Manchester City’s title aspirations slipped further in a goalless draw at Carrow Road which did little to boost Norwich’s hopes of Barclays Premier League survival.
Manuel Pellegrini had said the visitors would need to win at least nine of their remaining 10 games to win the title, so victory at Norwich was a must.
But it was Alex Neil’s relegation-threatened side who came closest to scoring as Patrick Bamford hit the crossbar in the first half.
The point was just Norwich’s second in 10 games and the clean sheet was their first since their most recent win, over Southampton at the turn of the year, while City are nine points behind leaders Leicester.
City now turn their attentions to Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg with Dynamo Kiev and next Sunday’s Premier League derby with Manchester United.
For teams with title aspirations, victory at relegation candidates Norwich should be a formality. It was anything but for City, whose only half-decent performer was Sergio Aguero.
John Ruddy dealt unconvincingly with a free-kick from Aguero, who then shot narrowly wide across goal.
The Argentina striker next ran at the Norwich defence and Ruddy made a sharp save to his right.
Norwich were set up not to concede, having last claimed a clean sheet on January 2. A 3-0 FA Cup third-round loss to City at Carrow Road was the first fixture of that 11-game run, but the visitors showed nothing like the same cutting edge this time around.
On loan Chelsea striker Bamford came close to upsetting City on his first start.
Nicolas Otamendi allowed the ball to bounce and Bamford waited patiently for it to drop.
Once it settled, he sweetly swung his left-foot and the result was a 25-yard volley which Joe Hart watched hit his crossbar.
That effort and a tackle by Jonny Howson on Aguero seemed to galvanise Norwich. Matt Jarvis, who switched to the right when Nathan Redmond limped off with what appeared to be a calf problem, next went close.
Jarvis’ deflected shot looped just wide and referee Jon Moss ruled there was no time to take the resulting corner, much to Gary O’Neil’s annoyance.
O’Neil was a nuisance throughout. The midfielder was one of a number of Norwich players who made a habit of bundling David Silva to ground as agricultural won over cultured play.
Still Aguero was City’s most threatening player, yet his efforts were not matched by team-mates.
The anonymous Wilfried Bony was replaced by Raheem Sterling and Aguero became the attacking focal point.
He tumbled into the area after running at Tim Klose, but Moss was correct in adjudging the foul to have taken place outside the area.
Silva’s free-kick went into the wall. It summed up City’s efforts.
Dorrans shot wide for Norwich and Aguero blasted over as he tried to find an 88th-minute winner, but even he could not prevent the stalemate.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
“Tremendous point for Norwich. Clean sheet v City real achievement and stops rot, shows players up for fight.” – BT Sport Football commentator Ian Darke points out the significance of the point Norwich gained as they battle relegation.
John Ruddy: 7 (out of 10)
Russell Martin: 6
Martin Olsson: 6
Ryan Bennett: 6
Tim Klose: 7
Jonny Howson: 7
Gary O’Neil: 6
Nathan Redmond: 6
Patrick Bamford: 6
Wes Hoolahan: 5
Matt Jarvis: 6
Graham Dorrans (for Redmond, 44 minutes): 6
Dieumerci Mbokani (for Hoolahan, 67): 6
Cameron Jerome (for Bamford, 67): 6
Joe Hart: 6
Bacary Sagna: 6
Gael Clichy: 6
Vincent Kompany: 7
Nicolas Otamendi: 6
Jesus Navas: 5
Wilfried Bony: 5
Sergio Aguero: 8
David Silva: 6
Raheem Sterling (for Bony, 58): 6
Kelechi Iheanacho (for Navas, 77): 6
Pablo Zabaleta (for Sagna, 85): 6
The Argentina striker’s quality shone in an otherwise disappointing display from a team whose title aspirations slipped.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Joe Hart could only watch as on loan Chelsea striker Bamford’s sweetly struck volley hit the bar.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Norwich made four changes after the loss at Swansea, with two enforced following injuries to Robbie Brady and Steven Naismith. The Canaries were set up to be difficult to break down, but even when Redmond was on they lacked the incisiveness to cause the visitors trouble on the counter attack. City made one change, following their 4-0 defeat of Aston Villa, with the injured Yaya Toure replaced by Fernando.
Sterling and Iheanacho did not have the desired impact off the bench as the match ended in a stalemate.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Manchester City arrived with Pellegrini calling for nine wins from 10 games. Dropped points at Carrow Road would not have been on his mind, but his side’s performance, with the exception of Aguero, was lacklustre and half-hearted.
WHO’S UP NEXT
West Brom v Norwich (Barclays Premier League, Saturday, March 19)
Manchester City v Dynamo Kiev (Champions League last-16 second leg, Tuesday, March 15)
Norwich manager Alex Neil said on Sky Sports 1: “I think in terms of effort and endeavour for the players, I couldn’t ask for any more.”
Neil believes Norwich, Sunderland and Newcastle are battling it out between them for survival in the Premier League but takes comfort that the two north-east teams still have to go to Carrow Road.
“Looking at the table, they seem to be the three teams involved in it now,” he said.
“Certainly at the moment we just want to try and be above the teams in and about us, and the other two teams that are there just now.
“We’ve got it in our own hands; we’ve got the two relegation rivals to come here. If we can put on a performance and make sure we win those two games it gives us a strong position to go from.”
Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart felt his side did not deserve to come away with a victory.
He said: “I think myself and (Norwich goalkeeper) John Ruddy could have had the afternoon off today, so disappointing result for us.
“You’ve got to give credit to Norwich, they defended with numbers and changed the team a little bit today.
It’s worked for them but I’m not really bothered about what they do, it’s about what we do and we weren’t good enough today.
“I don’t think we were good enough to win it if I’m honest.”
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini believes Sergio Aguero could still have a long future at the club.
The prolific Argentina striker was quoted this week saying he intends to return to boyhood club Independiente when his current contract at the Etihad Stadium expires.
The 27-year-old, who has scored 128 goals for City since his 38million arrival in 2011, is committed to the club until 2019.
City were understood to be keen to discuss new terms and Pellegrini, although he himself is leaving in the summer, thinks that could yet happen.
Pellegrini said: “Sergio knows why he wants to do it. It’s difficult to talk about what will happen in two or three years more because players change their minds.
“Maybe he can be happy to return to Argentina but Kun has a lot more years here in Europe.”
Pellegrini’s main focus is the short term and pulling City back into the title race.
City are playing catch-up in the Barclays Premier League after an inconsistent season but ended a run of three successive defeats with a comprehensive victory over bottom side Aston Villa last weekend.
They sit fourth, trailing leaders Leicester by 10 points with a game in hand, heading into this weekend’s fixtures but are used to coming from behind. They did so to take the crown in 2012 and 2014 and Pellegrini wants to lead another charge.
The Chilean, who takes his team to struggling Norwich on Saturday, said: “We don’t depend just on the work we can do.
We cannot have the same points as Tottenham and Leicester if they win all their games.
“But if they win the title (we need to make sure) it’s because they win all their games and not because we couldn’t win ours.
“We’ll focus on trying to win at Norwich and we’ll see the way the other teams manage the pressure between now and the end of the season.
“The most important thing is that we don’t have margin of error. We need to win our games.”
After last week’s 4-0 defeat of Villa, City will be expected to similarly brush aside a Canaries team that have collected just one point from their last nine games to slip into the bottom three.
But, speaking at his pre-match press conference, Pellegrini said: “When you must play against teams in relegation positions it is always very difficult because they don’t have much to lose.
“They must try to win their points, especially at home, so I’m sure we will find them a very difficult team. It will be a very tough game if we want to win the three points.”
The trip to Carrow Road, for which City will be without Yaya Toure, comes at the start of another critical week.
City face Dynamo Kiev in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday and then host rivals Manchester United next Saturday.
Pellegrini said: “It is very important because if we win the next two games in the Premier League the pressure will be more on the other teams.
“If we can get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time of course that will be another important achievement.
“I hope that we will do that but we must start thinking just about Norwich.”
Continue reading here: Sergio Aguero has 'a lot more years in Europe', says Manuel …
The Court of Appeal has recently confirmed that security for a defendant’s costs will often be granted against a foreign company who is not obliged to publish accounts, has no discernible assets and declines to reveal anything about its financial position: SARPD Oil International Limited v Addax Energy SA & Another 2016 EWCA Civ 1201.
The decision suggests that claimants should consider carefully whether to provide information about their financial standing when faced with a request for security for costs, as reticence on the matter may result in an order to provide security.
The decision is also a reminder that an order for security for costs may, in some circumstances, include the costs of third party proceedings brought by the defendant. It also contains interesting comments regarding the relevance of the parties’ agreed or approved costs budgets in setting the amount of the security. Jade Hu, an associate in our dispute resolution team, considers the decision further below.
The claimant, a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, alleged that gas oil the defendant supplied did not meet the contractual specification. The defendant denied the claim but said that, if the oil failed to meet the specification, it was the fault of Glencore Energy UK Ltd (“Glencore”) from whom it bought the oil on essentially back to back terms.
Accordingly, the defendant brought Part 20 proceedings against Glencore for damages or an indemnity in respect of the claimant’s claim.
The defendant applied under CPR 25.13(2) for an order that the claimant give security for its costs of the proceedings, relying on the condition at sub-paragraph (c) of that rule, namely:
“the claimant is a company or other body (whether incorporated inside or outside Great Britain) and there is reason to believe that it will be unable to pay the defendant’s costs if ordered to do so”.
At first instance, the Commercial Court refused the application. The judge held that, on the state of the evidence, there was no reason to believe the claimant would be unable to pay the defendant’s costs if ordered to do so. He said the obvious explanation for the claimant’s reticence about its financial position was that it would benefit in settlement negotiations from the defendant’s doubt about whether it would recover its costs even if it defeated the claim.
The judge noted that he suspected it had become the practice of the Commercial Court to order security where a company had not filed publicly available accounts, had no discernible assets and declined to reveal its financial position; but that if such practice had developed, it was not justified and should not be followed.
On appeal, the questions for the Court of Appeal were:
- whether the judge was justified in not following what he suspected was the practice of the Commercial Court;
- if security for costs was ordered, whether it should include the costs of the Part 20 proceedings including the defendant’s potential costs liability to Glencore; and
- the relevance of the approved costs budgets in determining the amount of security ordered.
In relation to the first question, the Court of Appeal held that the Commercial Court judge had been plainly wrong to refuse the application. Lord Justice Sales, who gave the judgment of the court, said:
“If a company is given every opportunity to show that it can pay a defendant’s costs and deliberately refuses to do so there is, in our view, every reason to believe that, if and when it is required to pay a defendant’s costs, it will be unable to do so”.
If there was a practice in the Commercial Court that security for costs will often be granted against a foreign company who is not obliged to publish accounts, has no discernible assets and declines to reveal anything about its financial position then, Sales LJ said, “that practice is a sound one and we would uphold it.”
In relation to the second question, the Court of Appeal held that the security should include the defendant’s costs of suing Glencore as well as its potential liability for Glencore’s costs. This was because, by the time the court made its final order as to costs, it would have determined (if the claimant lost) that Glencore had won as against the defendant.
It would inevitably order the defendant to pay Glencore’s costs, and it was highly likely that the defendant would be entitled to recover those costs from the claimant.
As regards the third question, the claimant argued that the defendant’s incurred costs, as stated in its costs budget, were too high. Accordingly, the court should go behind the approved costs budget when determining the amount of security and examine for itself whether certain incurred sums were reasonable and proportionate.
The Court of Appeal noted that the court can only formally approve the estimated costs element of the budget, and not the incurred costs, under CPR 3.15(2). However, when approving a costs budget, the court may record its views on whether incurred costs are reasonable and proportionate, and such comments will carry significant weight when the court comes to making a costs order at the end of trial.
Here, the effect of the court’s order in relation to the parties’ costs budgets was that the estimated costs were approved and the court agreed that the incurred costs stated in the budget were reasonable and proportionate.
The Court of Appeal said the effect of this comment was that it was likely that the incurred costs element would be included in any standard assessment of costs at the end of the day, unless good reason was shown why it should not be. Therefore, the correct approach was to take the defendant’s and Glencore’s approved costs budgets as the appropriate reference point for determining the amount of security the claimant should provide.
The decision is a reminder to claimants to consider carefully any request for information regarding their financial position, in the context of a potential application for security for costs. As this case suggests, an absence of relevant evidence from a claimant (as the only party who is able to provide it) may give the court reason to believe that the claimant will not be able to pay the defendant’s costs if the claimant loses, resulting in a security for costs order.
If the defendant has brought Part 20 proceedings against a third party, the claimant may in some circumstances be ordered to provide security for costs in relation to those proceedings as well which may include both the defendant’s own costs and its potential liability for the third party’s costs.
The Court of Appeal also noted that although, in making a costs management order, the court cannot formally approve costs already incurred, any comments to the effect that such costs are reasonable and proportionate may have the same practical effect as the formal approval of the estimated costs.
In particular, it is likely that such costs will be included in any standard assessment of costs at the end of the case, unless there is a good reason not to.
Parties should therefore seek to raise any objections as to the reasonableness and proportionality of incurred costs included in an opponent’s budget at the earliest opportunity (normally the first case management conference) and in any event before costs budgets are approved.