Title-chasing Manchester City were frustrated by Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday as the visitors withstood heavy second-half pressure to claim a 0-0 draw.
Kicking off earlier than top two Arsenal and Leicester City, Manuel Pellegrini’s men were on top for long spells against Everton, especially after the break, but failed to find the breakthrough and were frustrated by the lack of a penalty award when John Stones appeared to bring down Raheem Sterling late on.
Taking on League Cup semi-final opponents Everton a week on from their defeat at Goodison Park, Pellegrini’s men tested a somewhat makeshift defence in the first half through Kevin De Bruyne and Yaya Toure.
Roberto Martinez shifted Stones to right-back following Seamus Coleman’s calf injury and Everton’s main threat came through surprise starter Leon Osman late in the first half.
City – missing Wilfried Bony, Fernandinho, Eliaquim Mangala and captain Vincent Kompany – bombarded the visitors’ goal in the second half and saw referee East wave away City’s penalty appeals in the final minute of injury time.
But – in front of a depleted crowd due to local traffic problems – the league’s leading scorers were denied maximum points and remain without back-to-back Premier League wins since early October.
In the even opening exchanges, the first chance fell De Bruyne’s way as the Belgian poked Sterling’s pass wide seven minutes in.
As the game sparked into life, Tim Howard was required to claw away a powerful Toure header before Joe Hart, on his 250th Premier League appearance, smothered a Ross Barkley shot at the other end midway through the half.
A well-timed Mo Besic challenge denied Sergio Aguero a one-on-one with Howard, while Gerard Deulofeu’s delivery was diverted precariously behind City’s goal by Nicolas Otamendi.
Osman – making his first Premier League start of the season – sent Romelu Lukaku’s expert cross marginally wide of Hart’s left-hand post prior to the half-hour, although an entertaining first period drew to a close with City on top.
De Bruyne’s cross almost deflected fortuitously into Aguero’s path, with Howard quick to collect, before City maintained that momentum after the break.
Enjoying the lion’s share of possession, City went close through Jesus Navas’ deflected effort, before Sterling was crowded out when a pass to Aguero was perhaps the better option five minutes into the second half.
Sterling had another effort blocked prior to the hour before Navas found the side-netting from the edge of the area, Everton coming under increasing pressure prior to Toure’s effort being blocked by Rodrigo Funes Mori and Aguero’s close-range header being smartly saved by Howard.
Howard was forced into a one-on-one save from Aguero before De Bruyne was replaced by David Silva 17 minutes from time in a bid to add an extra dimension to City’s attacking efforts.
While the visitors stood firm, Martinez will have watched on nervously as Stones and Phil Jagielka tangled with Aguero on the edge of the area late on before the former appeared to bring down Sterling in the box amid vociferous appeals from the home bench and the City fans.
However, Everton survived to earn a point and frustrate City ahead of the second leg of their League Cup semi at the Etihad next week.
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