City huffed and puffed, but couldn't break through a determined Hammers back line
Back in January, Liverpool offered Manchester City a swap of Andy Carroll and Carlos Tevez, and with a straight face as well. City turned that generous offer down, and it can't be said in all honesty that they've since regretted their decision. Tevez would become a major figure in City's first title win since 1968, while Carroll only scored two more league goals all season.
Tevez has five goals to his name already this time round, while Carroll has yet to score for his new club West Ham. But could this be the day things turn round for the big man? Because if there's ever a chance of breaking his duck, it's when facing City: he's scored more goals against the reigning champions than any other side in the Premier League. Four goals, he's put past them. Four! Here comes number five? Let's see.
Incidentally, if there's any good time for West Ham to be taking on City, it's now. The visitors need to win here to keep on the trail of neighbours Manchester United, but they could be forgiven for taking their eye off the ball tonight with a must-win match against Ajax in the Champions League coming up on Tuesday. The hosts meanwhile are coming off the back of a very healthy 4-1 win in the last game at Upton Park, which was admittedly only against Southampton, but four-goal hauls are four-goal hauls are four-goal hauls. This promises to be a decent ding-dong battle. It is on!
Kick off: 5.30pm.
West Ham United: Jaaskelainen, O'Brien, Reid, Collins, McCartney, Jarvis, Noble, Diame, Benayoun, Nolan, Carroll.
Subs: Spiegel, Cole, Maiga, Spence, O'Neil, Chambers, Hall.
Manchester City: Hart, Nastasic, Kompany, Kolo Toure, Clichy, Milner, Yaya Toure, Nasri, Tevez, Dzeko, Balotelli.
Subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Sinclair, Kolarov, Javi Garcia, Aguero, Barry.
Referee: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire). England's premier official, pictured left in his civvies, has been quite the star of his last two Premier League matches. Seven yellow cards and a red for Jordi Gomez in the Sunderland-Wigan match, and eight yellows in the contretemps between Newcastle and Manchester United, though crucially no red for Robin van Persie in the latter game, despite the United striker having utilised his elbow to frank Yohan Cabaye's coupon. Well done, Howard! I wonder what high jinx he'll get up to today? By the way, you never notice a good referee, that's an old saying, isn't it.
Now then, Manchester City wouldn't be Manchester City without a spot of pointless psychodrama. And here's James Milner flinging his
toys out of the pram along a perfect parabola bib to the ground, when it's decided he's not playing. Talk is of a hamstring injury in the warm-up, but the player doesn't seem to be feeling it too badly if that reaction is anything to go by. Roberto Mancini ushers Milner to the tunnel, with a view to discussing the matter in the dressing room. Milner disappears into the stand, and David Platt gets involved, his open-palms gesture appearing to tell the boss to "calm down, leave it to me, he ain't worth it". Anyway, Barry is now expected to start instead. So City's team will look like this: Hart, Nastasic, Kompany, Kolo Toure, Clichy, Barry, Yaya Toure, Nasri, Tevez, Dzeko, Balotelli.
Subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Sinclair, Kolarov, Javi Garcia, Aguero, Razak.
It's all OK, no psychodrama to see here! "I can lipread as I'm deaf," begins Joe Balfour. "Milner said something like 'something went' and Mancini turned round and told a member of staff 'take him to hospital' before he went down the tunnel. Mind you, I could be completely wrong and they were arguing about something."
The teams are out! West Ham are in their trademark claret and blue, Manchester City in all black. First there's a minute's silence for the upcoming Remembrance Day, impeccably observed. And we'll soon be on our way. "Maybe it's just where I am but the Guardian has chosen to juxtapose the photos for two stories in a very interesting way," notes Robin Hazlehurst. "Maybe some at City weren't so sure about turning that generous offer from Liverpool down? Those gazes tell a story for the ages."
And we're off! West Ham get the ball rolling. They're kicking towards... I know not the name of the stand, but if they really hoof the ball, it'll end up at the tube station. City soon take up possession, and Nasri looks for Balotelli down the inside left, but the ball rolls out of play.
3 min: It's all a bit hoof and hope at the moment, both teams going at it in the fast fashion. Not much in the way of control to report.
4 min: A free kick to West Ham, just inside the City half. Noble sends it looping down the inside-right channel and into the area, where Nolan takes a first-time slash at the ball, wheeching it low and hard into the net! A masterful finish, but he's flagged for offside. It's a terrible decision, too, as though Nolan was ahead of most of the City back line, Dzeko was lumbering deep on the other side of the pitch, playing the West Ham captain onside. On the touchline, Sam Allardyce is burning like a supernova, and no wonder. A let-off for City there.
7 min: City can't quite get the passes sticking at the moment. West Ham aren't dealing in rancour since the disallowed goal, instead knocking it around with some confidence themselves.
9 min: Noble slides in to stop Dzeko rampaging towards the West Ham box, and looks for a minute to have done himself a mischief upon doing so. But he's up and about after a spot of writhing around.
10 min: After some rococo passing on the edge of the West Ham area, Nasri opens his body up and aims for the top right. Jaaskelainen is behind it all the way, but can only parry to the onrushing Dzeko. The City striker is flagged offside, incorrectly again as it happens, but this one doesn't count so much as Dzeko heads wide right from close range. Some piss-poor flagging going on at the moment.
12 min: The City fans, by the way, have been loud and lusty in their support of manager Roberto Mancini, suggesting that they don't hold this Monaco business against him.
13 min: Diame, who scored a screecher a few Saturday evenings ago against Arsenal, nearly bags himself another mini-classic, cutting in from the left and unleashing a rasping shot from the edge of the box that only just clears the bar. The Boleyn takes a sharp collective intake of breath as the ball blooters into the stand. That's a fine effort.
15 min: Tevez and Dzeko combine down the inside left, nearly breaking clear into the West Ham box after a couple of one-twos, but eventually the move breaks down as Dzeko miscontrols.
17 min: Carroll goes up for a cross from the right, and has his right breast caressed sensually by Kompany. He falls to the floor demanding a penalty, but the referee is quite rightly not having it.
18 min: Jarvis crosses deep from the left. Benayoun, cutting inside from the right, hammers a first-time volley up and over Hart, and onto the crossbar. What a stunning effort, and once again, the Hammers are unlucky.
19 min: Dzeko is clipped to the floor as he races towards the West Ham area, to the right of goal. The free kick is taken by Tevez. He's looking for the top left corner of the goal, and just about finds the top left corner of the stand.
21 min: Yaya Toure is given the run of the West Ham half. Dangerous move, as it persuades City's big man to have a whack from distance. It's a hell of a blooter, but not totally accurate, high and wide right of the goal.
22 min: And now it's West Ham's big man to take a turn to shine. He wins a knockdown on the edge of the City area. Benayoun takes up possession, then rolls it back to Carroll who, level with the right-hand post, takes a touch then hammers a low shot just wide right of goal. That was a lovely move, and an even better effort. Had Carroll's shot, not far away by any means, been on target, it was a goal as Hart was rooted to the spot.
25 min: A lull. "Surely the caption under Andy Carroll's photo should read 'I think, er, therefore, er, I think, like'," suggests Nigel Moore. "I mean which footballer is prone to Cartesian meditations? Give us a break!" Fair enough. Here, apparently the first draft of the famous bit from Hamlet was "To be, or not to be, aye there's the point", patter which also begs to be read aloud in the Geordie style. You can picture the big man gadding around wielding a skull, can't you?
28 min: Diame cuts inside from the left, but instead of shooting this time he attempts to find Carroll's noggin with a looping cross. It's overcooked, and flies out of play on the right. After a lively start, this game is simmering down a wee bit.
31 min: Dzeko, Tevez and Barry step things up, flicking the ball all the way across the pitch from right to left. Eventually the ball's sent wide to Clichy, who pulls the ball back to the edge of the area. Balotelli meets the ball, and shapes a gorgeous effort towards the top left. But it's blocked by Collins, brilliantly so. City eventually make do with a corner after a mild scramble, but nothing comes of it.
33 min: City are turning up the gas a wee bit. A free kick down the left, sent arcing in by Tevez. Balotelli gets in ahead of the West Ham back line. He's onside, and meets the ball six yards out, but loops it high over the bar, perhaps mindful of Jaaskelainen, who is off his line quickly with a wild look in his eye.
35 min: City keep threatening to do some very fancy things, but they're not quite coming off yet. Balotelli, Nasri and Dzeko combine with a series of reverse passes, flicks and shimmies down the left, but eventually a misplaced slider allows Reid to hack clear. It's pretty stuff, though. I suppose you can start with the Baroque patterns when you're enjoying 73% possession.
37 min: Kolo Toure pounces on a loose clearance by Diame to make for the byline down the right. He pulls the ball across for Balotelli, who belabours a first-time close-range swipe wide right of the goal. He should have done much better there. City are beginning to boss this.
41 min: Sorry, I zoned out for a minute or two there. The ball's been repeatedly humped upfield by one team, then back down by the other. Very hypnotic, like watching a Newton's cradle.
43 min: Nasri and Balotelli dance in tandem down the left, the latter eventually winning a corner off Collins. He claims for a penalty, the ball having hit the defender's forearm at close range, but he's not getting one. The set piece is cleared by Carroll, but the ball immediately comes back at West Ham, Yaya Toure finding himself in space down the right, only to slash a dreadful effort wide right of goal from ten yards.
45 min: Nasri comes in from the right and wings a ball into the area, where Balotelli holds off the attentions of O'Brien and powers a scissor kick just wide right of goal. City are finishing this half strongly.
HALF TIME: West Ham United 0-0 Manchester City. Well, City probably deserve to be leading this game on the balance of possession and the sheer number of chances created. But then only Kevin Nolan has put the ball in the net, for a disallowed goal that should have been permitted to stand. Should make for quite a second half, with City desperate not to let their neighbours United open up any sort of gap between them at the top of the table.
HALF-TIME ENTERTAINMENT: This is the first match between West Ham and City since the passing of John Bond, who won the FA Cup with the Hammers in 1964 as a player, and was eleven minutes and a Tommy Hutchison own goal away from repeating the trick 17 years later as City's manager. Any convoluted excuse, basically, to trot out City!, the most entertaining football documentary of all time...
Fans of olfactory illusions will particularly enjoy the scene in the boardroom, when Bond is interviewed for the City job. It positively reeks of ciggie smoke.
And we're off again! No changes. City get the ball moving again; we're 50 seconds into the half, and nobody's really bothered controlling it yet.
47 min: Collins has mildly jiggered his right ankle. Nothing serious, but he's suffering at the moment. Sympathy will be limited, as he did it while standing on Tevez's foot, then slipping over like a clumsy sod and twisting his own peg.
48 min: Collins is up and about again.
50 min: Nasri steams into the West Ham half, with two team-mates either side of him. He's got options to set a very dangerous City move in flow, with the Hammers light at the back, but a wonderful tackle from Reid slows him down. Still, City are soon moving forward again, through Dzeko down the left. He zips a low ball into the area. Balotelli takes an air shot eight yards out, then Collins fails to clear. Eventually Tevez cutting in from the right, looks for the bottom-right corner, but Jaaskelainien is behind it all the way.
52 min: A corner to City down the right, but what happens isn't really worth describing. West Ham try to break upfield, but they soon have the ball taken off them, and City win another corner, this time down the left. Tevez sends the ball in, straight down Jaaskelainen's throat, but the big keeper flaps at the ball, letting it squirm through his hands and out for another corner, the second in this sequence to come down the right. Again, nothing comes of it. A lot of description for a whole load of nothing, but I suppose at least it illustrates how City are pressing West Ham back, the home side unable to get out.
55 min: Collins lumps a long free kick into the City half from a deep position down the right. Nolan clumsily falls over in the area, and is offside. West Ham really aren't offering much at the moment. City break upfield through Balotelli down the right; his ball inside flies right across the face of goal, Dzeko unable to turn the ball home.
56 min: Collins clatters into Tevez from behind. The ball flies out left, where Clichy is storming free into space. Howard Webb, the star of the show, doesn't fancy playing advantage, pulling play back to book Collins. City have a free kick, but do nix with it. Well done, Howard!
58 min: A real chance spurned here for West Ham, Benayoun swinging a cross in from the right, Nolan guiding a header to the right of goal from close range. It's not particularly exciting, this game, but there are enough half-chances being carved out here to suggest someone will score at some point.
60 min: And there we go, having said that, Carroll nearly does score, meeting McCartney's left-wing cross at the far post with a powerful overhead kick that balloons off the back of Nastasic and out of play for a futile corner.
61 min: Benayoun is booked for a late clatter on his former team-mate Tevez.
63 min: Yaya Toure slides Tevez clear down the left. He's in acres, but instead of sliding the ball across early towards Balotelli in the centre, he over-elaborates, pausing before attempting a ludicrous threaded pull-back through a sea of backtracking players for Dzeko. Unsurprisingly, the ball doesn't give the forward any chance whatsoever, and the chance is gone. In the middle, Balotelli keeps impressively calm; a wee hop of impotent rage would have been permitted under those circumstances.
65 min: Again City over-elaborate. Clichy brilliantly keeps the ball in play down the left at high speed, and they're three on two. He then slides the ball inside for Dzeko, who faffs around before feeding Tevez. The former Hammer takes an aeon to dig the ball out from under his feet, then lashes a spectacularly useless effort miles wide left and high from the edge of the box. That really should have been the opening goal.
68 min: McCartney bustles down the left and wins West Ham a corner. Noble takes. Balotelli, at the near post, heads behind for another corner. Noble takes again. There's a bit of head tennis between Nastasic and Nolan, then City break upfield. Tevez romps down the left, then pulls the ball back to the edge of the area where Barry comes in, takes one touch to take himself past three defenders, then guides a shot wide right of goal with that half of the net gaping. A poor miss, but then Barry's deliberately handled the ball anyway with that one touch, so it wouldn't have counted. No booking, though, which seems kind of strange. Oh Howard!
70 min: Balotelli goes off, to be replaced by Aguero. As he leaves the field, the ESPN commentary team make a huge song and dance about the mild frown playing across the Italian's coupon, as if he's the only player in the history of All Football to ever feel a bit miffed at being hooked. So there, it seems, is a footballing first. Oh Mario! Naughty Mario! How could you!
73 min: O'Neil comes on for Diame.
74 min: Aguero and Tevez are this close to opening West Ham up down the right with a pacy one-two, but the move doesn't quite come off. Frustration is beginning to creep in, Tevez waving his arms about in the frantic manner.
76 min: Things are getting a bit frantic for West Ham themselves. Tevez scampers down the right; his pullback is cleared. Clichy retrieves the ball and has a smack goalwards. It's not much of an effort, but it allows Tevez to pick up the ball in the middle of a melee and hammer another shot towards the net. Collins, flinging himself in the way of the ball John Terry style, blocks. Aguero looks to latch onto the loose ball, but falls over a challenge instead. It's not a penalty, and although Aguero claims for one, it's in the half-arsed fashion.
78 min: Carroll is replaced by Cole. The big man's last act was to spoon a left-wing cross from Jarvis over the bar, his team-mate having bustled magnificently down the inside-left channel and into the area to fashion the chance.
80 min: A free kick to City, 40 yards out on the right, as Nasri is annoyed by O'Brien. Yaya Toure slides a pass down the inside-right channel; Aguero hits low and hard towards the bottom-right corner, only to see his effort parried clear.
82 min: McCartney is booked for a late lunge on Barry, who was looking to break clear down the right. A no-brainer for the referee.
83 min: Aguero loops the ball into the box from the right. Barry gets his head to it, but Jaaskelainen plucks the ball from the night sky.
84 min: A change made by both teams. Tevez is replaced by Javi Garcia - and departs to warm applause from both sets of fans - while Collins is displaced by Spence.
87 min: This is attack versus defence now, and in all truth has been for most of the match, but City have rarely looked like breaking through. West Ham have been defending resolutely, and don't look like buckling. It would be cruel, given the effort they've put in at the back tonight, if they did.
89 min: Nasri sashays down the right. He slips the ball back to Yaya Toure, who sweeps a cross towards Aguero. Reid heads out for a corner. From which City apply a fair bit of pressure, but it comes to naught, the aforementioned Toure tap-dancing on the edge of the area before banging a shot high over the bar.
90 min: A late, late roll of the dice by Roberto Mancini, who replaces Nasri with Sinclair. He'll have the three added-on minutes to win the day for City.
90 min +1: It's all hoof and hope from City.
90 min +2: The hope's running out for them. West Ham are running down the clock magnificently.
FULL TIME: West Ham United 0-0 Manchester City. West Ham have the point their efforts richly deserved. It was all City in terms of possession, but the home side refused to buckle. Indeed, they scored a legitimate goal through Kevin Nolan right at the start of the game, only for the strike to be disallowed for a non-existent offside. Still, on balance, a draw is probably right. And it's City's first goalless one since last Boxing Day. A frustrating result for Mancini's side, not least because neighbours United now lead the Premier League, two clear of third-placed City, and a point ahead of Chelsea.