West Brom hold Premier League leaders Man City to a draw

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Manchester City‘s Premier League title challenge suffered a significant setback after the leaders were held to a 0-0 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday.

City now top the table by virtue of goal difference alone after they could only manage a point at the Hawthorns and rivals Manchester United thrashed Wigan.

Although Roberto Mancini’s team did hit the crossbar via Mario Balotelli, Roy Hodgson’s Baggies hit a post courtesy of Jerome Thomas in a tense second half from which the home side emerged good value for their point after delivering a defensive master class.

It means City have collected just two points from their last three English Premier League away trips, having recently drawn with Liverpool and lost to Chelsea and, with United next in action 24 hours before them, they could find themselves in second place by the time they face Sunderland on Sunday. Balotelli, James Milner and Pablo Zabaleta were all handed recalls by City, who arrived at the Hawthorns having topped the table at Christmas for the first time since 1929.

It was West Brom, though, who began the more purposefully and a sweeping move after just three minutes almost concluded with an opener when Chris Brunt turned on the edge of the area before seeing his low drive veer inches past the left post.

Although City dominated the early possession, their play certainly lacked the cohesion and crispness the Premier League has come to expect and it took them 14 minutes to extend Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster via Samir Nasri’s low strike.

Four minutes later Hodgson’s team threatened again when Paul Scharner attempted to exploit a gap between Joe Hart and his left post with a precise curling effort which the Manchester City goalkeeper did well to fingertip away for a corner.

Yet the best opportunity of the half belonged to City, who should have led in the 25th minute when Sergio Aguero squared to leave David Silva with a clear sight of goal but, for once, the Spaniard’s technique let him down and he blazed over.

By now, the momentum was firmly with City and Balotelli saw a free-kick trickle past the right post after being involved in an angry exchange with Milner which required authorisation from Mancini on the sidelines over who was to take it.

Balotelli had the ball in the net in the 37th minute thanks to a spectacular scissor kick, however the goal was correctly chalked off for offside.

Balotelli continued to look the City player most likely to make a breakthrough and he rattled the crossbar with a fiercely-struck shot from 30 yards shortly after the restart.

Once more, West Brom responded by creating an opening themselves and the lively Shane Long will have been disappointed to have headed Thomas’ inviting cross the wrong side of the left post.

Mancini responded by introducing Gareth Barry for Nasri, allowing Yaya Toure to push further forward and it almost worked immediately when the Ivory Coast international and Aguero combined to set up Silva inside the area, however his effort curled straight into Foster’s arms.

The Baggies could count themselves extremely unfortunate when Thomas saw his low strike ricochet off the foot of the post in the 71st minute and Adam Johnson was introduced in place of Aguero as Mancini attempted to swing the match in his team’s favour.

English Premier League results:

Bolton 0 Newcastle 2
Chelsea 1 Fulham 1
Liverpool 1 Blackburn 1
Manchester Utd 5 Wigan 0
Sunderland 1 Everton 1
West Brom 0 Manchester City 0

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