Two former Inter bosses locked horns in a tactical battle that saw the home side snatch a point through some stout defending, as the two Manchester club are now level on pointsManchester City were unable to score in a Premier League game for the first time this season as West Bromwich Albion managed to hold the leaders to a goalless draw.
The first-half saw David Silva miss one that could very well have been the winner, while Shane Long managed to miss a header in the second period that could have seen his side register a famous victory.
The Baggies' boss Roy Hodgson was unable to call upon the services of midfielder James Morrison, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury that also saw him miss the 3-2 victory over Newcastle United. Youssouf Mulumbu and Jerome Thomas were major doubts due to groin and ankle problems respectively, but both players were able to make the starting line-up. But Steven Reid - who was ruled out for a month due to injury - was replaced by Billy Jones at right-back.
Roberto Mancini made four changes as Mario Balotelli returned to the starting line-up, while Kolo Toure, Pablo Zabaleta and James Milner were also given a look in. Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and Adam Johnson were left out, with the full-back not included in the squad due to injury. Thus bagan a game at the Hawthorns, with the hosts knowing that they had lost their last five games on Boxing Day.
However, that did not stop the home side from having a go early on, as Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie fell back slightly and allowed Chris Brunt to take a shot from 25-yards out that went just wide of Joe Hart's far post.
But the pattern of the game was evident within the first 10 minutes, as it was Mancini's men who were on the attack while the Baggies defended deep. In one such instance, a cross from Gael Clichy found Milner unmarked, but the midfielder headed wide of the target.
The first genuine effort on goal came after 17 minutes, when Paul Scharner's right-footed shot produced a save from Hart. From the resulting corner, a series of blocked shots followed by another corner. But the score line eventually remained goalless as the set play did not trouble the defence.
City had a great opportunity to break the deadlock when Sergio Aguero cut in from the left and sent the ball to David Silva who was in the area. But the Spain international sent the ball over the bar, perhaps feeling that that should have been buried.
A little past the 30-minute mark, Balotelli managed to put the ball in the back of the net after the ball fell to him following a shot from Silva. But the linesman adjudged the Italian to have been in an offside position as the equilibrium of the game remained unchanged.
No Silva Lining | Spaniard missed an excellent opportunity to open the scoring in the first-half
Ten minutes into the second period, Balotelli initially appeared to be sending in a cross, but had decided to go for glory instead. His curling shot caught goalkeeper Ben Foster off his line and almost caused a sensational goal, but the crossbar saved West Brom from trailing.
At the other end, an overhit cross saw Vincent Kompany taking no chances, heading the ball away to safety. But an error from Toure meant eventually saw Thomas sending in a superb cross that Long should have converted. But the forward's header somhow managed to miss the target, despite the former Reading man having more than enough space at the back post.
A little past the hour mark, Milner headed a cross into the box for Aguero to do the damage, but a vital tackle from Gareth McAuley saved the day with a superb challenge for the hosts as Nicky Shorey might have been left feeling he should have been quicker, which would have avoided putting his team in a desperate position in defence.
With only a little over 15 minutes left, the game was getting a little stretched as the Baggies began to slowly move a little forward and grope for a goal. Odemwingie set up Scharner for a shot from 20-yards, with the latter sending a low driven shot towards goal. The effort had Hart beaten, but unfortunately for the home side it did not beat the post.
Mulumbu pulled up with a problem with about 10 minutes to go. It may not have been a big surprise for Hodgson, considering that the midfielder had been a doubt for this encounter due to a hamstring issue. Graham Dorrans came on to replace the former Paris Saint-Germain man. Meanwhile, Mancini had brought on Johnson with Aguero going off, while Dzeko came on for Milner.
The visitors had scored in every Premier League game prior to this one, and gave it everything they had during the final few minutes to ensure that the game would not end goalless. But the Baggies defended well and managed to stave off the attacks and ensure that the league leaders dropped a point at the Hawthorns, and add their name to a list of three other clubs - Fulham, Liverpool and Chelsea - who have prevented City from taking three points this season.
City and Manchester United are now level on points, with Mancini's men retaining the top spot in the Premier League by virtue of a superior goal difference.
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