Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero claims foreign players get unfair treatment from Premier League referees

Roberto Mancini remains convinced that referees have it in for the Premier League champions, but at least he can take satisfaction from taking three points from a match they could well have lost.

A fifth successive game without a win was on the cards until a schoolboy error from Fulham’s John-Arne Riise teed up a winning goal for substitute Edin Dzeko within 30 seconds of his 87th-minute introduction.

By that stage Mancini had thrown on everything except his kitchen sink in an attempt to see off a spirited Fulham side who had not lost at home since March and were looking for their best ever start to a season in the Premier League.

Mario Balotelli and Samir Nasri also came off the subs bench with Dzeko to join Sergio Agüero, scorer of Manchester City’s equaliser shortly before half-time, in an attack that cost over £100 million, but created precious little to suggest City will retain their title.

Dzeko’s goal suggested they still have the same never-say-die spirit that won it for them when Agüero scored his late winner against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season. But their defence, and captain Vincent Kompany, are not what they were. When Mladen Petric scored for Fulham from the penalty spot in the tenth minute, City become the first Premier League champions to concede goals in each of their opening six games, and they have failed to keep a clean sheet in three other matches.

Mancini was furious that Pablo Zabaleta’s challenge on Riise resulted in a spot-kick.

“The penalty was not a penalty – I don’t know why it was given. We’ve been unlucky for three or four weeks when we’ve deserved to win. We had a lot of possession and deserved to score today. If we’d lost, it would have been a bad moment.”

His theme was taken up by Agüero, who thought that City’s high percentage of overseas players in their squad might be the reason for what he believes is unfair treatment by officials.

“There is a little bit of privilege with players who come from this country,” said the Argentine international. “But that is normal, and the referee’s job is to know who is tricking him and who is not.

“Here in England, there are almost as many foreign players as English players and it’s not right that some have a privilege that others don’t.

“There will always be mistakes for any team and today he got the penalty decision wrong, but that can happen in any game.

“The club has made a big investment in a lot of players and now City is one of the best known teams in the world. We are here to win titles, whether it is the Champions League or Premiership. We want to do what we did last season.”

Their next game is at home to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday. Agüero says both competitions are equally important.

“We can’t choose between the two. Like last year, we have to do well in the Premier League and then try to do as well as we can in Europe, as well as the FA Cup.

“We will approach each one with as much seriousness as the others. They are all important for us, for everyone. For me, a Champions League game is as important as a Premier League game: you have to do all you can to win both.”

Mancini’s main concern is trying to keep his strikers happy. “We have four players with a good attitude. Maybe Mario sometimes is so-so. But all are good players and for me it is difficult to put one or two players on the bench every time because they are all good strikers. And if they have a good attitude when they come in on the pitch they can change the result like today.”

Martin Jol has yet to come across that problem, with new signings Mladen Petric and Dimitar Berbatov yet to play together because of injury. The Croatian scored on the opening day before injury struck, but returned in place of the injured Berbatov to score.

“I was pleased to be back with a goal, but not happy that we didn’t not win,” Petric said. He is already looking forward to linking up with the Bulgarian. “He is a very good attacking player, and in the future we can cause trouble for other teams.”

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