Manchester City’s Premier League title ambitions were dealt a potentially fatal blow on Saturday as they were held to a 0-0 draw at relegation-threatened Norwich.
Manuel Pellegrini stated in the build-up to the match at Carrow Road that City needed to win nine of their remaining 10 games in order to have a shot at winning the trophy, but they left themselves with no margin for error from here on in after failing to find a way past home goalkeeper John Ruddy.
The stalemate has left fourth-placed City nine points behind leaders Leicester City, who take on Newcastle United on Monday night.
Credit should be given to Norwich, however, for a battling performance that could have even resulted in a much-needed victory had Patrick Bamford’s first-half effort not struck the bar.
Sergio Aguero, who had scored five goals in five Premier League appearances against Norwich ahead of this weekend’s encounter, had the best of City’s chances but found Ruddy in determined mood.
Sloppy defending from Russell Martin early on allowed Aguero to try his luck from a narrow angle, but the Norwich defender made amends for his poor headed clearance with a good block.
Aguero continued to be City’s main attacking threat in the first half, firing a free-kick from 20 yards out straight at Ruddy after 15 minutes, before shooting just wide shortly after.
Ruddy then showed his class on the half-hour mark when Aguero unleashed a low shot from just inside the box, making a sublime one-handed save to deny the former Atletico Madrid man.
Norwich gradually grew into the game and Bamford nearly gave the home fans reason to celebrate shortly before the interval with a fantastic long-range strike that struck the woodwork with Joe Hart beaten.
The visitors pushed for the opener after the break and Nicolas Otamendi headed just over from a dangerous position after beating his marker to Jesus Navas’ corner from the right.
David Silva wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring after 64 minutes when he failed to get a free-kick from the edge of the box on target.
Pellegrini introduced Raheem Sterling and Kelechi Iheanacho in a bid to find a late winner but, despite long spells of pressure, it was Norwich who had the best chance of the closing stages when Graham Dorrans fired wide when unmarked from the edge of the area.
The draw was not enough to move Norwich out of the relegation zone but they are now level on points with 17-placed Sunderland.