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How Did Manchester City’s 31 Year Old Record Go With A Whimper?

Blues Lose First Top-Flight Home Game For 31 Years In Defeat To Leicester

Manchester City v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

By way of records, it was probably one of the most wanted at the club. City’s 31 year old record of never losing their first home top-flight game had outlived fourteen permanent managers and stretched back to the last century.

23rd August 1989 was the last time in the top division City lost their opening home game of the season. On that occasion, the newly promoted blues, fresh from a 3-1 defeat at Anfield, fell to a 2-1 loss to Southampton at Maine Road, but as Sunday’s match against Leicester, the defence were at fault. First Danny Wallace was allowed acres of space in the box to hammer home and, despite Nigel Gleghorn equalising for City in the second half, Brian Gayle and Paul Lake couldn’t clear their lines between them and Wallace nipped in to score the winner.

That night will be a very distant memory for those that were there (including me), however the comparisons between that game and Sunday’s were similar in all aspects. On each occasion, the blues toiled away without really creating much saw the record go, not so much with a bang, but with the merest of whimpers.

The fact that Leicester had just seven shots on goal on Sunday yet somehow managed to score five goals is baffling. Admittedly, three of those were penalties and I can’t think of the last time one team was awarded and scored three penalties in the same game. But the manner in which City conceded the spot kicks was frightening, even though the warning signs were there for City before the visitors first spot-kick.

City’s high game suited the visitors well, who set up to hit the blues on the counter-attack, in a similar fashion that almost every team that visits the Etihad plays, yet Leicester played that role to great effect. City were caught out at the back a number of times, too many for the fans liking and even before Kyle Walker got on the wrong side of Jamie Vardy, the England striker had been a threat to the City defence.

Vardy was in the clear at least twice, with Eric Garcia making a timely intervention to deny him before Vardy’s attempted pass into space was too weak to be completed. City should have tightened on him, but instead they allowed him to run and Walker’s clumsiness gave him the opportunity to level, which he took with aplomb.

The second half saw the blues toiling again without an end product. Raheem Sterling completely ineffective as a false nine, while teenage striker Liam Delap, fresh from his goalscoring debut against Bournemouth on Thursday, couldn’t get into the game enough to make any sort of contribution.

Vardy doubled his and Leicester’s tally with a deft flick then completed his hat-trick after Garcia’s challenge was the striker on the floor again. With City’s magnificent, long-standing record in serious jeopardy, the blues did nothing but sit back and allow the visitors to come forward in the hope of hitting them on the break, the same way Leicester had been doing all match.

It didn’t work and when James Maddison added a superb fourth, City fans must have been wondering if the blues had any sort of defence at all and the signing of Ruben Dias from Benfica really can’t come soon enough. Heads will have been scratched as to why Aymeric Laporte, on the bench following his bout of Covid-19, didn’t start alongside Ake or even John Stones, as the two looked so composed during the win at Wolves six days earlier.

It would be easy to blame the defeat on the number of injuries the blues have; Aguero, Jesus, Silva, Cancelo are all injured while Gundogan is still isolating from his own bout of Covid. But City’s line up was still full of world-class internationals and it’s frustrating to watch as only five shots out of sixteen were on target.

It may be the end of the record, but not the world. No team ever won the league in September and no doubt the blues will see this as a blip for the season and will see a trip to Burnley as an opportunity to get back on the wagon, but Leeds away may pose a strong threat.

31 years ago the blues lost their first home league game of the season, then faced a relegation battle which they ultimately won. While it is highly unlikely our current situation won’t get to that stage (although I have supported City since 1980 so I’m in no way ruling it out), the blues will need to iron out what went wrong against Leicester quickly and effectively to ensure they don’t lose too much ground on the league leaders.

Records don’t last forever, we know that from experience, but we would have preferred to lose it by putting up a bit more of a fight.