City struggles in attack again in 1-1 draw with West Brom
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City’s lack of cutting edge proved costly again as Pep Guardiola's stuttering side was held to a 1-1 draw by next-to-last West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday to remain off the pace in the Premier League.
Ilkay Gundogan put City ahead on the half-hour mark but after Ruben Dias' own-goal brought West Brom level in the 43rd minute, the hosts struggled to find a way through the most porous defense in the league.
There was late drama as West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone made point-blank saves to deny Gundogan and Raheem Sterling in stoppage time, but a late twist would have been harsh on the visitors and flattered this City performance.
It was the first time City had failed to beat West Brom since 2011, ending a run of 13 consecutive league victories in this fixture, and the result leaves the team five points off Tottenham and Liverpool, the top two who meet Wednesday.
City, widely criticized for being pedestrian in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Manchester United at Old Trafford, did not start much faster here as West Brom sat back.
The big early chance went to the visitors as City right back Joao Cancelo tried to cut out Conor Gallagher’s pass but succeeded only in playing in West Brom striker Karlan Grant, who should have scored as Ederson got down low to his left to save.
Guardiola had restored Phil Foden to the starting lineup but, even against a side in 19th place in the league, looked conservative in his tactics with Gundogan sitting deep alongside Rodri.
City did not manage a meaningful chance in the opening 25 minutes and the first that did come its way was from a set piece as Rodri headed over from Kevin De Bruyne's corner.
The breakthrough came when Sterling got to the byline and cut the ball back for Gundogan to sweep home a finish from close range.
The game sparked into life as Gallagher sent a shot narrowly wide at the other end before Cancelo had two chances, the first a shot straight at Johnstone from the edge of the area before his ambitious volley from De Bruyne’s corner flew wide.
City was looking comfortable but it all changed two minutes before the break after West Brom was awarded a disputed free kick for Cancelo's challenge on Grady Diangana.
City only half-cleared and after Romaine Sawyers headed the ball back in, Semi Ajayi turned Nathan Ake before seeing his shot deflected in by Dias, ending City’s run of successive shutouts at six.
Guardiola trudged off in frustrated fashion at halftime and his players emerged with much more urgency after the break, forcing early pressure as Foden fired a low ball across goal before Johnstone had to punch clear a deflected cross by Cancelo.
De Bruyne poked a shot wide, Jesus headed onto the roof of the net from a corner, and Johnstone then blocked Sterling's effort from a tight angle as the chances continued to come.
West Brom was proving stubborn opposition, dropping in with six at the back at times to frustrate the hosts.
Sergio Aguero, over the illness that sidelined him for the derby, replaced Foden with 14 minutes to go as Kyle Walker came on for Benjamin Mendy.
Walker was straight in the action and his powerful drive from range needed a touch from Dara O’Shea to find safety, but Aguero struggled to get into the game as West Brom defended doggedly.
There were howls of protest when City were awarded a dangerous free kick when Gundogan tumbled under the slightest of touches from Sawyers, but Johnstone got across to make a fine save and deny De Bruyne.
The goalkeeper then starred again with late saves that secured a big result for West Brom's Slaven Bilic in his 100th game as a Premier League manager.
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