Premier League match report: Man City stutter at Norwich as absences prove key

Pellegrini looks for Fernandinho or Aguero to fall from the sky Photo: PA

Manchester City failed to score for the second consecutive game, and Will Unwin watched on as their Premier League title challenge stuttered at Norwich.

Neither side were able to find the goal in a nervy affair at Carrow Road, with the home side creating the better chances in the 90 minutes, as Manchester City looked directionless without Fernandinho and the talismanic Sergio Aguero.

Manuel Pellegrini reacted to the Chelsea defeat on Monday night by ending his experiment of having Martin Demichelis operating as a defensive midfielder, choosing to go with James Milner alongside Yaya Toure instead.

Milner had been utilised in a sitting role before by former boss Roberto Mancini without success, something Pellegrini will have kept in mind when deciding on his tactics. Ivorian Toure was the deeper of the two, but looked lethargic when having to defend and lacked the ambition to go forward with any zealous.

City’s fragility was shown when Leroy Fer put Nathan Redmond through on goal after Demichelis and Gael Clichy failed to deal with the Norwich attack, but the winger blazed over from close range.

A rattled Manchester City then tried their best to concede minutes later from a corner. Redmond crossed to a nigh-on unmarked Fer, whose bullet header forced Joe Hart into a reflex parry, with the offside Gary Hooper smashing the rebound over the line from two yards out.

Minus the capabilities of Fernandinho, Manchester City look unable to set a high tempo like they had in the first half of the season when the Brazilian never missed a game. Toure barely looks bothered at the moment, as he hibernates ahead of tougher games ahead, nor does he have the impetus to get Pellegrini’s men ticking.

City struggled to create much going forward in the first half, with their best chance falling to Stevan Jovetic in the 43rd minute, but his low drive was stopped by John Ruddy, who collected the ball at the second attempt.

The second half started as the first ended, with City failing to control the game against their relegation-threatened opponents. The visitors were sloppy in possession until a Alvaro Negredo cross arrived at Jesus Navas’ feet, but his first-time shot was superbly blocked by the sprawling Sebastian Bassong in the 58th minute.

Norwich looked comfortable against their expensive counterparts and almost took the lead following good work down the right, which allowed full-back Russell Martin into the area, but his effort went just wide from 16 yards out.

Two corners in the space of a minute could have resulted in an opener for Manchester City, but first Demichelis failed to make decent contact when unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, then Edin Dzeko and Negredo got in each other’s way when leaping for the ball, allowing Norwich to clear.

Introducing Aleksandar Kolarov for Negredo was an attempt to give Silva more opportunities to influence the game from a central position, a rarity for the Spanish playmaker in recent times, but it failed to have the desired effect.

All the possession was Manchester City’s in the closing stages, but they were unable to create any clearcut chances at the decisive moments, as passes and crosses went repeatedly astray.

This almost cost the visitors a point, as Redmond was released down the left, only for Redmond’s driven cross to miss everyone, including Ricky van Wolfswinkel who ended up in the back of the net, alas, without the ball. The defence failed to clear their lines, allowing Anthony Pilkington a shot from inside of the area, but his shot flew over.

If Pellegrini is going to conquer all four competitions, he will need Aguero back soon, but more importantly he needs Fernandinho.