Manchester City were held to a goalless draw at Norwich City on Saturday afternoon.
It’s a point that sees the title slip further out of the reach of the Citizens, but one that could prove crucial in the Canaries’ bid to avoid relegation and extend their stay in the Premier League.
Besides the absence of Yaya Toure through injury, reportedly a heel problem, City were at full strength for the trip to Carrow Road, leaving many believing it would simply be a case of how many for the visitors.
Norwich, meanwhile, were without Robbie Brady and Steven Naismith, a blow as they hoped to move out of the drop zone by claiming points off their title-challenging opponents.
It was a momentous day for on-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford – who spent the first half of the campaign at Crystal Palace before having his temporary deal cut short – earning his first Premier League start of his career. All of his previous nine appearances had been from the bench.
David Silva was hassled early on, winning three free kicks in quick succession, as Norwich set out to give the influential playmaker as little time on the ball as possible.
The opening 15 minutes were dominated by City, but the hosts soaked up the early pressure and grew in confidence, frustrating Manuel Pellegrini and his troops.
The hosts largely sat back, tactically allowing City time on the ball, and this set up was proving effective with – besides a low drive from Sergio Aguero in the 28th minute – John Ruddy rarely being tested.
With half time approaching, Norwich looked the more dangerous side; City became sloppy in possession, carelessly giving the ball away in midfield.
And in the 40th minute, Bamford came within inches of opening the scoring – which would have been his first top flight goal.
After almost beating Nicolas Otamendi to go one-on-one with Joe Hart, the ball bounced behind the Chelsea-loanee – but he tried his luck on the half-volley from almost 30 yards. His effort had Hart beaten, but clattered off the crossbar.
It was more of the same after the break; City continued their struggle to break down a resolute Norwich side.
With few signs of improvement, Pellegrini opted for a change early on, bringing on £49m summer signing Raheem Sterling for the unconvincing Wilfried Bony.
Both sides were desperate for the three points – for opposing reasons – and Alex Neil, in the 66th minute, signalled a major message of intent to his players.
The Scotsman opted for a double change, bringing on strikers Dieumerci Mbokani and Cameron Jerome for Wes Hoolahan and Bamford.
Pellegrini’s men remained comfortable in possession, but their threat on goal continued to prove minimal, despite the talent of their forwards.
At the 90th minute, it was still all square at Carrow Road, and it stayed that way after the three added minutes had passed.
It was a hard-fought point for Norwich with the players earning – deservedly – a standing ovation from the home crowd.
For City, though, the result is yet another example of their inconsistency this season.