Premier League - Crouch handiwork helps Stoke hold City

Premier League, Britannia Stadium - Stoke City 1 (Crouch, 15) Manchester City (Javi Garcia, 35)

Peter Crouch scored with the aid of his hand to help Stoke City hold Premier League champions Manchester City 1-1 at the Britannia Stadium.

The former England striker managed to give City central defenders Joleon Lescott and Vicent Kompany the slip on 15 minutes before planting the ball beyond Joe Hart for the opening goal.

Television replays showed Crouch had clearly handled the ball to control it with referee Mark Clattenburg apparently unsighted. It was a bit different from the stunning volley he hoisted into the City net last season that earned him a goal of the season nomination, but this one could prove every bit as significant.

“If you want to start with the first goal we should talk about the NBA not football,” Roberto Mancini told reporters after the match.

“I didn’t see from the bench but I saw all my players talk to the referee, the incredible thing is that the referee was behind Crouch.

“Sometimes it can happen when the handball is not voluntary but not today."

Crouch has now scored three times in his last six outings against City in the Premier League.

Mancini's side were the better side for long periods of the first half and deservedly equalised when debutant Javi Garcia popped up unmarked to head home from Carlos Tevez's free kick on 35 minutes. It was his first goal in a City shirt since his £18 million move from Benfica.

The midfielder almost won it in the dying seconds when he met substitute David Silva's corner kick with another powerful header, but this time Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic dived to make the stop with the ball coming back off a post and into his arms.

Tony Pulis's Stoke were worthy of their point on energy alone after being outpassed for large swathes of the afternoon, but were almost undone in the final seconds of stoppage time when Begovic dashed crazily from his line to challenge Edin Dzeko, who had replaced Mario Balotelli only seconds earlier.

Dzeko managed to lift the ball over the dashing Begovic, but Ryan Shawcross produced a marvellous piece of defending to sprint back and hook the ball off his line as it looked set to nestle in his net.

It was a thrilling piece of defending with the Manchester City supporters behind the goal cutting bemused figures as they prepared to revel in three points.

Michael Owen made his debut for Stoke in the closing seconds as he replaced Crouch, who had done his work for the day by scoring with a goal that should have been disallowed.

Tevez enjoyed a decent outing for City before somewhat strangely being replaced by Gareth Barry on 64 minutes. He walloped a shot narrowly wide on four minutes with Balotelli doing likewise 17 minutes later.

Begovic swiped a shot by Maicon wide on 35 minutes before saving from Balotelli with another smart piece of handling skills.

Stoke managed to enjoy more meaningful moments in the second period, but the home side continued to rely on Begovic to protect their point as he came up with saves from Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri three minutes from time that were above average.

Manchester City have now failed to win in all five Premier League visits to Stoke, drawing each of their last four 1-1.

Stoke nor Crouch looked too embarrassed when the final whistle sounded.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Asmir Begovic - Stoke City: Produced vital saves at vital times to earn Stoke a point from the contest. Was at fault in the dying seconds when he dashed from his line to confront Edin Dzeko, but that should not detract from a fine piece of all-round goalkeeping.

PLAYER RATINGS

Stoke: Begovic 8, Wilkinson 6, Shawcross 7, Huth 7, Wilson 6, Walters 6, Whelan 6, N'Zonzi 6, Adam 5, Kightly 6, Crouch 7. SUBS: Cameron 6, Owen 6, Etherington 6

Man City: Hart 7, Maicon 7, Kompany 6, Lescott 6, Clichy 6, Nasri 6, Toure 7, Javi Garcia 7, Sinclair 5, Balotelli 7, Tevez 7. SUBS: Dzeko 6, Barry 6, Silva 6

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS