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PA Archive/Press Association Images Hart was beaten by Diouf's shot after a lung-busting run from the former Man United player.
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Pellegrini refuses to blame Joe Hart after City's home defeat to Stoke
The goalkeeper has been criticised for allowing Mame Biram Diouf to score the winner.

MANCHESTER CITY MANAGER Manuel Pellegrini said his side were entering the international break dissatisfied with their start to the season following a surprise 1-0 home defeat by Stoke City.

City were well short of the form that delivered the Premier League title to the Etihad Stadium last season, falling to a fine second-half goal from former Manchester United forward Mame Biram Diouf in Saturday’s game.

Pellegrini confessed his target had been to reach the international break with a maximum return from City’s opening three games; an aim that seemed well within their grasp following an impressive win over Liverpool on their last home outing.

“It is always serious to lose three points at home,” he said. “It was very important for our team to try and win nine points before the international break.

It is not good to start this break with a defeat, but these types of game happen once a year and it has happened to our team. We will continue playing and working the same way we are doing now. Exactly the same.”

While goalkeeper Joe Hart appeared to allow Diouf’s shot to pass between his legs too easily, Pellegrini refused to blame the England international, but he did admit that his team had lacked their usual creative spark.

“I don’t analyse players in particular,” said the Chilean when asked about Hart’s attempt to save Diouf’s effort.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester City v Stoke City - Etihad Stadium PA Wire / Press Association Images Pellegrini refused to single out individual players. PA Wire / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

“I analyse as a team and, as a team, they all could have done more. We were very patient and tried to create space, but Stoke defended very well. We couldn’t create space and had a bad day in our creative play.

“I don’t think we could lose this game 1-0. It was too easy, the way they scored their goal: a counter-attack from a corner in their own box, and (Diouf) ran 70 metres to score the goal.

“In these games you have to be patient and try to create space until the last minute.”

- Diouf’s ‘pace and power’ -

Diouf struck just before the hour with an extraordinary solo goal that saw him sprint from deep within his own half into the City area, where he beat Hart.

It was Stoke’s first victory at City in 34 years and only the second time in the last 71 home Premier League games that the defending champions had failed to score.

However, City felt they should have had a late penalty after Yaya Toure went down under a challenge from Erik Pieters, only to be booked for diving.

“What I think doesn’t matter. I don’t talk about the referee,” Pellegrini told journalists.

“All of you know it was clearly a penalty, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t want to analyse the game just on one play, but it was a clear penalty.”

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Soccer - Pre Season Friendly - Stoke City v Real Betis - Britannia Stadium EMPICS Sport Diouf was the match winner for Stoke at the Etihad. EMPICS Sport

Former City manager Mark Hughes paid tribute to Diouf, who was brought to English football by then Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson five years ago, but failed to make a mark at Old Trafford.

“I’m really pleased for Mam,” Hughes said. “He’s come to the club and we’ve been delighted with what he’s shown us in games and in training.

He’s a striker and he wants to make an impression as quickly as possible and obviously that means scoring goals. He’s probably been a little bit hard on himself the couple of games he’s played for us, but you can see he gives us something we didn’t have last year: pace and power on the break.”

Hughes said the victory had no added meaning for him personally despite the controversial manner in which he was sacked by City in 2009 and replaced by Pellegrini’s predecessor, Roberto Mancini.

“I’m just delighted for my team, my club, and the fans here today,” said the Welshman.

“I have no axe to grind. I was here as manager and enjoyed that time. It didn’t last as long as I thought it could have done, but you move onto the next challenge.”

- © AFP, 2014

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