LONDON Manchester City's last-gasp win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League lifted coach Roberto Mancini's spirits on Sunday after a difficult few days when he admitted their Champions League quest was virtually over for the season.
An 88th minute goal from substitute Edin Dzeko gave City a 2-1 victory after they fought back from conceding in the first half when Steven Caulker headed Spurs in front.
Sergio Aguero equalised in the 65th minute and City, who increasingly took a grip on the game, struck with time running out to stay unbeaten in the league this season and stretch their unbeaten home record to 35 games since December 2010.
The smiles were in contrast to Mancini's anguish on Tuesday after their 2-2 draw with Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League left them with only two points from their four group matches with Mancini admitting they faced almost certain elimination.
The stylishly cool 47-year-old Italian showed the more volatile side of his character on Tuesday when he stormed on to the pitch to confront the referee and then had a row with a cameraman after the draw with the Dutch champions.
However, his mood was far better after the three points kept City just two points behind leaders Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table.
"It was a huge win because it was a difficult moment," he told the BBC.
"We had a lot of important players injured and today I saw the same spirit from the players that I saw last year.
"In the first half we played well. Tottenham, I didn't feel, had chances apart from a couple of set pieces.
"We need to improve there. But after they scored first I thought we played fantastic.
"Today we deserved to win this game, the players were fantastic. The supporters were fantastic and in the second half they were like the 12th player on the pitch.
"The Premier League season is long and difficult - there are a lot of teams who can fight for the title, Tottenham can come back and fight for it, as can Arsenal. We made some mistakes in the Champions League but in football you can never say never."
He also had words for his match-winner Dzeko, who came off the bench after 73 minutes and scored the winner after turning and lashing home an unstoppable shot past Spurs keeper Brad Friedel.
Dzeko has now scored seven goals this season, six of them after coming on off the bench.
Mancini said he knew Dzeko was not happy to start on the bench but did not apologise for him doing so.
"He is not happy.
" A player who is happy on the bench does not exist. We had three important strikers today, last year we won the championship because of goals from our strikers, today we missed some goals from them but hopefully they can score again soon."
(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Pritha Sarkar)