Etherington makes Stoke's spirit count

Stoke City 1 Manchester City 1: Richards sets up a birthday victory for Mancini until City finally succumb to intense pressure

Standing up to the physical challenge posed by Stoke City on their own patch is one of the tests of true champions. Chelsea and Manchester United have managed it every time, and Manchester City appeared to be poised to emulate them when Micah Richards struck a stunning late goal.

Stoke, however, draw an indomitable spirit from their cacophonous support. Having dominated the first half before Roberto Mancini's side found their bearings, an equally fine stoppage-time equaliser from Matthew Etherington took the gloss off the Italian's 46th birthday.

Richards' first goal of the season came from a low shot after the right-back, playing only because Pablo Zabaleta was suspended, had taken James Milner's through-ball and turned Danny Collins with a dummy any international striker would have been proud to claim.

Yet just when Stoke's run of three successive victories looked set to end in defeat, Kenwyne Jones' header was audaciously back-heeled into the path of the outstanding Etherington, whose angled drive found the net via the hands of Joe Hart.

Manchester City thus lost ground on Manchester United and Arsenal, but their manager, while "disappointed" to concede at the death against a team whose "long-ball" approach is anathema to him, insisted he was not unduly concerned.

"I think the season is long and every game is difficult for each team," Mancini said. "I'm happy because my team played good football, and that was difficult here. In the second half we played very well."

According to Mancini, his team deserved to win, a statement which coaxed a wry smile from Tony Pulis. "What game was he watching?" the Stoke manager said. Pulis added: "You can have all the money in the world, and the top players, but a team going out there as one takes a lot of beating.

"At half-time we were desperately disappointed we weren't winning. When you're on top against one of the best sides in the League you have to take your chances."

Mancini, whose suave overcoat and fashionable scarf contrasted sharply with Pulis's tracksuit and baseball-cap chic, can scarcely have been surprised by Stoke, having had his first game in charge against them. This, indeed, was his third visit to the Potteries this year, previous League and FA Cup visits having brought a draw and a defeat. Centre-back Vincent Kompany predicted "a very manly challenge", and Stoke's assertive opening ensured he was proved right.

It contained familiar elements – Rory Delap's laser throw-ins, Jones' aerial power, relentless pressing in midfield and a barely legal welcome-to-Stoke challenge by Robert Huth on Mario Balotelli – but also some excellent attacking play. As befits Stanley Matthews' club, there was clever work on the wings by Jermaine Pennant and Etherington, while Jones and Ricardo Fuller gave Kompany and Kolo Touré a breathless start.

Half-chances arrived at regular intervals, Pennant firing narrowly over after five minutes and Etherington beating Hart to a through-pass only to see Touré block his goal-bound drive. Fuller dragged a shot wide after an intricate one-two with Jones and also forced a diving save from the England goalkeeper. It all added up to pressure of a kind several City players may not have experienced. Balotelli, for one, appeared bewildered by the intensity of it all.

Maintaining a high tempo is not easy and Stoke inevitably flagged in the 10 minutes before the interval. Manchester City, with Gareth Barry and Milner grafting hard, finally established a foothold, Aleksandar Kolarov putting their first shot on target after 36 minutes before Carlos Tevez almost profited from Danny Collins' stray back-pass. The shrinking violets in light blue performed with greater confidence thereafter. Even Balotelli emerged from his shell for a strong run and shot that flashed wide and later saw Kolarov's cross shoot through his legs when any touch would have produced a goal.

Apart from Richards' flourish, which came three minutes after Milner cleared off the line from Jones, it was a far cry from the fluid football with which Mancini's expensive polyglot band routed Fulham. This, though, was the Britannia Stadium, that soundtrap of red and white aggression, not the genteel environs of Craven Cottage. Frustrating as Etherington's riposte was for the visitors, it was a point not to be sniffed at.

Attendance: 27,405

Referee: Peter Walton

Man of the match: Etherington

Match rating: 7/10

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'