Sheffield United 0-1 Manchester City
Manchester City were made to work against Sheffield United and their stingy defence in their midweek Premier League clash. But Sergio Aguero came to the champions’ rescue once again as he came on as a substitute to score the winning goal.
The result moves City six points clear of Leicester, who still have to face West Ham, for second place in the table and within 13 points of leaders Liverpool. Although, the Reds still have two games in hand to win the Premier League title remain overwhelming.
Highlights of the game
Despite scoring an astounding eight goals in his last five matches, Aguero found himself starting the match on the bench, with Pep Guardiola going with Gabriel Jesus up front.
But perhaps the bigger piece of Premier League 2020 news was that Aymeric Laporte made his return after a lengthy injury layoff as he started alongside Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho in a three-man defence.
Sheffield United wasted little time to get Laporte to work as they got in behind the City defence after seven minutes. However, Fernandinho made a crucial intervention on an attempted cross as the ball went safely into Ederson’s arms.
City had to wait until the 19th minute for their first big chance on goal, and they very nearly scored from it. Riyad Mahrez teed up Raheem Sterling for a close-range strike, but the English star was denied by a brilliant save from Blades keeper Dean Henderson.
The young shot-stopper, who is on loan from City’s bitter rivals Manchester United, would make another important stop six minutes later on Nicolas Otamendi’s acrobatic overhead kick.
City would get another glorious opportunity to go ahead as they were awarded a penalty on 35 minutes as the tricky Mahrez was brought down in the area.
Up stepped Gabriel Jesus to take the penalty, but again, Henderson produced more heroics as he saved the Brazilian’s poor penalty. There was a legitimate case to be made that the penalty should have been re-taken as replays showed Henderson well off his line before the kick, but the Blades caught a big break.
Into the second half and City still couldn’t find a way past the Blades’ defence, which had conceded the second-fewest goals in the league behind only Liverpool.
Jesus had a chance to redeem himself after that penalty miss on 61 minutes, but Henderson was on hand to catch the City striker’s relatively tame header.
Moments later, Sheffield United had one of their few chances to score in the match. After Ederson tried to cut out a cross, the ball broke to Lys Mousset, who attempted an audacious back-heel shot. But Ederson recovered in time to make the save.
The home side came even closer to grabbing a shock lead on 72 minutes. Enda Stevens delivered a dangerous ball across the face of the goal. Unfortunately for the Blades, the outstretched Oli McBurnie was unable to get the crucial touch.
But even if McBurnie had scored, there was a good chance the goal would’ve been chalked off by VAR as he was quite clearly offside.
And just a couple of minutes later, City finally found the breakthrough. Aguero, who had come on for Jesus a few minutes earlier, was once again the man to save City as he got on the end of Kevin De Bruyne’s pinpoint cross and tapped the ball in.
City’s reinforced defence did the rest as they shut Sheffield United out for the remainder of the match and claimed all three points.
It was just one game, but Laporte’s return — coupled with their change in formation — made quite a difference to City’s defence. They allowed Sheffield United just four shots the entire match, with Mousset back-heel the only one that was on target.
Meanwhile, City rained in 18 shots (five on target) after controlling 67 per cent of possession. Sterling was City’s most dangerous player as he fired in five of those shots.
Kevin De Bruyne also had another strong game. The Belgian recorded his 15th assist of the season, six more than Trent Alexander-Arnold in second.
On the flipside, Gabriel Jesus has now missed three of his five Premier League penalties, the worst such success rate out of all players to take at least five spot-kicks.
Man City will be in cup action for the next couple of games. First, they host Fulham in the FA Cup and then take on Manchester United in the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final. They are in full control of that tie after winning the first leg, 3-1.
As for Sheffield United, they will travel to Millwall for their FA Cup assignment. The SBOTOP will have them pegged as significant favourites to emerge victorious from that tie.
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