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.


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

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

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific