Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini criticised the appointment of referee Mark Clattenburg for the pivotal game against Premier League title rivals Tottenham which saw his team slump to a 2-1 defeat on the back of a controversial penalty decision.

Clattenburg awarded a spot-kick for handball against Raheem Sterling when a cross from Tottenham’s Danny Rose hit the City winger on the back of the arm.

And having been in charge when Tottenham won the reverse fixture 4-1 at White Hart Lane in September, when Pellegrini felt two of the home side’s goals should have been disallowed, the City boss claimed Clattenburg should not have been given the job again.

“Unfortunately for us it was the same referee, Clattenburg, as when we lost against Tottenham in the first round with two goals offside. It was decisive for the game. For me I don’t think it is a good decision to have the same referee,” said the City boss.

“It was absolutely the wrong decision (to award the penalty). It hit the back of Raheem Sterling then his elbow. Sterling was not even seeing the ball.

“It was the key moment that decided the game. Before that they did not shoot towards our goal and did not have any chances.”

City cancelled out Harry Kane’s spot-kick through substitute Kelechi Iheanacho but crashed to a fourth home defeat of the season when Christian Eriksen slotted in his sixth goal of the season seven minutes from time on his 24th birthday.

Pellegrini’s side are now six points behind Leicester City, having also lost to the league leaders a week earlier to make it successive home league defeats for the first time since December, 2008.

City have not beaten a top-six rival this season.

The City manager added: “We cannot beat them but we will see at the end of the season which is the best team.

“The last two results we had here at home were very bad. We have two games here against teams were fighting for the title. We expected to win a very important six points but we must continue fighting.

“We need to improve in a lot of things. All the teams will lose points from now until the end of the season. It is very important to trust in what you are doing and improve in what you are not doing well.

“We still have 36 points to play for and are only six points behind the leaders. We will not give up and continue working and improving.”

Tottenham have now won five successive league games as they chase a first title since 1961.

“You could feel it was not a normal game and a real test for us. For that we feel very pleased for the players,” said manager Mauricio Pochettino.

“The mentality was good and a perfect performance against a team with a lot of quality players who are top class. Full credit to my players.

“The supporters are right to dream. They show big support from the beginning of the season and I say ‘thank-you’ to them. It is important for our supporters to believe.

“It was a very important victory. We are now in a good position but is too early to talk about titles. It is important to start to feel that you can come to a stadium like Manchester City against a big team and you can win.” – Agence France-Presse

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