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Manchester City loses ground in Premier League title race after being held 1-1 at Everton

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LIVERPOOL, England — Manchester City lost ground to Chelsea in the Premier League title race after dropping points against a determined Everton with a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Manuel Pellegrini's side was far from at its best and even the return from injury of leading scorer Sergio Aguero as a second-half substitute could not get the defending champions over the line.

Fernandinho put City in front in the 74th minute but Steven Naismith's glancing header shortly afterward earned a deserved draw for the hosts.

City certainly missed the commanding presence of Yaya Toure, on African Nations Cup duty with Ivory Coast, and has not won a match in which he has been absent for almost exactly 12 months.

While the neat passing was still there, City could have done with the Ivorian driving through from midfield to give Everton another dimension to worry about.

But the home side dug in, despite the odd scare, to end a run of four successive league defeats.

City is unbeaten in 14 matches, which includes nine wins and three draws, but trails Chelsea by two points at the top of the league — 49 to 47. Chelsea beat Newcastle 2-0 Saturday.

PHOTO: Everton's Romelu Lukaku, left, keeps the ball from Manchester City's Eliaquim Mangala, right, as Fernando looks on during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Jan. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Everton's Romelu Lukaku, left, keeps the ball from Manchester City's Eliaquim Mangala, right, as Fernando looks on during the English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Jan. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

The tone was set for the first half in the third minute when John Stones delayed his pass back to Joel Robles, forcing the Everton goalkeeper to kick hurriedly straight to Fernandinho, but the Brazilian was equally negligent as he passed to Jesus Navas in an offside position.

The Toffees have the worst record in the league for individual mistakes which lead to goals — 11 — and that showed no signs of lessening.

Phil Jagielka allowed Muhamed Besic's pass to bounce off him straight to David Silva, whose probing and movement was an isolated example of quality, but Navas fired wide.

Stevan Jovetic failed to hit the target from three separate chances but it was only Besic's last-ditch tackle which denied Silva a shooting opportunity after City counter-attacked from an Everton corner.

The closest either side came to scoring was just before the break when Joe Hart came out quickly to block Romelu Lukaku's shot and Seamus Coleman hammered the rebound against the crossbar from distance.

Aguero replaced Jovetic in the 67th minute but his first effort was a tentative one, volleying wide from outside the area, by which time Everton had already had a goal by Jagielka ruled out for offside against Steven Naismith.

Lukaku dithered on the edge of City's penalty area and, when he was dispossessed by Pablo Zabaleta, a quick transfer downfield saw Fernandinho nod home Silva's deflected shot from close range.

Everyone assumed that would be that but City has shown vulnerability when ahead before. Everton's determination was rewarded four minutes later when Naismith got to Leighton Baines' free-kick before Hart to glance a header into the empty net.

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PHOTO: Manchester City's Sergio Aguero makes his way to the substitutes bench before his team English Premier League soccer match between Everton and Manchester City at Goodison Park Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Jan. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
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