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Man City title hopes hurt by draw at Norwich

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David Silva (right) failed to find a way through the Norwich defence
David Silva (right) failed to find a way through the Norwich defence

MANCHESTER, March 12 – Norwich City pocketed a priceless point in their Premier League survival bid after holding Manchester City to a 0-0 draw at Carrow Road on Saturday.

The Canaries are fighting for their top-flight lives having lost nine of their last 10 games, and made four changes including a start for Patrick Bamford.

The men from Manchester were missing the presence of Yaya Toure, and could not find a way past Norwich, who actually had the best chance of the game when Bamford beat Joe Hart but saw his half-volley rattle the crossbar.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men dominated the early stages of the game, which were played out entirely in Norwich’s half and dictated largely by the probing David Silva.

The hosts kept their shape, though, and provided a strong protective shield, blocking shots from Wilfried Bony and Fernandinho, who was fouled by Gary O’Neil for a free-kick which Sergio Aguero blasted goalbound, only to see John Ruddy tip it over the crossbar on 15 minutes.

A long spell of keep-ball from City then ended with the impressive Aguero, who had scored 10 goals in 10 games before this game, dragged a left-footed shot wide of the upright from 20 yards out.

Ryan Bennett went into the book for a foul on the lively Silva, then Nathan Redmond went down with an ankle injury, which he tried to shake off before being replaced by Graham Dorrans just before the interval.

Nicolas Otamendi was booked for a crude foul on Russell Martin and on 28, Aguero lead a counter-attack which ended with Ruddy doing brilliantly to parry the Argentina striker’s fierce 16-yard drive to safety.

City’s failure to break down Norwich’s defence saw the Canaries grow in confidence, and after half an hour they started to get a foothold on the encounter.

A spell of sustained home pressure lead to a first corner for Alex Neil’s men on 38 minutes, then shortly afterwards Bamford – making his first start for the club in place of Cameron Jerome – unleashed a left-footed half-volley from 20 yards out that beat the diving Hart but rattled the woodwork.

That chance got the Norwich fans singing and the hosts dominated to closing stages of the first half, which ended goalless with City more relieved to hear the whistle.

The visitors started the second half as they did the first, dominating and dictating play – but Norwich stood defiant, with the players holding their positions well.

A lack of chances saw Pellegrini introduce Raheem Sterling from the bench – for the ineffective Bony – while Norwich sent on Dieumerci Mbokani and Jerome for Wes Hoolahan and Bamford, who had lead the line well and got a standing ovation.

Timm Klose was a relieved man on 64 minutes when his foul on Aguero was just on the edge of the penalty box – and Carrow Road breathed a collective sigh of relief when Silva steered the resulting free-kick straight at the wall.

Jonny Howson saw yellow for a cynical foul on Fernandinho on 73, then minutes later Kelechi Iheanacho came on for City winger Jesus Navas.

The visitors huffed and puffed, but could simply not blow down Norwich’s rock-solid defence, with Dorrans slicing a late chance wide of the upright.

The game then petered out for a draw that suited the hosts much better, with City’s title charge taking a shuddering setback.

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