Norwich 0 Manchester City 0 match report: Manuel Pellegrini left clutching at straws

City manager tries to put some gloss on a missed opportunity but result is vindication for Hughton

Carrow Road

Goalless draws are the flotsam of football; they drift by and are lost in the ocean of events. This one was greeted with a vast rolling cheer, the kind that comes with championship-deciding performances. It would be greeted by a thin smile in the manager’s office at Stamford Bridge. This has been quite a week for Jose Mourinho.

There was no backlash by the Manchester City side Chelsea had overcome on Monday night. Manuel Pellegrini had to dress up the season’s most surprising stalemate as a well-earned point by a squad that is becoming increasingly stretched by injury. He was still able to put £150m worth of footballers on to the pitch. As he travelled back to Manchester, the City manager must have wondered whether the FA would take any action against Yaya Touré who lashed out at Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the closing stages of a match whose frustrations threatened to overwhelm his team.

It was not hard to understand why. In the five times these clubs have met since Norwich won promotion in 2011, City had scored 24 times. The last encounter, in November, had seen them thrashed 7-0. A 6-1 win here two years ago had given Roberto Mancini’s side the momentum to elbow their  way past Manchester United to snatch the title.

They were the Canaries, Manchester City were the cat and the cage door was always open. In the wake of Liverpool’s dismemberment of Arsenal, this was an opportunity that was too obvious to squander.

By the end, they were grateful for a point. Such is the derision directed towards Van Wolfswinkel, who has managed one goal since his £8.5m signing from Sporting Lisbon, that when he was brought on the crowd began chanting: “If he scores, we’re on the pitch.” There was very nearly an invasion.

With time dripping away, Nathan Redmond sent the ball flashing across the face of Joe Hart’s goal. Van Wolfswinkel, rushing in, only had to touch the ball to wash away six months of failure. He missed by inches. Moments later, Anthony Pilkington shot over the bar.

The highest-scoring team in the Premier League had only one glaring opportunity. A corner from Jesus Navas was flicked by Martin Demichelis into the kind of place from which Alvaro Negredo does not miss. It was a free header a few yards out and it flew through John Ruddy’s gloves and clattered against the crossbar.

A few minutes later, the striker they call ‘The Beast’ thrashed a curling shot into the side-netting. Stevan Jovetic, who in Sergio Aguero’s absence might be expected to add edge to an already brutal City attack, forced a fine low save from Ruddy. For all their possession and their territorial dominance, that was pretty much that.

This time, Pellegrini did not repeat his failed experiment of employing Demichelis as a makeshift midfielder as he had against Chelsea. James Milner, who should have been employed in that role at the Etihad, did so now and proved rather more effective.

Aside from creating what ought to have been Manchester City’s opener, the Argentine’s most obvious intervention was to hurl himself wildly to the floor as Gary Hooper threatened to run past him. He drew the foul and, quite rightly, drew the abuse.

Three months ago, in the wake of the 7-0 humbling in Manchester, Chris Hughton had stood in a corridor at the Etihad Stadium and argued why he should keep his job as Norwich manager. He had to defend a performance from Sébastien Bassong that had been gratingly awful.

They were playing West Ham next and, had it been lost, Hughton would not have survived. Yesterday, Bassong, wearing the armband, held his defence together with studied coolness. West Ham are up again on Tuesday night. Norwich’s captain and his manager will go into the game as vindicated men.

Line-ups:

Norwich City (4-4-1-1): Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson; Tettey, Johnson,  Pilkington (Whittaker, 90), Fer; Redmond; Hooper (Van Wolfswinkel, 68).

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Touré, Milner; Navas, Jovetic (Dzeko, 61), Silva; Negredo (Kolarov, 77).

Referee: Jon Moss

Man of the match: Bassong (Norwich)

Match rating: 7/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?