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Manchester City’s Premier League title ambitions sustained a blow in a scoreless draw against Norwich City at Carrow Road.
Patrick Bamford, on loan at strugglers Norwich from Chelsea, struck a long-range effort off Joe Hart’s crossbar in a clash that the visitors otherwise bossed.
Sergio Aguero forced John Ruddy into good first-half saves and fired a decent opportunity too high late in the encounter but, in general, Manuel Pellegrini’s men were disappointingly uncreative.
Alex Neil was delighted with the point that brings Norwich level with 17th-placed Sunderland, although a muscle injury that forced midfielder Nathan Redmond off prior to the break will be a concern.
City lie fourth, nine points behind leaders Leicester City and just two in front of West Ham United in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
The visitors dominated the opening half-hour in Norfolk, with Aguero a constant menace to the Canaries, but Norwich recovered to enjoy a very strong spell towards the end of the first half that included Bamford’s impressive strike.
The hosts were forced to endure severe City pressure for the almost the entirety of the second period but could have snatched a shock lead late on, as a fortunate deflection allowed substitute Dieumerci Mbokani to set up Graham Dorrans, but the Scot sliced his 20-yard effort well wide.
However, the draw was enough to delight the home faithful and boss Neil, although the Canaries remain in the relegation zone on goal difference.
For Pellegrini, it appears increasingly likely that his final season in charge at City will not result in a league triumph, and failure to qualify for Europe's top competition remains a worryingly distinct possibility.
By David Maher