After a frustrating defeat last week, the Citizens were eager to avenge their loss with an impressive display this evening. Instead, they were held to an action-packed draw, despite their domination in the final third.
sky Blues dominate, but have nothing to show for it
Even though the Citizens were controversially denied two penalty decisions in the latter stages, they should have taken the lead for all of their dominance in the early exchanges. Kevin de Bruyne saw his effort flash narrowly wide of the side netting at the end of a well-worked passing move in-and-around the area. Then, Howard was forced into an excellent reflex save to deny Yaya Touré from close range – his header was destined for the bottom corner, but for an important diving intervention by the experienced American.
The visitors carved out chances of their own, which stemmed from unselfish play by Romelu Lukaku on two successive occasions. His clipped ball evaded the City backline and fizzed into the path of Gerard Deulofeu, but for a good one-on-one stop by Joe Hart – rushing off his line to close down the angles and thwart the Spaniard’s effort.
Chances aplenty for both sides
Then, Leon Osman came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock with what would have been a fantastic first-time effort after Lukaku spotted his run from the opposite side. Instead, he fired narrowly wide – an inch past the far post after connecting sweetly with the ball inside the box.
It seemed inevitable that Raheem Sterling and John Stones – two of England’s young talented core, would get involved in a duel for possession in the final third.
Two debatable – and pivotal – decisions
Touré, Sergio Agüero and Sterling himself all had efforts denied by Howard, before the first controversial decision was made by referee Roger East. Agüero span past Phil Jagielka on the edge of the area, and Stones was adjudged to have made a recovery tackle to deny the prolific Argentine from getting a shot on-target.
Sergio and a few of his teammates reacted angrily after the referee waved play on, despite the Argentine going to ground. A huge sigh of relief for the visitors, although a penalty-kick would have probably been a harsh decision in fairness.
But, for all of their domination, City were still searching for the opener. Frustrating for the hosts, but Pellegrini must have been looking up towards the heavens – what had he, or his players done to deserve such bad luck? Sterling advanced with pace and purpose toward the area, and Stones was the player in pursuit of the former Liverpool man.
Stones attempted to slide in cleanly to win the ball, but mid-challenge, realised he could no longer win it. So pulling out of the tackle, his knees buckled on the Ethiad turf as he lifted his arms to emphasise his innocence – as though he knew what was to transpire moments afterward.
Stones’ trailing knee caught Serling’s right foot, and the 21-year-old went to ground. The City supporters felt it was a clear penalty, definitely. But, the referee didn’t. Instead, he signalled for a goal-kick as the title challengers’ impatience transitioned to fury.
Full-time: Manchester City 0 Everton 0. An enthralling, unpredictable finish to another frustrating result for Pellegrini’s men – who were unable to close the gap at the top, after Arsenal were held to a 3-3 draw at Anfield by Jürgen Klopp‘s inconsistent – but lovable – Liverpool side.