Manchester City missed a chance to return to the top of the Premier League with a scoreless draw at Premier League strugglers Norwich City on Saturday.
The result leaves Man City in third place on 54 points, two points behind new leaders Chelsea and one behind Arsenal. Chelsea easily defeated Newcastle after Arsenal lost 5-1 in stunning fashion at Liverpool earlier in the day.
The draw is the latest twist in a title race that has seen all three clubs occupy the top spot in recent weeks. For City, though, it's the second disappointing result in a row after losing 1-0 at home to Chelsea on Monday.
The Sky Blues, however, can take some solace in the fact that they still maintain the best goal differential in the top flight at plus-41. Leaders Chelsea, by contrast, stand at plus-27, while Arsenal are at plus-22.
In addition, the coming weeks could provide a chance for City to reclaim the top spot. Manuel Pellegrini's team have a favourable fixture list ahead, with three consecutive home games up next against Sunderland, Stoke and Aston Villa.
With the draw, Norwich are 15th on 25 points, two points above the relegation places.
"All teams at the top will drop points," Pellegrini said, per MCFC.co.uk. "I said that at the start of the season. There are five or six teams fighting for the title. The difference is two points, the same as last week, and there are 39 to play for and we will win as many of them as we can."
Pellegrini made three changes to the side that lost at home to Chelsea on Monday. Gael Clichy replaced Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back, James Milner slotted into central midfield, and Stevan Jovetic replaced Edin Dzeko in the attack. Martin Demichelis remained in the side but moved from midfield to centre-back.
City defeated Norwich soundly in the reverse fixture, winning 7-0 at the Etihad Stadium in November. But it quickly became clear that there would be no repeat of that scoreline at Carrow Road.
Norwich had a goal ruled out in the 18th minute, when Gary Hooper was ruled correctly offside after poking in the rebound following Joe Hart's save on Sebastien Bassong's header.
City had a goal ruled out as well in the 32nd minute, though this time the infraction was not as clear-cut. Alvaro Negredo collected Vincent Kompany's long ball along the edge of the box and laid off for Jovetic, whose chipped shot found the back of the net. But Negredo was ruled offside in a tight decision.
The disallowed goal seemed to spur City forward toward the end of the first half. Pablo Zabaleta fired a shot wide of the far post in the 33rd minute from a tight angle on the right. Negredo then hit the woodwork in the 36th minute, powering a header onto the crossbar after Demichelis had headed on Jesus Navas' corner.
Negredo came close again in the 39th minute, hitting the side netting with a rifled shot from distance on the right. Four minutes later, Jovetic forced a save from John Ruddy with a low shot from the edge of the box.
City went back on the attack after the break, and Navas seemed certain to score in the 57th minute as he shaped to shoot from close range on the right. But Martin Olsson moved swiftly to block, keeping the score level.
Pellegrini responded by introducing Dzeko for Jovetic in the 61st minute, and Negredo was withdrawn for Kolarov with 13 minutes remaining. The changes did not produce the desired effect, though, and City continued to labour in vain for the breakthrough goal.
Dzeko shot off target in the 81st minute, and Norwich came close via Anthony Pilkington's high shot from a tight angle nine minutes later.
|Manchester City Player Ratings vs. Norwich City|
|Edin Dzeko (for Jovetic, 61')||N/A||5|
|Aleksandar Kolarov (for Negredo, 77')||N/A||6|
Manchester City host Sunderland in the Premier League on Wednesday. The Blues then host Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Norwich play at West Ham United in the Premier League on Tuesday.