Man City's dull draw with Norwich ends their title hopes, says Gary Lim
Pellegrini and Co. out of title race after an insipid performance
MAN CITY 0
Surely it's all over now for Manchester City.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini has been saying recently his team possessed the character to get right back into the Premiership title race.
But his faith in his players appears horribly misplaced, as struggling Norwich yesterday parked the bus at Carrow Road to eke out an unlikely 0-0 draw.
It may prove to be a priceless point for the Canaries at the end of the season as their battle against the drop continues.
For Man City, it sounded like the death knell to their title hopes.
It was just what they deserved for an utterly uninspiring display that had neither urgency nor fight, as for all the world it looked like they were already waiting for the summer and Pep Guardiola to take the reins from Pellegrini.
Perhaps the announcement of the managerial change was the reason for the club's slide.
With nine matches remaining, they are nine points adrift of leaders Leicester City, four off Tottenham Hotspur and one behind Arsenal.
They may be better off looking over their shoulders, instead, with fifth-placed West Ham now only two points behind.
Many had refused to write off Man City's title hopes before this, pointing to their stirring, late comebacks in recent years.
In 2012, with Roberto Mancini at the helm, they won their final six games of the season to win the crown.
Two years ago, under Pellegrini, they swept to victories in their last five to nick the trophy.
This steely streak was what gave Pellegrini the belief that they could be back among the title contenders if they summoned the spirit and grit to produce a winning run.
At least, that was what he thought before kick-off against Norwich.
But his team failed at their task miserably.
Their display yesterday highlighted just how much their away woes have cost them this season.
Despite picking up more points (31) at home than any other Premiership side this season, they have shown appalling form on their travels, with five wins, five draws and four defeats.
Against a Norwich side with limited ambition, the Citizens struggled for ideas.
As the hosts packed their penalty box, Pellegrini's men found clear-cut opportunities hard to come by.
Sergio Aguero had a couple of half-chances before the break.
He first tested Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy with an excellent free-kick on the quarter-hour mark, and then with a rasping drive from an acute angle in the 29th minute.
But it was the Canaries who came up with the best chance of the first half despite their reluctance to commit men forward.
From 25 metres out, striker Patrick Bamford unleashed a thunderous shot which had Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart beaten, but not the woodwork.
Still, there was a feeling at half-time that inevitably, Norwich's resistance would be futile.
After all, the Canaries had picked up just one point in their previous nine league fixtures, and Man City entered the game on the back of a morale-boosting 4-0 win over Aston Villa.
But the visitors just couldn't shake off their lethargy.
As Man City's frustrations began to mount, so did Norwich's resilience.
Pellegrini attempted to up the tempo in the second period through his substitutions.
Raheem Sterling came on for the poor Wilfried Bony, Kelechi Iheanacho replaced the predictable Jesus Navas and Pablo Zabaleta took over duties from an ineffective Bacary Sagna.
They could do nothing to shake the team out of their lifelessness.
Norwich did what they had to do and got their job done.
Man City played like they didn't even know there was a job to be done.
We are disappointed. Of course we should create more in the last third. We were static up front. Every time that you drop points, it is harder but you must continue thinking in a positive way. We must always try to win the title while we mathematically can.
— Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini (below)