Manchester City made it a perfect January by beating Sheffield United 1-0 to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League. A 9th minute goal from Gabriel Jesus proved to be enough against a stubborn United side, which finished the month off with another win.
This was City’s 9th game of January, but a productive month has seen them not only make ground on the league leaders, but surpass them to go four points clear, and will have a game in hand after Manchester United visit Arsenal this afternoon. Add to that, progression to the FA Cup fifth round and beating United 2-0 at Old Trafford to reach the League Cup Final, it has been the perfect month for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Both teams went into the match on the back of midweek wins, with City hammering West Brom 5-0 at The Hawthorns, while the Blades 2-1 win at Old Trafford kept the blues in that top spot, and City looked to extend that lead against Chris Wilder’s side.
City gave starts to Oleksandr Zinchenko, Fernandinho and Ferran Torres, and it was Spanish winger who provided the opening goal. Torres was played into the box and the defender tried to hold him off. Torres hit the ground but was allowed the time to get back to his feet and wriggle beyond the defenders and pass to Jesus. The ball fell behind the Brazilian, but the visiting defence gave him all the time in the world to dig it out and hammer home past the keeper.
United fans will have been forgiven for expecting a rout, given the way City had taken West Brom apart on Tuesday, but the anticipated goal-rush never came. City probed and stretched the United defence, but crosses didn’t seem to get beyond the first defender, yet when they did, they were always too close to the keeper, who came out to collect.
United were lucky shortly after the goal, when a header back towards to keeper was headed on by Jesus, but only into the grateful arms of the visiting keeper. If that had gone in, United may well have caved, but they held firm to keep City down to 1-0 at the interval.
The blues hadn’t lost a game when leading at half time since April 2018, and they started the second half in the same way as they ended the first. Bernardo Silva forced a corner within the first few minutes, which was headed wide by Ruben Dias.
Phil Foden had a scare ten minutes into the second half when a clash of heads with John Lundstram left the midfielder on the floor and needing some attention. After a few anxious minutes, Foden was up and able to continue.
City continued to have lots of possession but not really doing anything with it, and 15 minutes into the second half, they almost paid the price. Oli Burke’s cross from the right was only half cleared and Jayden Bogle volleyed over the bar to squander United’s best chance of the match so far.
The blues almost made the game safe just before the half hour mark when an excellent move of one touch football ended with Foden lining up Zinchenko, whose powerful first-time shot was brilliantly tipped away by Ramsdale, who also tipped a header from Aymeric Laporte from the resulting corner, over the bar.
That was the closest City had come to extending the lead as they looked to put the game to bed, but with four minutes to go, United came agonisingly close to equalising, when John Fleck’s volley flew inches past the post.
United sensed they could nick a late goal and stormed forward, with Oliver Norwood having a shot blocked and Ederson called into action to cut out a ball from David McGoldrick.
Deep into injury time and City appealed for a penalty when Foden’s attempted cross hit the arm of George Baldock and, although VAR had a look, it was deemed not intentional, much to the annoyance of Pep Guardiola on the touchline.
Jesus almost wrapped up the points moments later, but his shot was saved brilliantly again by Ramsdale. In the end, the blues were content to play keep-ball near the corner flag, and when McGoldrick conceded a free kick with 30 seconds remaining, it spelled the end f any further chances for United, and the bleus went four points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Final Score: Manchester City 1-0 Sheffield United