London, Mar 7 (efe-epa).- Perhaps ironically, it was Manchester City’s biggest rival – their crosstown nemesis Manchester United – who on Sunday brought their Premier League winning streak to a close at 21, dealing out a 2-0 loss and injecting a bit of hope into the fight for the British football title.
The match was played at Etihad Stadium, Manchester United’s home turf, before empty stands due to coronavirus gathering restrictions.
Pep Guardiola’s crew saw their impressive run brought to a close before they could equal Real Madrid’s 22 wins under Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern Munich’s 23 last year and part of this one and the 26 victories notched by Amsterdam’s Ajax in the early 1970s.
The matchup could not have started worse for Man City with Bruno Fernandes grabbing the first tally just two minutes after play commenced, since it’s not the normal state of affairs for a middle forward to commit a penalty in the first minute.
But Gabriel Jesus managed to trip Anthony Martial and when Fernandes teed up for the penalty kick, everything clicked and the ball swooshed past Ederson for the 1-0.
Although City seemed shaken by the quick goal – not having trailed in the Premier League for the past 20 matches – and even moreso when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s forwards pressed their early advantage pushing right into enemy territory, Ederson stopped a try by Luke Shaw and something of a regular, expected rhythm was established.
The visitors got back to their normal dominance on the pitch, while the home team sat back a bit, waiting for another good chance for a counterattack.
And that strategy did, in fact, come to fruition just minutes after play resumed following the intermission when Dean Henderson, minding the net for David de Gea, United’s regular starting goaltender, sent a precise throw to Shaw – obviously United’s best man on the pitch after Fernandes – who drove right in to the City box, finessed the ball against Marcus Rashford and closed with a smashing tally right by Ederson through the defender’s legs low and into the corner.
Now two points behind, City seemed to deflate and United had the reins, and Anthony Martial could have – and should have – given the team a third tally but fumbled at the execution point in an easy one-on-one contest against Ederson.
With 12 weeks left in the season, City’s armor was chinked a bit by the loss, but they are still nicely out in front of the pack, 11 points in front of their nearest rivals, who happen to be the victors in Sunday’s match.
United, meanwhile, gave themselves a great confidence injection in their hopes to stay in the No. 2 spot, although overtaking City somewhere along the way seems almost a pipe dream.
Manchester City: Ederson; Zinchenko, Stones, Dias, Cancelo (Walker, m.65); Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Jesus (Foden, m.70) and Sterling.
Manchester United: Henderson; Shaw, Lindelof, Maguire, Wan-Bisaaka; McTominay, Fred, Fernandes (Williams, m.93); James, Rashford (Greenwood, m.73) and Martial (Matic, m.88).
Referee: Anthony Taylor yellow-carded Maguire (m.32), Shaw (m.58) and Henderson (m.60) Manchester United.