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Roberto Mancini's frustrations mounting as Man City fail to ignite

Sunday, 4 November 2012 - 3:56pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
In a match of high stakes against a stylish West Ham, they had the opportunity, albeit remote, to move to the top of the table and yet turned in the kind of curiously toothless performance that should be becoming a worry for the City hierarchy.

West Ham 0 Man City 0

Against a soundtrack of East End fireworks anticipating Guy Fawkes' Night tomorrow, Manchester City offered few pyrotechnics of their own.

In a match of high stakes against a stylish West Ham, they had the opportunity, albeit remote, to move to the top of the table and yet turned in the kind of curiously toothless performance that should be becoming a worry for the City hierarchy.

Mario Balotelli, exhibiting none of the lethal finishes that earned him a nomination for this year's Ballon d'Or, was especially ineffectual. Substituted after just 69 minutes, he seemed far from happy, muttering behind the back of manager of Roberto Mancini, who did not even look at his misfiring player.

While City remain unbeaten in the league, it was a display redolent of their recent outings in Europe: plenty of pretty passing, but a conspicuously absent final ball.

Just six days after Luis Suarez had been denied by a controversial late offside decision in the Merseyside derby, the assistant referees were again in the spotlight here. Kevin Nolan had the ball in the net with a sharp finish from a deep free-kick, and was halfway through a fetching dance routine by the time he spotted the offside flag.

On video replays the call looked marginal, harsh even, given that strikers are supposed to be given the benefit of the doubt.

West Ham did not let the perceived injustice deter them. Mohamed Diame displayed exquisite touch, dropping his shoulder to evade Yaya Toure before unleashing a gorgeous drive that all but skimmed the paint off Joe Hart's crossbar.

Although City did more to set the game's early tempo, West Ham were rattling their cages, as when Matt Jarvis swung in a superb ball that Yossi Benayoun met with an even better sidefooted volley, but again the ball sailed just over.

Frustration was writ large on the frame of Sam Allardyce, who motioned to kick an imaginary water bottle in his agitation. His men were playing demonstrably superior football, with Benayoun and the ever-threatening Andy Carroll exchanging neat passes in the build-up before the centre-forward shot wide, but still they toiled to create the opening. Mark Noble, indefatigable in midfield, held West Ham together with his adhesive touch and a disjointed City could not respond.

Carlos Tevez did his best to outsmart Noble, pulling him off his byline and laying the ball off to Edin Dzeko, whose shot was easily gathered by Jussi Jaaskelainen.

"There's only one Carlos Tevez," the West Ham fans sang, well recalling how the Argentine's goals had saved them from relegation in 2007. It was an admirable show of loyalty, even if the gesture could have had a more deserving recipient, given Tevez's subsequent antics.

At least there was no doubting his commitment to the City cause last night, as he delivered a sumptuous free-kick that Mario Balotelli, stretching out his right leg, ought to have lashed into the net. It was his miss five minutes later, though, that drew the more withering look from Tevez, latching on to promising work from Kolo Toure but succeeding only in hoofing the ball high into the Bobby Moore Stand. Roberto Mancini, leaning back in his seat, looked equally disgusted.

Gareth Barry, drafted in at late notice after James Milner was injured in the warm-up, was not spared a Mancini flounce, either. City broke at speed from a corner but as Tevez squared the cross, Barry merely managed to hit the ball with his hand.

Sergio Aguero tried to galvanise a late riposte, belting a 25-yarder that James Collins did well to block, but West Ham stood firm.

 


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