Raheem Sterling strikes late to extend Man City’s run
Huddersfield take the lead but Aguero levels before Sterling bundles home the winner
Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring manchester City’s winner at Huddersfield. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
Huddersfield Town 1 Manchester City 2
Perhaps the most remarkable part of Manchester City’s latest victory, a club-record 11th in a row, is that this is the first time since April 1995, when Brian Horton was in the dugout and Paul Walsh supplied the decisive goal in a 3-2 victory against Blackburn Rovers, they have won a Premier League match when they have been trailing at half-time. It was some record and another reason why the modern City have the stoutness and resilience to go with their obvious talents.
They had to work tremendously hard to turn this game around and Huddersfield certainly deserved the ovation they received at the end, even if Rajiv van la Parra’s red card for a confrontation with Leroy Sané promptly soured the mood. David Wagner’s men had given everything and when Nicolas Otamendi’s own goal gave them the lead just before half-time their supporters could have been forgiven for daring to dream of a remarkable double, having already beaten Manchester United here last month.
Ultimately, though, it finished as another reminder why City have an eight-point lead over their neighbours and the side at the top of the league have now accumulated 37 points from their opening 13 fixtures, a record of excellence that has never been seen before in the Premier League era. Pep Guardiola’s side are now unbeaten in 26 matches, a run stretching back seven months, and Raheem Sterling’s 84th-minute winner maintained their immaculate sequence on the road this season, winning every single away fixture.
Sterling had also been involved when City were awarded the penalty, despatched by Sergio Agüero, that changed the complexion of the match early in the second half. Guardiola’s tactics were demonstrated in that period when he replaced a centre-half, Vincent Kompany, with another striker, Gabriel Jesus, and started operating with something that resembled a 3-2-5 system. The winner came four minutes later and Jesus was prominently involved before the ball deflected in off Sterling.
It was hard not to sympathise with the home side whose efforts were perhaps typified best by the moment, at 0-0, when Christopher Schindler’s perfectly-executed tackle denied Agüero the near-certainty of a goal and the Huddersfield centre-half could be seen turning to the crowd in the stand behind the goal and punching the air in his own mini-celebration.
That was some moment and typical of Huddersfield’s endeavours during those long passages of play when Guardiola’s men struggled for rhythm and it quickly became apparent that the team playing top-division football for the first time since 1972 had been emboldened by what happened when José Mourinho’s side visited last month.
There was another point in the first half when Sané and Danny Williams, the respective No 19s, went up for the same header. Williams won it cleanly and was there first for the second one, too, as Sané decided to let it go. Not long afterwards Tom Ince could be seen diving into two sliding challenges in quick succession, connecting with the ball on both occasions. Ince is hardly known as a chaser of lost causes but these were the moments that epitomised the home side’s determination not to accept that the win against Manchester United had to be the pinnacle of their season.
Huddersfield are not the first team to sit back and try to hit Guardiola’s team on the break. They might be the first, however, whose tactic was to defend so deeply, often with all 11 players within a narrow strip no more than 30 yards from goal. The emphasis was on City’s creative players to find a way through all the congestion and that, plainly, was not a straightforward assignment when their opponents were so rigid in their structure.
Huddersfield’s goal had a sizeable amount of good fortune attached to it, with Nicolás Otamendi inadvertently turning the ball past goalkeeper Edersen inside the six-yard area. Yet the ball would never have reached that position had it not been for Schindler’s determination to apply the first touch to Ince’s corner. Schindler got away from Kevin De Bruyne first before darting in front of Fernandino and it was the defender’s flick-on that created all the danger.
Guardiola’s hands were pressed hard into his trouser pockets when the half-time whistle went but it was still asking a lot to expect Huddersfield to keep out a side that had scored 40 goals in their previous 12 league fixtures and the equaliser came at a time when there were still spectators reclaiming their seats after the interval. Sterling was the man who went down after a tangle with Scott Malone and though it was not clear-cut, the referee, Craig Pawson, probably made the right decision on the basis that Huddersfield’s left-back had his arms around his opponent.
Sterling might actually have won a penalty even earlier in the second half, going down under a challenge from the goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, and Agüero’s precise finish always meant Huddersfield were likely to face a prolonged onslaught. Sterling’s winner was a cruel blow and a spiky second half ended with Van la Parra pushing Sané in the face, being shown a red card after the final whistle had gone.