Manchester City drop more points as West Brom claim Etihad draw

Soccer Football – Premier League – Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion – Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain – December 15, 2020 Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola remonstrates with the fourth official [Reuters, Michael Regan]

Will the real Manchester City please stand up?

With almost a third of the Premier League campaign gone, Pep Guardiola’s side continues to frustrate, unable to produce their best form.

After their insipid goalless stalemate in the Manchester derby, this was a chance for City’s players to respond by stepping up a gear against the side second from bottom.

But once again Guardiola was left to rue a wasteful display from his side, whose only consolation is that their failure to put a winning run together has also afflicted their rivals.

Not even the late introduction of City’s all-time record goalscorer Sergio Aguero could inspire City to victory, as Guardiola’s side were thwarted by the Baggies.

Slaven Bilic’s side deserves credit for their disciplined way in which they defended and contained City’s stellar attack, with goalkeeper Sam Johnstone excelling once again with a series of crucial saves.

Guardiola made four changes from the side that played out the drab goalless stalemate in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford, Nathan Ake, Benjamin Mendy, Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden all coming into the starting line-up.

Manchester City drop more points as West Brom claim Etihad draw

Soccer Football – Premier League – Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion – Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain – December 15, 2020, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan scores their first goal [Reuters, Martin Rickett]

Baggies boss Slaven Bilic brought in Kieran Gibbs, Jake Livermore and Grady Diangana, following West Brom’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle which left them second from bottom, three points from safety.

With one win in the Premier League all season, the omens did not look good for West Brom, but they should have gone ahead after just seven minutes, when Karlan Grant was presented with a glorious chance, but saw his meek effort palmed away by Ederson, down low to his left.

Despite that chance for the visitors, City quickly settled into their familiar passing game, pushing West Brom back and into an early policy of containment, to the dismay of boss Bilic, whose frustration on the touchline was evident from his animated body language.

Given their dominance of possession, it was only a matter of time before the hosts took the lead, the goal duly arriving on the half-hour mark. Joao Cancelo threaded the ball through to Raheem Sterling, who cut it back for Gundogan to apply a sweeping first-time finish beyond Sam Johnstone.

It was a deserved lead, but one that could have been cancelled out within 90 seconds, when West Brom made a rare sortie towards City’s goal, Conor Gallagher steering his shot just wide of Ederson’s left-hand post.

City squandered opportunities to add to their lead before the break, Cancelo screwing a shot wide from a De Bruyne corner, while the latter overhit a free-kick from a dangerous position, sending it straight out of play.

The Blues paid for that failure to build on the lead, with West Brom snatching an equaliser out of nothing two minutes before the break

Manchester City drop more points as West Brom claim Etihad draw

Soccer Football – Premier League – Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion – Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain – December 15, 2020, West Bromwich Albion’s Semi Ajayi scores their first goal [Reuters, Clive Brunskill]

Having failed to clear the ball from a free-kick, the ball fell kindly for defender Semi Ajayi, whose effort took a deflection off Ruben Dias, wrong-footing Ederson, before spinning into the net.

It was the first goal City had conceded in seven games and Guardiola could not hide his anger, striding back to his seat in the dug-out, before marching straight down the tunnel, before anyone else, at half-time.

City kept probing and pushing to restore their lead after the break, but came up against resolute opponents who defended in numbers and with collective discipline. Phil Foden tried an overhead kick, while De Bruyne saw an angled effort blocked by Johnstone.

Guardiola threw Aguero on with 15 minutes to go, but he was unable to conjure the goal City needed to turn the game in their favour. Johnstone made another fine save late on, palming away a De Bruyne free-kick, as City’s frustrations continued.

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