Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Fernando all blew golden opportunities to condemn bottom club Aston Villa to an eighth successive defeat after City had lost the services of Wilfried Bony to a hamstring injury.
With Sergio Aguero still sidelined and Bony limping off after 24 minutes, Pellegrini looked to his big summer signings Sterling and De Bruyne to produce the vital spark to keep City on track. But neither could come up with the goods as Frenchman Remi Garde got his reign at Villa Park off to a satisfactory start.
“Sometimes these things happen in football,” admitted City’s manager.
“I am disappointed about the result but I have nothing to complain to our team. They had one chance and after that we dominated the game. We were very unlucky in three of four key options that we had.
“We had an injury to our striker at the beginning, which is important in this kind of game, but we still had enough chances to win it.”
Garde was understandably happy that Villa had taken a step in the right direction after a dreadful run had left them at the foot of the table.
“It was a good point for us,” he said in reflecting on his first game in charge. “I am pleased for the players because they worked hard today.
“A clean sheet against such a good team, such good players means, we should be a lot more confident going into the next game.
“We have to believe we will be safe, but it is a tough mission.” Villa began that mission on the frontfoot, as you’d expect from a team under new management, but it wasn’t long before City gained the upper hand.
They went close to breaking the deadlock on two occasions in quick succession as Aleksandor Kolarov saw his low shot pushed onto the post by Brad Guzan before Fernando lashed a close-range effort over the bar from the resulting corner.
But just as Pellegrini’s side seemed to be building up a head of steam, they lost Bony to injury as he pulled up clutching his hamstring.
City’s manager confirmed afterwards that they would have to wait until tomorrow to discover the full extent of the damage and the length of his lay-off.
City’s reshuffled pack quickly gained more momentum and Sterling burst through the middle only to stumble inside the box at the crucial moment and subsequent protests that he had been fouled by the backtracking Ciaran Clark fell on deaf ears. There was a let-off for Villa early in the second half when Guzan fumbled the greasy ball after Kolarov tried his luck from a free kick, but fortunately for the home side, they were able to scramble the ball away before Sterling could capitalise.
Guzan then pulled off an astonishing point-blank save to prevent what seemed an inevitable City opener when Sterling rose to meet Jesus Navas’ cross with a firm header, though the American international didn’t know much about the block with his head.
City were guilty of squandering another golden opportunity when Kevin De Bruyne was picked out by Navas’ low ball to edge of the six-yard box, but with the goal gaping in front he somehow managed to miscue his effort wide of the target.
The Premier League leaders were left cursing missed chances again in injury-time when Fernando’s close-range header rattled the bar and former Villa midfielder Fabien Delph rolled his shot agonisingly wide of Guzan’s left hand post.
Guzan 7 – Hutton 6, Richards 7, Clark 6, Amavi 7 – Gil 6 (N’Zogbia 64 mins 5), Veretout 6, Sanchez 8, Gueye 6 – Ayew 6 (Gestede 83 mins), Sinclair 6 (Bacuna 71 mins).
Richardson, Bunn, Grealish, Lescott.
Hart 7– Sagna 6, Kompany 7, Otamendi 6, Kolarov 7 – De Bruyne 8, Toure 5, Fernando 7, Ferandinho 6 – Sterling 7 (Iheanacho 83 mins), Bony 5 (Navas 7 24 mins)
Caballero, Delph, Mangala, Clichy, Demichellis.