LONDON • Manuel Pellegrini rued a denied late penalty call, as Manchester City spurned a chance to close in on Premier League leaders Arsenal and Leicester City after a 0-0 draw with Everton on Wednesday.
Raheem Sterling went down after a challenge from John Stones in the final minute of the match at the Etihad Stadium, but referee Roger East ignored City's appeals.
"The whole stadium could see it was a penalty," said City manager Pellegrini. "It was so clear, and so near for the referee. Both legs of Raheem were taken and it was a clear foul from Stones."
City's failure to score at home in the league for the first time since losing 0-2 to Arsenal on Jan 18 last year left them three points behind both Arsenal, who drew 3-3 at Liverpool, and Leicester, who won 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur.
City were unable to make their incessant second-half pressure count, as they also drew at home for the first time this season.
"For some reason, we couldn't score and of course if you drop two points here and other teams around us win away, it's not a good game for us," said Pellegrini.
"But we have another 17 games and the important thing is to continue in the way we are.
"Normally we score. It's really unbelievable, with the amount of saves and shots we had in the second half, not to score. We did enough to win the game."
The hosts took 22 shots, of which five found the target.
That the Man of the Match was Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard was particularly satisfying for Toffees manager Roberto Martinez, who praised the 36-year-old American for keeping the clean sheet.
Everton's supporters had made clear their dissatisfaction with Howard's performances this season. Before Wednesday's match, the American had managed only five clean sheets in his previous 21 appearances.
But he managed to shut City out, saving well when Yaya Toure met a Bacary Sagna cross with a downward header. He also dealt with a succession of dangerous crosses, using almost every part of his body to prevent the ball from reaching a waiting City forward.
And when Sergio Aguero did get a sight of goal, the American twice denied him, blocking a volley from a corner and then, when the striker rolled away from Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori, standing large to block the Argentinian's shot again.
"The way Tim prepares for the games, faces adversity and takes responsibility is why, as a manager, you have blind belief in him," Martinez said. "He is an incredible influence on the younger players and you will never see him blaming anyone else. He accepts responsibility."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS