City draw blank in Albion draw

Mario Balotelli hit the bar and had a goal disallowed but City

lacked their usual bite at The Hawthorns and were forced to settle

for a goalless draw. It could even have been worse for Roberto

Mancini’s men as Albion rose to the challenge and were unlucky when

Jerome Thomas hit the post and Shane Long headed wide. Mancini had

tried to freshen up his City side by making four changes, including

recalling the mercurial Balotelli on a ground where he scored twice

and got sent off last season. Kolo Toure, Pablo Zabaleta and James

Milner also came in but West Brom were not intimidated and

continually frustrated their star-studded visitors, who had scored

in every league game so far this season prior to this fixture. Roy

Hodgson’s side were clearly buoyed by their thrilling win at

Newcastle last time out and went close inside the opening three

minutes. Thomas brought the ball forward and Chris Brunt turned

outside the area to fire across goal with a powerful left-foot

drive. City tried to assert their authority after that scare but

had to wait patiently for chances to open up. Samir Nasri had a

volley blocked by Jonas Olsson – although the attempt was possibly

going wide – and the Frenchman also shot tamely at Ben Foster from

distance. West Brom continued to pose a threat and Paul Scharner

tried his luck with a low shot from 25 yards which, after a slight

deflection, was turned behind by Joe Hart. City should have taken

the lead after 24 minutes when Sergio Aguero laid off for David

Silva from a fine cross-field Nasri pass but the Spaniard

side-footed over. Balotelli got involved in the game when he won a

free-kick outside the area and, much to his frustration, then

stepped up to have a low shot deflected narrowly wide. City then

had two corners in quick succession and could have scored from the

second of them when Yaya Toure put a free header wide. City tried

to pick up the tempo and Balotelli was unlucky when a Silva shot

was deflected into his path and he volleyed in, only to see an

offside flag raised. West Brom threatened again on the

counter-attack when Brunt found space on the left to curl in a

dangerous cross for Long but Vincent Kompany slid in to make a

vital interception. Balotelli went down with a head injury after a

clash with Peter Odemwingie just before the break but the Italian

recovered and was soon back in the action. Balotelli drew a foul

from Olsson in a dangerous position early in the second half. City

made little from the free-kick but had a good spell of possession

and Balotelli struck the top of the bar with a superb effort from

30 yards wide on the left. West Brom may have been starved of the

ball at times but looked comfortable when they had it and Kompany

again got his body in the way as Odemwingie shot from 35 yards.

Long spurned a glorious chance just before the hour when City

failed to clear and the ball was drilled to the back post but the

Baggies striker headed wide from six yards. City tried to show some

urgency in response but Silva was unable to capitalise on some neat

interplay and shot straight at Foster. Aguero, perhaps surprised to

be given onside from a Milner header, then miskicked attempting to

toe-poke past Foster and Gareth McAuley cleared. Albion had another

chance from a free-kick but Brunt fired wide. City appeared to be

getting frustrated as Kolo Toure shot over and substitute Gareth

Barry screwed another effort well wide. West Brom were again

unfortunate when Odemwingie teed up Thomas just outside the area

and the midfielder struck a sweet shot against the foot of the

post. City changed their attack by sending on Adam Johnson and Edin

Dzeko and were denied with five minutes remaining when Olsson

blocked from Silva. Dzeko found space in injury time but shot well

over the bar and West Brom claimed a deserved point.