Stoke City 0
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- 14 September 2013 17:00
- Posted by @dclayton_mcfc
City left the Britannia Stadium a shade lucky to have drawn 0-0 after a largely flat display against Stoke.
The hosts had a number of excellent chances to break the deadlock, but a mixture of Joe Hart brilliance and poor finishing ensured this fixture ended in a fifth consecutive draw.
What will have worried Manuel Pellegrini more was the lack of creativity his side showed on the day with Asmir Begovic not really called into action during the entire 90 minutes.
The Blues are a work in progress, clearly, though the globe-trotting nature of an international break for this star-studded City squad is perhaps the real culprit for the lack of sparkle, fatigue and misplaced passes that blighted the visitors’ play after the break.
Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo both won a place in the starting line-up with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero rested on the bench while Javi Garcia was recalled into central defence at the expense of Joleon Lescott.
The Blues started brightly with Jovetic and Negredo linking up well and their movement was both fluid and intelligent, but the best opening of the first 15 minutes fell to Stoke when Charlie Adam – left unchallenged in acres of space on the right flank – picked out at unmarked Jonathan Walters who glanced a header inches wide when he really ought to have scored.
It was a reminder again that the Blues are far from looking watertight at the back, though with Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards and Gael Clichy all side-lined with injury, it is perhaps only to be expected.
Though City looked more composed on the ball, there was still some alarming moments at the back and when Nasri was dispossessed by Kenwyne Jones on the half-hour the Blues had Hart to thank for keeping the scores level as he blocked the Trinidadian’s shot from close range.
All square at the break and with a fair amount of attacking firepower on the bench, it was going to be interesting to see how Pellegrini shuffled his pack, particularly as Begovic had not had a save of note to make
...Stoke 0, City 0...
The Potters again were unlucky not to take the lead moments after the re-start when Steven Nzonzi’s clever low cross just evaded the out-stretched legs of Walters and Jones in the six-yard box as City continued to live dangerously, though 60 seconds later Negredo spotted Jovetic’s run and the Montenegrin volleyed his pass a few feet over the bar.
Jones then went close again on 55 minutes, heading Adams’ cross just inches over as a Stoke goal began to feel more inevitable than just a possibility. The Blues were looking increasingly disjointed and sloppy as the game wore on against a decent Potters team who no longer rely solely on long throws and set-pieces to threaten opponents.
Hart was again City’s saviour as he made a terrific reaction save as sub Arnautovic’s cross was almost turned into his own goal by Matija Nastasic on 70 minutes as the Blues clung on at times and lacked ideas when in possession.
Utimately, the final whistle was a relief as a tired City limped over the line, leaving the Britannia Stadium with a point for the fifth year in succession.
Expect a refreshed and more threatening Blues to re-emerge next week against Plzen, especially with the Manchester derby next on the Premier League calendar...