Three talking points as Manchester City battled to victory over Huddersfield Town
Manchester City restored their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League table as they came from behind to see off a spirited Huddersfield Town at the John Smiths’ Stadium on Sunday evening.
Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the play from the start, having over 75% possession in the first-half alone, but despite their endeavours in the final third it was the hosts who took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Nicolas Otamendi inadvertently diverted a corner past goalkeeper Ederson.
It didn’t take long for the visitors to level things up after the break though, with Sergio Aguero slotting home from the spot after Raheem Sterling was hauled down in the box by Scott Malone.
It seemed like a dogged Huddersfield rear-guard display might hold on for a point until Sterling’s fortunate strike in the 84th minute sealed it, restoring Manchester City’s eight-point lead at the top.
City find a new way to win
After thrashing Liverpool, convincingly seeing off Arsenal and brushing away the likes of Stoke City and Crystal Palace this season, it’s fair to say that Manchester City have been rampant to this point.
Sunday’s victory over Huddersfield was a stark contrast to any of those that had preceded it, with Guardiola’s side having to find a new way to win to break down their disciplined opponents.
There was still a large amount of flair on show throughout the match, with David Silva providing some intricate one-touch football at times and Leroy Sane’s free-kick cannoning back off the crossbar, and Guardiola ensured his side’s expansive passing style didn’t falter as they searched for a winner.
It was the tenacity of the Citizens that eventually broke Huddersfield down – albeit with huge slice of luck – and they managed to do what rivals Manchester United couldn’t and win at Huddersfield, and you could see from Guardiola’s reaction at full-time that he knew this could be a massive three points.
They always say that it’s winning these types of matches that provide a test of a team’s title credentials, and it’s the first time City have come from behind at half-time to win since April 1995.
With an eight-point lead opened back up over Manchester United at the top, and with the matches starting to come thick and fast, it’s not outlandish to say it’s already City’s title to lose this season.
Determined Huddersfield fall just short
But whilst Manchester City will no doubt be buoyant over their latest victory, spare a thought for Huddersfield who came mightily close to securing more points against the Premier League big boys.
There may have been a £322.6m difference in the costs of the starting line-ups on Sunday but the Terriers weren’t in awe of their opponents, and nobody would have begrudged them a valiant point.
For all of the possession that City had (79%) at the John Smiths’ Stadium they still only mustered four shots on target such was the hosts’ outstanding defensive display, and credit goes to boss David Wagner for picking his team up after their demoralising 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth in their last outing.
The hosts had learnt their lesson from the gung-ho approach against Tottenham, instead sitting deep and allowing City to come into their half of the field, yet the way that their midfield and defence remained compact didn’t allow the likes of Kevin de Bruyne the time to conjure up magic on the ball.
Whilst the result didn’t go their way it was a display that served to show that Huddersfield belong in the Premier League and they should have enough character and the necessary work ethic to survive.
Sterling continues to underline his importance
If you’d have told any Manchester City fan before the start of the season that Raheem Sterling would be the first name on Pep Guardiola’s team sheet each week they would have laughed it off.
Yet, after a somewhat stuttering start to his time at the Etihad, the 22-year-old has come into his own this campaign and he once again made the definitive impact six minutes from time yesterday.
There’s no doubt that there was an element of fortune about it, with Jonas Lossl’s save deflecting off Sterling and nestling into corner of the net in slow-motion, but it was Sterling’s determined run towards the penalty spot – the sort he had been doing all match – that perhaps merited a bit of luck.
It signalled his eighth Premier League goal of the season in just 13 appearances, already bettering last year’s tally (seven in 33 games), and it goes to show just how indispensable Sterling has become.
During the 90 minutes he made the joint-most dribbles (seven) and crosses (three), working tirelessly to try and engineer a chance for his side, and it was his burst into the box that drew the challenge for Aguero’s equaliser – the third time in three games that he’s won a penalty for his side.
All of a sudden it seems that Sterling has got his attitude right – most likely helped by Guardiola’s influence – and the pattern lately seems to be that when he plays well, City generally do too.