Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini tonight hit out at Liverpool and the match officials for failing to stop play after a Daniel Agger foul in the potentially pivotal incident of the game which saw his club drop a further two points behind Manchester United at the top of the Premier League.
Mancini was incandescent after an awkward challenge on Edin Dzeko by Agger, half an hour into the match, went undetected by fourth official Andy Halliday, meaning that referee Anthony Taylor allowed Liverpool to advance up the field in the counter-attacking move which saw Sturridge score his fourth goal in six games since arriving at Liverpool.
Mancini has felt for some time that City are not getting the decisions from referees that other clubs enjoy and before flying out of Manchester to Italy last night he repeated that allegation. "Sometimes it can be normal, people make mistakes, but referee makes mistakes every game," he said. "Liverpool should probably have stopped. Dzeko was on the floor. We didn't know what happened. I think there were several seconds [before the goal]. I think it was a foul and should have been a yellow card.
"The rules are the same for everyone always. If Vinny [City's captain Vincent Kompany] did that foul it would probably be a red card. Instead the referee didn't say anything. For 10 minutes he saw all the fouls for Liverpool and he didn't see this. Agger did a foul. I think the referee should whistle: in the last two games there were fouls for us - there was a penalty against QPR which the referee didn't see."
But City's James Milner disagreed with his manager's interpretation of the way Liverpool had played on. "The first goal was frustrating as it should have been a foul, but you have to carry on and we should have closed down quicker," Milner said. "It is up to the referee to stop it and Liverpool were entitled to carry on."
Sturridge said he and his team-mates had been told by referee Anthony Taylor to continue playing when Dzeko went down. "From our viewpoint, the referee said to play on - he said not to kick the ball out," the Liverpool forward said. "It is not our job to kick the ball out. If the referee says to kick it out we will do that, and if he says play on then we'll play on.
"That is what the ref told us to do, we played on and we scored."
Sturridge picked up a booking in the second half for diving in the box following a challenge from Joleon Lescott. He denied after the game that he had gone down on purpose.
"I apologised to Joleon," he said. "It wasn't that I actually dived, I just lost my footing, and I apologised to him, and obviously there is no hard feelings. I'm not a player who dives."
Sergio Aguero's wonderful equalising goal mitigated for an imperfect performance from him, according to Mancini. who said that very few players would be capable of hitting the target from such an acute angle. "He scored a fantastic goal," Mancini said. "But I think that Sergio and Edin should play better than this.
"Today we didn't play well. In the last month we played well in all the games but today we were so nervous, I don't know why."
It was undoubtedly Sturridge's best performance for Liverpool. "In the first few games I've lacked fitness, but I feel sharp now and I feel like I am playing and training more like myself," he said. "There is more to come from me, but I was pleased with the performance today. We are gutted, though, because I think we should have come out of the game with three points. We are disappointed, but I suppose it is a point against a team who are challenging for the title, so we will take that."