Pep Guardiola’s players show their

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After Manchester City won 3-2 at West Bromwich Albion four weeks ago, the home team’s then-manager, Tony Pulis, was asked whether he thought Pep Guardiola’s fearsome side could go through the whole season unbeaten. “They’ve got to be fortunate with injuries and the bounce of the ball,” Pulis replied before adding that it would be interesting to see how City’s away form holds up as winter rolls in. “You saw what happened to Manchester United when they went to Huddersfield and it was wet and windy,” he warned.

As if to lend weight to their manager’s point, Pulis’s own team went to Huddersfield a week later and lost. A few weeks after that, of course, Pulis was invited by West Brom’s owner to go into hibernation. But Pulis was right about how tough City would find the going at the John Smith’s Stadium – and that they might need the bounce of the ball. City’s winner came courtesy of a pair of ricochets in the dying minutes, first when Kevin De Bruyne’s pass was deflected into a team-mate’s path and then when Jonas Lössl’s panicked clearance rebounded off Raheem Sterling and into the net.

Sterling was a fitting scorer, as he personified one of City’s – and his – less celebrated qualities. They have been acclaimed for their flamboyant skills and scorching attacks but not for their character. How much mental strength does a team need, after all, when money can swing odds in their favour? Quite a bit, actually, when they face a foe such as Huddersfield. And it was wet and windy, too.
The home team’s manager, David Wagner, had no qualms about acknowledging afterwards that his plan was to make his team as hostile as the weather. Huddersfield have made more tackles than any other side in the Premier League this season and they increased their tally here, forcing City to earn the right to play. “This was a little bit what we wanted to do,” Wagner said of the robust exchanges. “To try to create a more physical football match rather than a technical football match. If you make it comfortable for an opponent like Manchester City so that they can enjoy their football, then you are chanceless. You have to create an atmosphere on the grass and in Deryk Engelland Authentic Jersey the stands that shows you have passion.”
In the stands the fans obliged by creating a mighty din, even if City supporters would have been entitled to smirk when the locals began taunting them with chants of “Where were you when you were shit?” Two years ago almost to the day, Huddersfield’s 2-1 home defeat by Middlesbrough was watched by a little over 15,000 fans, 9,000 fewer than came to see Wagner’s team try to defy Guardiola’s armada.
Still, and despite the perverse morality of football fandom, no one should blame people for not turning up when they do not expect to be entertained. But that no longer applies to Huddersfield. The Yorkshire club’s great triumph in their two years under Wagner is that they have convinced locals they are going to be thrilled by what they see at the John Smith Stadium. Now there is a powerful synergy between fans and a team whose spirit is boundless.
City saw all that and matched it. They were for up the fight, even after the bounce of the ball went against them, Nicolás Otamendi inadvertently putting Huddersfield in front by diverting Schindler’s header into his own goal.
Eventually City made their own luck. Kyle Walker may have been the one whose aggressiveness drew the ire of Wagner and the home fans, but Sterling’s defiance was more decisive. This is no will‑o’‑the‑wisp winger. His speed and skill would not be so influential if not for his strength, physical and mental. The way he held off defenders here before spinning and dashing past them made him a constant menace. It turned out the only way that Scott Malone could handle him was to manhandle him. That led to the penalty that brought City’s equaliser less than one minute after half-time Womens Tim Hardaway Jersey and 30 seconds after Sterling could have been given a spot-kick after being brought down by Lössl.
Sterling never relented. He kept on running at and through Huddersfield, wriggly and elusive but also very hard, a lizard with armoured-plating. Anyone who still doubts the 22‑year‑old’s class is a fool or worse.
Although Huddersfield showed, as Pulis’s team had done, that City are vulnerable defensively provided the opposition can get the ball off them, the abiding lesson from this match is that City are no soft touches. “We needed this kind of situation to happen, to be in trouble,” said Guardiola. “Are we going to go the whole season unbeaten? It’s Tony Gonzalez Jersey impossible not to lose a game. But [we] fight to avoid that.” More than that, City fight to win. Guardiola’s attacking substitutions proved that, as did his Howie Kendrick Womens Jersey players’ incessant forward motion. No one better than Sterling.


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