Manchester City goalkeeper Shay Given saved James McFadden’s penalty in a 0-0 draw at Birmingham for his team to climb two spots to fourth in the Premier League.
Man City’s fourth draw in a row - but first 0-0 score in 55 games stretching back to March 2008 - gave Mark Hughes’ team 19 points from 10 games with only one loss, fewer defeats than any other Premier League team.
City has a game in hand but is now eight points behind leader Chelsea and six back from defending champion Manchester United.
“It was the poorest we’ve played for some time,” Man City manager Mark Hughes said. “I was expecting us to show more quality. We’ve picked up another point on our travels, which was our Achilles’ heel last season. But we can play better than that.”
Despite the big difference in their league positions, 14th-place Birmingham created far more chances with the visitors needing Given to be in top form to stay level.
The Ireland goalkeeper pushed a shot from Birmingham forward Christian Benitez on to the post in the ninth minute, and he tipped a rising shot from McFadden over the crossbar in the 27th.
Just before halftime, Given blocked a powerful drive from Lee Bowyer and grabbed the loose ball before another Birmingham player could force it home.
Birmingham had an even better chance to go ahead in the 55th minute after Nigel de Jong was judged to have handled the ball inside the area. But Given dived to his left to block McFadden’s left-footed penalty kick.
Birmingham midfielder Barry Ferguson was sent off in the last of six minutes of added time for his second yellow card.
Chelsea stayed top after a 4-0 victory at Bolton, when defending champion Manchester United beat Blackburn 2-0 at Old Trafford to remain two points behind.
Arsenal outplayed north London neighbour Tottenham 3-0 but Liverpool had two players sent off and lost 3-1 at Fulham to lose more ground on the leaders. Rafa Benitez’ team has lost six of its past seven games in all competitions, the exception being a 2-0 victory over Man United.