West Brom blunt City charge
Manchester City saw their two-point advantage at the top of the Premier League wiped out as they were frustrated during a goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion.
Mario Balotelli hit the bar and had a goal disallowed but City lacked their usual bite at the Hawthorns and were forced to settle for a point. It could even have been worse for Roberto Mancini's men as Albion rose to the challenge and were unlucky when Jerome Thomas hit the post and Shane Long headed wide.
Mancini had tried to freshen up his City side by making four changes, including recalling the mercurial Balotelli on a ground where he scored twice and got sent off last season. Kolo Toure, Pablo Zabaleta and James Milner also came in but West Brom were not intimidated and continually frustrated their star-studded visitors.
Bright start by Baggies
Roy Hodgson's side were clearly buoyed by their thrilling win at Newcastle United last time out and went close inside the opening three minutes. Thomas brought the ball forward and Chris Brunt turned outside the area to fire across goal with a powerful left-footed drive.
City tried to assert their authority after that scare but had to wait patiently for chances to open up. Samir Nasri had a volley blocked by Jonas Olsson, although the attempt was possibly going wide, and the Frenchman also shot tamely at Ben Foster from distance.
West Brom continued to pose a threat and Paul Scharner tried his luck with a low shot from 25 yards which, after a slight deflection, was turned behind by Joe Hart. City should have taken the lead after 24 minutes when Sergio Aguero laid off for David Silva from a fine cross-field Nasri pass, but the Spaniard side-footed over.
Balotelli got involved in the game when he won a free-kick outside the area and, much to his frustration, then stepped up to have a low shot deflected narrowly wide. City then had two corners in quick succession and could have scored from the second of them when Yaya Toure put a free header wide.
City tried to pick up the tempo and Balotelli was unlucky when a Silva shot was deflected into his path and he volleyed in, only to see an offside flag raised. West Brom threatened again on the counter-attack when Brunt found space on the left to curl in a dangerous cross for Long, but Vincent Kompany slid in to make a vital interception.
Balotelli went down with a head injury after a clash with Peter Odemwingie just before the break but the Italian recovered and was soon back in the action. Balotelli drew a foul from Olsson in a dangerous position early in the second half.
City made little from the free-kick but had a good spell of possession and Balotelli struck the top of the bar with a superb effort from 30 yards wide on the left. West Brom may have been starved of the ball at times but looked comfortable when they had it and Kompany again got his body in the way as Odemwingie shot from 35 yards.
Both sides go close
Long spurned a glorious chance just before the hour when City failed to clear and the ball was drilled to the back post, but the Baggies striker headed wide from six yards. City tried to show some urgency in response but Silva was unable to capitalise on some neat interplay and shot straight at Foster.
Aguero, perhaps surprised to be given onside from a Milner header, then miskicked when attempting to toe-poke past Foster and Gareth McAuley cleared. Albion had another chance from a free-kick but Brunt fired wide.
City appeared to be getting frustrated as Kolo Toure shot over and substitute Gareth Barry screwed another effort well wide. West Brom were again unfortunate when Odemwingie teed up Thomas just outside the area and the midfielder struck a sweet shot against the foot of the post.
City changed their attack by sending on Adam Johnson and Edin Dzeko, and were denied with five minutes remaining when Olsson blocked from Silva. Dzeko found space in injury time but shot well over the bar and West Brom claimed a deserved point.