London: The post-Mario Balotelli era at Manchester City began in lacklustre fashion as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Queens Park Rangers that prevented them from making up ground on Manchester United.
Victory for City would have cut United's lead to just two points yesterday but instead Alex Ferguson's side will tackle Southampton on Wednesday with an opportunity to re-open a seven-point lead at the Premier League summit.
AC Milan claim Balotelli has agreed to join them and the troublesome Italian striker is expected to complete a switch to San Siro on Wednesday, but City could have done with some extra firepower at Loftus Road.
An injury to Vincent Kompany obliged the champions to start with Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia at centre-back, but they began with both Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero in attack as they sought to exploit bottom club QPR's defensive frailties.
Joleon Lescott blazed an early chance over the crossbar from close range, while Pablo Zabaleta headed against the bar from a David Silva cross and Aguero had a goal ruled out for offside.
Adel Taarabt provided a reminder of QPR's threat with a low shot that Joe Hart had to keep out but the hosts were indebted to Julio Cesar for a superb save to deny Gareth Barry and keep the scores level at half-time.
City added a third striker to the mix in the second half in the shape of Edin Dzeko, but still the goal eluded them, with Aguero shooting over from 12 yards before Julio Cesar produced another fine reflex save to repel Silva.
City manager Roberto Mancini confirmed Balotelli was set to leave, telling Sky Sports: "We love Mario like a guy, we love Mario like a player, but I think he had this big chance to go back to Italy and play for a big club like Milan."
QPR remain bottom of the table, but they are now just four points from safety.


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