The Ped Report Huddersfield Town 1-2 City
Manchester City, after not having a Premier League match televised for some time found themselves on the graveyard shift today. With the Stretfords safely back in their traps three points better off after another dreary Mourinho-esque effort, Chelsea having shared the spoils with Liverpool and Spuds doing likewise at home to managerless West Brom, it was City`s turn to feel the heat.
The Gooners had also not quite enjoyed themselves at Burnley, but were once again lucky getting a late penalty and scooting through the Turf Moor door with all three points.
City presented themselves at the John Smith Stadium, the pride of Kirklees and Calderdale, songwriter Roger Davies excepted, introducing themselves to a cacophony of noise to that which was a signature at the Kingpower during the Fox and Hounds march to the title a couple of seasons ago. And for a while, it was very much the Terriers twelfth man.
For the first ten minutes, City were simply starting to get their game going as the mashed potato men retreated into a defensive formation concentrating on guarding the last third of the field. As the Blues stepped it up, the gaps started to appear and it looked for all the world that today, at the same venue where the Stretfords got whacked putting an impromptu halt to the media drooling that seems to accompany their every step, it was also going to be one of those days for the Blues.
Aguero missed three acceptable chances, mainly through lack of sharpness. Otamendi, Sterling and De Bruyne could also have ignited the scoreboard, but it was a first half of profligacy which was going to have a "typical City" sting in the tail at the end of first half stoppage time.
The Terriers had hardly seen the ball all afternoon when they created a bit of panic which resulted in a corner. In it came and up went Kompany, eyes closed, and it skinned off the top of his head for another corner.
Pretty much the same ball was fizzed in. This time it hit a Huddersfield player and bagatelled in off Otamendi to leave City in a losing position at half time. The type of position they have not won from away from home since 1995. It had been backs-to-the-wall stuff for Yorkshire`s finest, it had been 16 minutes before Ederson touched the ball, but it was half time, it was 1-0 to Huddersfield.
The second half got under way with City once again imposing themselves from the off. Sterling, City`s leading scorer this term, sprinted into the box, was clipped and went down. Somehow the referee didn`t feel able to point to the spot. A minute later Sterling once again shook off his marker, who had little option than to take the risk again. This time the referee did point to the spot.
Although the most notable thing about the first half was his three misses, up stepped Sergigol to stroke the spot kick past Lossl to claim goal number 180 for City and for the time being at least restore some kind of order.
A few minutes later he should have made it 2-1 but with striped bodies flying just about everywhere his goalbound shot rebounded off one for a corner. Sane was then unfortunate to see his screaming free kick come back off the bar.
The match looked to be heading for a draw, but just as Moaning Maureen was starting to rub his hands, another pinball wizard goal put City ahead. De Jesus, released from the bench, played a one-two with De Bruyne, his shot rebounded off a defender, then rebounded off Sterling and into the net. Not a pretty goal, not a contender for goal of the anything, but nevertheless a goal. Nevertheless a winning goal once again late in the day and once again a goal for Raheem Sterling who is becoming the king of the late winner as he plays the best season of football in his life.
The same pundits and commentator who had started the afternoon asking themselves how many City would win by, were now bleating about how cruel it was on Huddersfield, how cruel it was that a team who had come to their own stadium to sit and soak up pressure, to invite their illustrious opponents on to them, to effectively say "There`s our goal. Score if you can" eventually found that the league`s top scorers did just that.
As you would expect, this writer felt absolutely no sympathy for the Terriers. They gave City a pretty good game in the FA Cup last season, albeit in similar fashion, but when they decided to come out in the replay, they received their just desserts in a 5-1 beating. Teams like this, with no attacking ambition as such simply deserve what they get.
It was not a vintage display by City, but it was another corner turned, another milestone reached in this record-breaking season. First off, City are not really used to being behind in a match this season and as I said earlier, their record for coming back from a dead position is not great, but here we saw a relatively ugly win. Yes they played some excellent football, much of which went unrewarded, but whatever fluency City tried to propagate was seemingly undone by poor finishing.
But fortune favours the brave. It might be said that Huddersfield`s performance was brave, the way they dived in to block everything, but they never looked really dangerous, as they did against Moaning Maureen`s Minions, and as such it was City who were the braver of the two. Negativity never entered their heads, such is the belief in this team that they can get the job done. I accept that once the winner went in, Guardiola replaced Silva with Mangala, as a kind of insurance policy, if you will, but it was the same Guardiola who sacrificed Kompany for de Jesus in a bid to claim a win. A master substitution which worked for it was the young Brazilian whose delightful movement set up Sterling`s winner.
Sterling is becoming something of a footballing terrorist. His movement is no longer restricted to wide positions as he can free up that berth for Walker. This means that Raheem ends up closer to the frame of the goal than we have seen before and hence he is outscoring Sergigol at present.
Can City keep this up? Southampton are up next and we owe them one. But they hammered the travelling show formerly known as Everton 4-1 this weekend and will be starting to fancy themselves. The next thrilling instalment on the City calendar is on Wednesday at the Etihad.
Guardiola`s replacement of Kompany with de Jesus may have proved to be a master stroke, but one has to feel almost sorry for Jurgen Klopp who, finding his team similarly in front, decided to replace Sturridge with Wijnaldum supposedly to protect their lead. Liverpool are a team this season that can`t defend a thing, so it was little surprise that Willian`s cross went into the net past a stranded Mignolet. This ignited a tirade from Sue that was funnier than the John Bishop show at Manchester Arena on Friday. How is it you can never remember the hilarious things she said in among the expletives, but by the time she had decided who Liverpool should get rid of, there was only Mane, Salah, Firmino and Lallana left. It was heads or tails for the Ox.
Matches like City`s must be really annoying for the chasers. They see themselves get a good result then see City claw or score their way to another three points. Another match played, another week when no indentation is made into the 8-point lead. I would love them to extend that to eleven when they visit Sold Trafford in a couple of weeks.