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City's Mancini rages at ref after Nasri send-off

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Flashpoint ... Norwich City's Sebastien Bassong (L) clashes with Manchester City's Samir Nasri.

Flashpoint ... Norwich City's Sebastien Bassong (L) clashes with Manchester City's Samir Nasri. Photo: Reuters

NORWICH: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini claims his team is being victimised by officials after Samir Nasri was sent off for a headbutt in the champion's 4-3 win at Norwich.

The Italian was unhappy with the decision of referee Mike Jones to show Nasri a red card following a clash of heads with Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong, who was only booked for his part in the first-half incident at Carrow Road on Saturday. Mancini has already been asked by the Football Association to explain comments after the 1-0 defeat at Sunderland on Wednesday that referee Kevin Friend ''ate too much for Christmas''.

City will appeal against Nasri's red card, which will otherwise result in a three-match ban, but whether the governing body will be impressed by Mancini's conspiracy theory claims remains to be seen.

''Both players came forward with their heads, so if you are going to send off one, then you have to send off both, not only Samir,'' he said. ''Samir said he touched his head, OK, but the other player has done the same. The linesman has a big responsibility also, because it was not a good decision, it is incredible.

''You want to send off both players? Then, OK, the referee was there, he saw everything. The linesman was behind the players, he could not see. We will appeal, sure.''

Mancini admitted that Nasri had only himself to blame for reacting so angrily to Bassong's challenge a minute before the break, but he suggested City were treated with less leniency than other teams.

City's win prevented Manchester United from extending their seven-point lead at the summit, after they beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 to take their season tally to 50 goals.

United manager Alex Ferguson was the focus of pre-match attention at Old Trafford for an outspoken attack on Newcastle United coach Alan Pardew, but his side got down to business quickly and went ahead inside nine minutes.

The scorer wore a blue and white shirt, however, as West Brom defender Gareth McAuley inadvertently shinned the ball into his own goal after Ashley Young drove a low cross across the face.

The hosts were not able to breathe easily until substitute Robin van Persie curled a glorious shot into the top-left corner in the last minute, before unveiling a T-shirt that paid tribute to a deceased friend.

''We're in a good position,'' Ferguson told the BBC. ''We're halfway there. We've a game on Tuesday away from home at Wigan, and we've got a few players to freshen it up. We'll look forward to the next game and try [to] win it.''

Tottenham had earlier overturned a half-time deficit to win 2-1 at Sunderland and provisionally move into third place.

John O'Shea scored against the run of play to put the hosts ahead at a rain-sodden Stadium of Light, but a Carlos Cuellar own goal drew Spurs level before Aaron Lennon completed the comeback with a composed 51st-minute strike.

Andre Villas-Boas's side have taken 19 points from a possible 24 and are now a point above third-place Chelsea, who have two games in hand and visit Everton on Sunday.

Third-bottom Southampton were denied victory in a 3-3 draw at Stoke City by a sensational 25-metre strike from Cameron Jerome. The Saints had led 3-1, and played against 10 men following the controversial 71st-minute dismissal of Steven N'Zonzi.

AFP

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