A glance at the statistics would tell you that West Brom rode their luck all night but that would be misleading. City had 77 per cent possession, 26 shots and 13 corners and yet, for long periods, failed to really threaten their opponents and again looked toothless in attack. By the end, Pep Guardiola looked a desperate man, railing against the fourth official, Anthony Taylor, for only playing four minutes of added time when Johnstone had been taking “30 seconds” for each goal kick. City have now dropped more points (16) after 12 games this season than they did in the entirety of the 2017/18 campaign, when they dropped 14. Yet it is probably an accurate reflection of how strange this season is proving that, despite being five points worse off than last season, they are four points closer to the top. They still trail the leaders by five points, though, and with a tricky trip to Southampton on Saturday, they urgently need to discover some bite in front of goal.
Guardiola had claimed beforehand that this would be the moment when City’s season finally burst into life. By the end, though, another underwhelming performance served only to give more credence to Gary Neville’s claims that City are an “absolute shadow” of the side that won the title two years ago. It was certainly baffling to see Guardiola start with two holding midfielders at home to the league’s second-bottom club and even more surprising that, when he finally brought on Sergio Aguero in the 76th minute, he did so at the expense of Phil Foden and not Rodri.
West Brom had missed a glorious chance to take the lead in the eighth minute when Karlan Grant was denied by Ederson and City went in front when Sterling played a one-two with Joao Cancelo and pulled the ball back for Gundogan to score.
After that miss by Grant, you had to wonder how many more chances West Brom might get in the game but, two minutes before the break, they were level, Semi Ajayi’s shanked shot deflecting in off Ruben Dias. It was the first goal City had conceded in any competition for 608 minutes.