City entered December on the back of twelve straight Premier League victories, five straight Champions League wins and progressed twice in the League Cup. The blues had nine gruelling fixtures to look forward to, including two matches against top six sides – away to Manchester United and home to Spurs. It looked to be a real test to City’s mettle. Could the blues put more distance between them and the chasing pack?
3rd December 2017 – Manchester City 2-1 West Ham
By the time West Ham visited the Etihad, the blues had opened up an eight point lead at the top of the league. By comparison West Ham, with ex blues Joe Hart and Pablo Zabaleta now amongst their ranks, sat second from bottom, 33 points behind City.
So it was something of a surprise when the Hammers took the lead just before half time, when Angelo Ogbonna gave West Ham the lead, which they held onto until half time. It was only the third time this season City had gone in 1-0 down at the interval, and if the blues wanted to keep their winning run going, they would have to do something special to break down the stubborn West Ham defence.
And that’s just what City did, but they had to wait until the 57th minute for it to happen. Kevin de Bruyne’s free kick was parried by Adrian and the ball found its way to Gabriel Jesus, whose pass was converted by Nicolas Otamendi.
And the blues won it with another late goal, when David Silva acrobatically scored with just seven minutes to go. It was harsh on the Hammers, but another example of why the blues would be worthy champions, carving wins out of would usually have been draws. It was what champions do and City were doing it.
6th December 2017 – Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Manchester City
Pep Guardiola always maintained that City would not got the season unbeaten, and he was proven right when his team visited Ukraine for their final Champions League game. City made a number of changes, with Phil Foden becoming the youngest ever Englishman to start a Champions League match.
But two first half goals effectively won the game for the hosts. Bernard curled a shot past Ederson from 15 yards on 26 minutes and six minutes later Ismaily capitalised on an Ederson error and tapped the ball into an empty net. The blues hadn’t been two goals down all season, and it looked like City would draw a blank for only the second time since the League Cup tie against Wolves.
However Sergio Aguero scored an injury time penalty to reduce the deficit, but there was no time for a City fightback. The blues could have been the first English team to win all six of their Champions League fixtures, but it was just not to be.
10th December 2018 – Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City
Derby Day at Old Trafford used to be a dreaded affair for City fans, and their record at Old Trafford was dismal. Their victory in 2008 was City’s first at their city rivals since 1974, but then lost the following three in the league. The 6-1 win at Old Trafford in 2011 was the first of three victories, and the blues have only lost one league game at Old Trafford since that day.
That run was extended although City were made to work for the points. David Silva, the scourge of United 6-1 day, hooked City into the lead on 43 minutes, but poor City defending allowed Marcus Rashford to equalise two minutes later.
But City, searching for the record breaking fourteenth straight Premier League win, were not to be denied, and it was a United man who claimed the assist. Romelu Lukaku made a hash of a clearance and the ball fell to Nicolas Otamendi who scored as City re-took the lead.
Goalkeeper Ederson kept the blues lead intact with an incredible double saved, one with his face as City held on to claim the record. United Manager Jose Mourinho was reportedly unhappy with City’s post match celebrations, and someone decided he needed some milk, and someone form the City dressing room kindly obliged, but not in the manner Mourinho would have liked.
13th December 2017 – Swansea 0-4 Manchester City
Victory at Old Trafford had given City an eleven point lead at the top and facing the already champions elect was the last thing struggling Swansea had wanted. After successive 2-1 wins in the league, the blues returned to goal scoring ways. David Silva scored on 27 minutes and the increasingly impressive Kevin de Bruyne made it 2-0 seven minutes later as the blues went in two up at half time.
Silva skilfully lifted the ball over Swansea keep Fabianksi on 52 minutes before Sergio Aguero bagged another, driving into the penalty area and burying City’s fourth. The blues had now scored an amazing 52 goals in just seventeen games and the result maintained City’s eleven point lead gap at the top.
16th December 2017 – Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur
The games were coming thick and fast for the blues, but so too were the goals, and the points were racking up. The impressive David Silva had been replaced by Ilkay Gundogan, and the German opened the scoring after 14 minutes. It was the only goal of the half, but City looked good for their lead.
The blues had to wait until the 70th minute before effectively making the game safe, and it was Kevin de Bruyne who scored it with a powerful strike. Gabriel Jesus then missed a penalty before Raheem Sterling finished off a slick City move. The winger scored again in the 90th minute before Christian Eriksen grabbed a consolation for Spurs.
With United not playing, the blues went fourteen points clear and already they were being talked about in terms of when, rather than if City become champions.
Tuesday 19th December – Leicester City 1-1 Manchester City (City win 4-3 on penalties)
City returned to Leicester in the quarter final of the League Cup, having scraped past Wolves in the last round on penalties. The last thing the blues needed would be another thirty minutes of playing time, followed by another shootout, and when the match entered injury time with the blues 1-0, thanks to Bernardo Silva, it looked like City had booked a semi-final appearance.
But in the seventh minute of injury time, Kyle Walker was harshly adjudged to have brought down Demarai Gray, and Jamie Vardy equalised with the last kick in normal time. Extra time loomed, but brought no winner from either side. Penalties it was. Again.
Ilkay Gundogan, Yaya Toure, Lukas Nmecha and Gabriel Jesus all converted their penalties, while Leicester’s start men Vardy and Riyad Mahrez both missed, sending City into a last four meeting with United’s conquerors, Bristol City.
23rd December 2017 – Manchester City 4-0 AFC Bournemouth
The City goal machine showed no signs of letting up as struggling Bournemouth arrived. Raheem Sterling had scored a last minute winner in the reverse fixture and all the signs pointed to a City victory.
Sergio Aguero continued to be amongst the goals, giving the blues the lead in the 27th minute, converting Fernandinho’s cross. Raheem Sterling scored the second on 53 minutes, following Aguero’s flick, and Aguero scored again with his head
Danilo then ran onto Sterling’s pass to score his first for the club and City’s fourth as the lead at the top extended to 13 points, following United’s draw at Leicester. City were not only top at Christmas, but well clear of the chasing pack. The question now, was how many could they win it by?
27th December 2017 – Newcastle United 0-1 Manchester City
The blues recorded their 18th straight Premier League win at St James’s Park with a hard fought victory over a very defensive Newcastle side.
Raheem Sterling gave the blues the lead on 31 minutes, after Sergio Aguero twice hit to woodwork. Nicolas Otamendi had to clear off the line, but Newcastle rarely threatened, such was their defensive set up.
The home side did come to life in the last five minutes of the match, but the blues would not be denied extending the new winning record further.
31st December 2017 – Crystal Palace 0-0 Manchester City.
During the 2011/12 season, City scored in every game, but lowly West Brom managed to stop them with a determined 0-0 draw at the Hawthorns. The same happened at Palace in the final game of the year and, of course at the end of their gruelling December schedule.
It was a hard earned point for Palace, but they could have claimed all three, when they were awarded a penalty in the last minute of the game. But it was goalkeeper Ederson who was called on to rescue the blues, saving the spot kick and preserving the blues unbeaten record.
City would enter 2018 not only in pole position, but an incredible 14 points clear, the biggest margin in the top flight at this stage of the season in history. But that was just one record the blues would break . But no one knew that…yet!