LONDON • Manuel Pellegrini was adamant Manchester City deserved their 2-1 victory over Norwich despite almost losing the Premier League leadership because of Joe Hart's error.
Yaya Toure's late penalty eventually kept City on top of the table following Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy's error.
Ruddy flapped at a Jesus Navas cross, then was caught out of position as he chased the loose ball. He appeared to foul Fernando before Raheem Sterling's goal-bound shot was handled by Norwich captain Russell Martin, who was sent off.
No one celebrated Toure's winner with more gusto than Hart, who had made an embarrassing error minutes earlier. He dropped the ball to Cameron Jerome, who fired home Norwich's equaliser after Nicolas Otamendi's opener.
City could have won by a greater margin but Aleksandar Kolarov missed a second penalty with the last kick of the game after Robbie Brady brought down Sterling.
They remain in pole position, ahead of second-placed Arsenal on goal difference, and City boss Pellegrini was in a forgiving mood as he discussed Hart's howler.
"Joe Hart is human. Anyone can make a mistake. He made two very good saves during the match as well because he is a very good goalkeeper," he said.
"Of course, I think we deserved to win. We tried to score from the beginning. Norwich defended very well and it was very difficult to create the space. We created three or four chances but we scored through a beautiful goal from Otamendi. They drew level with what was an unlucky ball for us.
"We demonstrated character and belief in the last eight minutes.
"We scored a clear penalty and missed another. We struggled in creating space at times but I think we deserved three points."
Norwich manager Alex Neil's decision to play three centre-backs for the first time this season, in a 5-4-1 formation, did much to frustrate their opponents for long spells of the game. His plan was intended to frustrate a City team who had scored 18 goals in their previous four home games.
"If you face a team with a bit of quality, and they score a great goal, you hold your hand up, but to lose a goal from a set-piece because someone doesn't pick up their man is frustrating," he said. "There's nothing you can do about players making individual errors."