Mario Balotelli will not be missed? Manchester City followers glad to see the back of the enigma might want to revise their opinion after their side were held to a scoreless draw by Queens Park Rangers, blowing a chance to close the gap on Manchester United to two points.
Roberto Mancini threw all three of his forwards at Harry Redknapp's side, but on a blustery evening they could not batter down the defences thrown up at Loftus Road. It might not have been Balotelli weather, but City could have done with a dash of his brilliance.
Redknapp owed a third clean sheet of the season against top-four opposition to a tireless performance from his midfield and a world-class effort from Julio César. Three times the Brazilian foiled City, the best of his saves coming at point-blank range from David Silva in the 83rd minute.
QPR also survived a late penalty appeal when Nedum Onuoha collected Scott Sinclair along with a scrap of the ball, but Redknapp will not complain. This point lifts his side to within a win of second-from-bottom Reading.
City may not have had Balotelli, but they fielded Samir Nasri, Silva, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tévez. City took immediate control. With 20 minutes gone Aguero combined with Silva who pulled back a perfect cross but Pablo Zabaleta saw his header crash off the crossbar.
City's Joe Hart barely touched the ball until the 39th minute, when he was forced into a superb save to deny Adel Taarabt.
Mancini hooked off Nasri in favour of Edin Dzeko in the hope that the Bosnian could offer a focus for their attack. But City lacked fluency in the closing stages, with QPR's midfield midfield stifling their rhythm.
"We lost two points, this is sure," said Mancini. "But the season is long and I think I can say nothing because we played well, we had the chances but didn't score – that is all it is." (© Daily Telegraph, London)