City dropped two vital points against bottom-of-the-table Queens Park Rangers in a frustrating 0-0 draw at Loftus Road.
The Blues squandered several presentable chances and found the Hoops’ Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar – who used to ply his trade under Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan - in inspired form as the top versus bottom clash went against the formbook.
City now trail United by four points with the Reds due to play Southampton at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.
On a blustery night in Shepherd’s Bush, City began with purpose against an improving QPR side who had recently beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and considerably shored up a leaky defence
...QPR O City 0
Sergio Aguero was restored to the starting line-up at the expense of Edin Dzeko, while Gael Clichy replaced Aleks Kolarov and Samir Nasri and Joe Hart also returned after missing the 1-0 win at Stoke.
An ankle injury meant ex-Blue Shaun Wright-Phillips missed a reunion with his old team-mates, but full-back Nedum Onuoha started and in the early exchanges it soon became apparent he wouldn’t be short of company as Rangers packed their defence and midfield in a bid to keep the champions at bay
...QPR 0 City 0
Yet just nine minutes in Joleon Lescott should have put the Blues ahead as he volleyed over from close range and nine minutes after that, fellow defender Pablo Zabaleta went even closer with a thundering header against the bar from David Silva’s cross.
Then the impressive Javi Garcia saw a quite spectacular 35-yard volley dip inches past Cesar’s post on 22 minutes as City pressed for the all-important opening goal. Was it destined to be one of those nights?
Loic Remy and Adel Taraabt reminded the visitors there was a danger in being caught on the break with Remy seeing a shot deflected past the post and Taraabt denied by a superb Hart block, but Cesar produced an even better save moments before the break as he somehow kept out Gareth Barry’s low drive that had looked like a goal all the way.
Harry Redknapp knew the longer his team kept City at bay, the greater his team’s belief would become – and perhaps gaps would open as the Blues chased the win they needed to close the gap on United to just two points.
As the frustration grew for the visitors, Dzeko wriggled down the left and whipped in a low cross and Silva’s close-range flick was somehow again kept out by the outstanding Caesar, it became clear it just wasn’t going to be City’s night
...QPR 0 City 0
Though there weren’t many plusses, at least the Blues are still yet to concede a goal in 2013 having recorded a sixth consecutive clean sheet and who knows how important this point could yet prove to be?
Crumbs of comfort, maybe, but there is still a long way to go in this fascinating title race.
Man-of-the-Match: Javi Garcia