STOKE-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom (AFP) – Manchester City held on for a 0-0 draw at Stoke City on Saturday as former boss Mark Hughes proved a thorn in the side of his old club.
Hughes' men were the better team for long periods at the Britannia Stadium as Manuel Pellegrini's much-changed side struggled to find any real rhythm.
It was a satisfying result for Hughes, who was sacked by City's Abu Dhabi-based owners in 2009, and his old employers may be concerned at how average their current line-up looked.
To this point in the campaign, Pellegrini had kept an extremely settled side and his changes at the Britannia Stadium saw five of his front six starting for the first time this season, including first starts for Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo.
They produced a display that was a long way from the fluent football that saw them beat Newcastle 4-0 in their opening game of the season.
But Pellegrini will feel that positive results against Viktoria Plzen and Manchester United over the next week will make this seem a good result.
Initially it appeared City's alterations would cause little disruption, with Aleksandar Kolarov thumping over from a James Milner cross and Negredo guiding a pass through for Samir Nasri, whose low effort was held by Asmir Begovic.
Marc Wilson drove wide from long range but as the visitors continued to press, Negredo picked out Jovetic with another fine pass before the Montenegro forward had a powerful strike held by Begovic.
Pellegrini's side have failed to convince defensively so far and, with Vincent Kompany still out with a groin problem, Javi Garcia started alongside Matija Nastasic at centre-back.
They should have fallen behind when Charlie Adam's cross picked out the unmarked Jonathan Walters only for the Stoke striker to glance his header wide from five yards out.
Negredo, who has scored two goals in three substitute appearances, has already made a significant impact since his summer move from Sevilla and he went close again with a curling shot that flew just wide.
The hosts caused plenty of problems with their pressing game and after Kenwyne Jones stole the ball from Nasri he surged through before hitting a shot that was pushed away by Joe Hart.
After the interval a Geoff Cameron cross split the visitors' defence but Walters just failed to get a touch before Jovetic thumped over with a volley from James Milner's lofted pass.
Stoke went close once again when a driven cross from Adam saw Jones rise higher than Nastasic but he could not guide his header on target.
From a Nasri free-kick, Jovetic guided a header just wide of goal for the visitors, who struggled for fluency after the break.
But Stoke continued to enjoy the better openings and Hart did well to make a scrambling save from Adam's drive just after the hour.
Pellegrini then brought on Sergio Aguero for Jovetic, but it was the home side that continued to dominate, with substitute Marko Arnautovic putting in a low cross that Nastasic prodded towards his own goal, forcing a fine save from Hart before Jones lifted the rebound over the bar.
Arnautovic lifted a free-kick over the bar as the home side pushed until the end but Pellegrini's side escaped with a draw.