Sterling and Sané ensure Manchester City cruise to victory at Huddersfield

Goals from Danilo, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané saw Manchester City win 3-0 at managerless Huddersfield to stay in touch with Liverpool at the top

For a team with Manchester City’s ambitions, Huddersfield were obliging opponents. Pep Guardiola’s men duly took advantage of a side whose toes seem tagged for the relegation morgue and, in the process, renewed their threat in a title race that still offers them all sorts of possibilities. The gap at the top of the table is back to four points and the message for Liverpool is loud and clear: it is going to be a heck of a job to shake off the current champions.

Not that this was the most devastating performance to be seen from City this season. Indeed, they may reflect that on a better day it would have been a prime opportunity to add even more sheen to their outstanding goal difference in the top division. Yet it was difficult to be too critical when City were still capable of winning with something to spare despite a performance, by their standards, that seldom encroached above six out of 10.

Their opening goal here, when Danilo got lucky with a 20-yard shot that flew in off Christopher Schindler, was City’s 100th this season in all the various competitions, and they quickly added two more from Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané during the opening stages of the second half. It is 386 minutes, match-wise, since Roberto Firmino became the last player to score against City and in that time Guardiola’s players have now scored 23 times without a single one conceded.

It works out at a goal, on average, every 17 minutes and, if anything, it was probably a surprise they did not add any more on a day that confirmed why Huddersfield’s manager-in-waiting, Jan Siewert, might already be planning in advance for the Championship.

City were also denied a clear penalty, with the game goalless, when the referee, Andre Marriner, missed Terence Kongolo’s foul on Sterling and, to Guardiola’s irritation, they may even have allowed a touch of complacency to creep in once they had opened the scoring against the side put together by Mark Hudson, Huddersfield’s caretaker manager.

Maybe it was too straightforward for the away team. Too easy, even. Perhaps it was a direct consequence of neither David Silva nor Bernardo Silva starting the match. Yet City did have Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gündogan in that garish purple and orange kit – two colours that really should not be seen together on a football pitch – and it would have been reasonable to think Sergio Agüero’s focus might have been sharpened by the fact he had been selected ahead of Gabriel Jesus, the scorer of seven goals in his last three matches.

Whatever the reason, it was certainly unusual to see City take the lead, then drop their tempo rather than pouring forward again, in the way that is expected of such a team.

For the remainder of the first half, anyway. Sané confirmed afterwards that Guardiola had a thing or two to say about it at half-time – “he woke us up a bit” – and City quickly put it right, scoring in the 54th and 56th minutes.

Huddersfield’s caretaker manager Mark Hudson talks to Pep Guardiola at the final whistle.
Huddersfield’s caretaker manager Mark Hudson talks to Pep Guardiola at the final whistle. Photograph: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Huddersfield were clapped off at the end and their supporters, as always, seemed appreciative of the team’s efforts.

Ultimately, though, it was clear why the home side had managed only 13 league goals all season, neatly encapsulated by the final kick of the match being a spectacular miss from the substitute Steve Mounié.

Mounié was in the six-yard area but still managed to put his shot wide, rounding off an afternoon for Huddersfield that did not really improve from the moment, before kick-off, when they tried to play a farewell message from David Wagner on the big screen. The sound failed and the public announcer had to ask the crowd to lip-read.

Huddersfield did at least put that right at half-time, resulting in a standing ovation for the recently departed manager, but it was probably unrealistic to think the league’s 20th-placed club would recover against a City side with such immense resources that Guardiola could not even find a place in his squad for Riyad Mahrez.

Sané, the game’s outstanding performer, set up Sterling to double the lead with a diving header inside the six-yard area. Sané had been marginally offside in the build-up but Hudson did not complain in his post-match interviews, perhaps mindful of the penalty that should have been awarded in the first half, and there was no argument about the third goal. This time it was Sané running through the middle, latching on to Agüero’s flick-on, to slip his shot past Jonas Lössl.

Early on, City had looked like a side in a hurry and Huddersfield were looking hassled even before that moment, 17 minutes in, when Danilo took aim and Schindler inadvertently diverted the shot into his own net with a stooping header.

Siewert, a 36-year-old who has been recruited from Borussia Dortmund’s Under-23s, was picked out by the television cameras shortly afterwards in the Huddersfield directors’ box. Except it turned out it was a doppelganger – rather bizarrely.

The new manager should be announced soon but Huddersfield look in need of a football miracle and, at the final whistle, their supporters must have wondered how long it may be before City visit this place again.

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Daniel Taylor at the John Smith's Stadium

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