The Premier League leaders were held to a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, so Liverpool now have the chance to cut their advantage to just a single point
Manchester City could not hide their frustrations.
Whether it was Kevin De Bruyne shouting at team-mate Rodri for a delayed pass that led to a sloppy foul or Jack Grealish venting his anger at Crystal Palace defender Tyrick Mitchell as he kicked the ball out of his hands in the dying minutes, the irritation boiled over.
Even Pep Guardiola seemed to be arguing with Vicente Guaita at full-time after this 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace on Monday night, over his mastery of the dark arts to tick down the clock whenever the ball came close to him, although he dismissed it as congratulating the Crystal Palace goalkeeper on his performance.
The City boss even took aim at the Selhurst Park pitch, such was his frustration at surrendering his advantage at the top of the table.
A team and a manager that crave control are losing it, with their grip on their Premier League title loosening.
After their victory over Chelsea on January 13, City were 14 points clear of Jurgen Klopp’s side and even the German downplayed any potential challenge – publicly, at least.
Just two months later, the gap is down to four and if Liverpool win their game in hand on Wednesday at Arsenal, it will just be a single point.
A title race that had been written off in the freezing temperatures of winter is heating up all the way to the height of summer – running until the end of the season just as it did three years ago when the two sides went head-to-head.
City now need perfection, just as they delivered from their last 14 matches of the 2018-19 campaign, which they won by a single point.
On that run there were tense matches against stubborn sides when they got the job done.
There were famous 1-0 victories – at Burnley when Sergio Aguero squeezed the ball over the line by 29 millimetres and against Leicester when Vincent Kompany smashed the ball in from 30 yards.
Against Palace, though, that magic moment didn’t come.
There were plenty of instances when it looked like it would. Joao Cancelo smashed a 30-yard strike against the post, De Bruyne also hit the woodwork and Guaita pulled off a wonder save from Riyad Mahrez.
They blew even better chances, with Bernardo Silva somehow diverting a low cross wide from six yards out, while Aymeric Laporte missed an open goal.
“You have to score goals,” Guardiola told reporters at full-time. “We created a lot of chances. On another day, we will score. That’s football. We have to score goals. We didn’t do it.”
The City boss refused to blame bad luck, even though several things didn’t go their way on this occasion.
However, Palace deserve a huge amount of credit for the way they stopped his side, just as they did at the Etihad Stadium earlier in the season.
Patrick Vieira’s team will be the only one not to concede a goal to City in the Premier League this season and they had enough threat on the break to keep the visitors’ defence worried.
The Eagles have taken four points off the champions, doing nearly as much as Tottenham in terms of setting up a thrilling end of season that everyone but Guardiola and City fans were hoping for.
“Now, we have four points and one game more,” he said. “We’ve got to win a lot of games.
“We played a fantastic football game in all departments. It was difficult to control their players up front and we created a lot of chances – on another day, we will score.”
Former assistant Mikel Arteta can do him a huge favour by stalling Liverpool’s charge at the Emirates on Wednesday night.
“I’m going to watch the Champions League and then I’ll watch Liverpool on Wednesday. Liverpool is an interesting team to watch,” Guardiola added.