. I hope so. Our attitude is good. We kept our concentration until the very end."

City enjoyed all the possession against Brian McDermott's Reading without creating too many clear-cut chances.

McDermott was left to bemoan his luck once more after seeing Barry climb over defender Nicky Shorey to head in the winner.

Mancini and City claimed there was nothing wrong with Barry's effort, although Reading strongly disagreed.

McDermott and the Royals also thought they should have had a 75th-minute penalty when Matija Nastastic might have handled in a move in which Jay Tabb was also apparently fouled by City debutant Karim Rekik.

"It was an absolute joke. We've had that a few times this season," said McDermott.

"I said to the referee at the end, he'll be gutted he missed that. The ref said he hung in the air but you can hang in the air all day if you're hanging on somebody's back! It was an absolute certainty.

"And he knocked Tabb out of the way - we should have had a penalty. We've had a few of those recently but I just have to look at the positives."

Meanwhile, Arsenal climbed to third place, nine points behind City, as Mikel Arteta's second-half penalty sealed a 1-0 win over Wigan at the DW Stadium while Everton surged into fourth place with a 2-1 win over West Ham at Upton Park.

The win for Everton meant Tottenham slipped to fifth place after being held to a 0-0 draw by Stoke at White Hart Lane.

Liverpool winger Stewart Downing finally ended his 44-game Premier League goal drought as the Reds beat Fulham 4-0 at Anfield to record their biggest win of the season.

He netted in the 51st minute after first-half strikes from Martin Skrtel and Steven Gerrard while Luis Suarez scored the fourth in stoppage-time.

Newcastle ended a miserable run of six defeats from their past seven league games as Shola Ameobi clinched a 1-0 victory against QPR at St James' Park.

Ameobi came off the bench to hit the winner with a fine finish in the 81st minute.

West Bromwich Albion also remain in the hunt for a top-four finish after a 2-1 win against Norwich at The Hawthorns left them sixth and level on points with Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham.

Sunderland boosted their survival hopes as Steven Fletcher's 42nd-minute goal sealed a 1-0 win at fellow strugglers Southampton.