Pellegrini eyes strong finish as City show their mettle

Pellegrini eyes strong finish as City show their mettle
THRILLER: Villa's Ron Vlaar in action against City's Pablo Zabaleta and Toure on Saturday. City won 3-2, thanks to Fernandinho's 89th-minute shot.

MANCHESTER - Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes his team can go through the remainder of the Premier League season unbeaten if they show the same character they displayed in a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa.

Saturday's thrilling win at Eastlands, settled by Fernandinho's 89th-minute shot, left City firmly on course for a top-four finish and Champions League football next season.

But, while unhappy with City's defending against relegation-threatened opponents, Pellegrini said his side had shown the character that would carry them to second place behind champions-elect Chelsea.

"We didn't play well today, maybe it was one of our worst games in possession," said Pellegrini, whose side have rarely hit the heights this term that saw them win the Premier League title last season.

"We have so much possession every game, against every team, so it was strange to see how much possession we lost. But it is not easy when you are winning 2-0, and they come back to 2-2, to go on and get the winner but we did it.

"If we play with this spirit, maybe we don't lose another game.

"We have to play for another 12 points and I think it was important to win these three points and see what happens tomorrow with (Manchester) United and Arsenal. But it will not be decided this weekend.

"With another 12 points to play for, it is very important to continue playing with the spirit we had today."

City were given an early lead after an error by goalkeeper Brad Guzan, which saw Sergio Aguero score his 21st league goal of the campaign and remain on course to finish as the division's leading scorer.

"I think it is important, after the team, to have individual awards for different players," said Pellegrini. "Also it is important for Kun (Aguero) to score more goals, but it is more important to win the game.

That's why we're trying to work as a team. But he has started scoring again the last three games, which is important for him."

Aleksandar Kolarov extended City's lead, before Tom Cleverley and Carlos Sanchez claimed the goals which levelled the game at 2-2 after 85 minutes.

Following the equaliser, Villa striker Christian Benteke was clean through on goal with only Joe Hart to beat but was flagged offside - incorrectly, according to replays.

City's winner followed within seconds and the manner of the disallowed goal frustrated Villa manager Tim Sherwood who, nevertheless, remained optimistic regarding his FA Cup finalists' chances of avoiding relegation even though the Birmingham club are now just two points above the bottom three.

"It's onside, it's a penalty and a sending-off for Joe Hart," said Sherwood. "You get some, you don't get others but at this stage of the season it's difficult and I'm saying that with a lump in my throat, to be honest.

"Not only was the fight and the character there, but the ability and performance was there also. If we perform like that in the remaining games, we will be okay."

City emerged from the game with an injury concern over midfielder Yaya Toure, who limped off at half-time with a hamstring problem.

With City captain Vincent Kompany unlikely to play again this season because of a knee injury, Pellegrini will have to wait for the results of tests on Ivory Coast international Toure before finding out whether he has played his final game of the campaign.

"It's difficult to know today what will happen," Pellegrini said. "But he (Toure) was not brought off as a precaution. It was a muscle injury and we will have to see how serious it is."

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