Premier League - Man City toil to goalless draw
Manchester City failed to score a goal at home for the third consecutive Premier League match, toiling to a 0-0 draw against Birmingham at Eastlands.
After Wednesday's lifeless Manchester derby, Roberto Mancini could have been forgiven for throwing caution to the wind against a Birmingham side who have never won in their 12 Premier League matches in Manchester.
However, with Manchester City once again opting to field his familiar 4-2-3-1 - including the safe but defensive midfield partnership of Yaya Toure and Nigel de Jong - attention instead turned to the players noticeable by their absence as the teams took to the field.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott, and Shaun Wright-Phillips were all omitted from the 18-man squad to face Birmingham - indicative, perhaps, of their ever decreasing significance in Mancini's plans for his would-be title contenders.
Manchester City controlled the early possession, but struggled to make any impression on an organised Birmingham backline.
The result was a dreary, lifeless opening 45 minutes, utterly devoid of quality attacking football, and clearly lacking the sort of spark that suspended Manchester City forward Mario Ballotelli showed in City's 2-0 win at West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
Carlos Tevez - Manchester City's top-scorer in the Premier League this season with seven goals - forged the hosts' first chance of the match, clipping a shot past Ben Foster's right-hand post with 20 minutes played.
The Argentine then had the ball in the back of the net, 20 minutes later, but the linesman rightly flagged for a handball as Tevez turned David Silva's clever header past Foster, and referee Michael Jones disallowed the goal.
The final chance of a lacklustre half fell to Adam Johnson, with a point to prove after recent reports that the 23-year-old winger is growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of first-team opportunities at Eastlands.
Sebastian Larsson completely missed a simple clearance from Tevez's long diagonal ball, but Johnson could only drag his shot across goal and wide of Foster's right post.
There can be little doubt that Mancini's men were on the receiving end of a rollicking in the changing room at half-time, as Manchester City emerged with a new-found sense of urgency at the start of the second half.
James Milner controlled a high ball well to find himself one on one with Foster, who produced a fine block to keep Birmingham level.
The rebound fell kindly for Milner, but the Englishman saw his hooked shot cleared magnificently off the line by Stephen Carr, the Birmingham captain.
Milner and Tevez exchanged near-misses as the second half continued, but both failed to test Foster who had a thoroughly comfortable afternoon.
Keith Fahey came closest to securing more than a single point for the visitors, forcing a sharp save from Joe Hart with a crisp half-volley in the 70th minute, but Alex McLeish's side always looked happy enough to settle for a draw.
The same could not be said of the home crowd, who bellowed their discontent when Mancini removed Tevez in the 82nd minute to bring on Gareth Barry.
As referee Jones blew the final whistle, the few supporters left in the City of Manchester Stadium unleashed a chorus of dissatisfaction having seen a glorious chance to close in on league-leaders Chelsea slip away.