Huddersfield Town vs Manchester City: Champions keep pace with Liverpool after Sunday afternoon stroll

Huddersfield Town 0-3 Manchester City: Pep Guardiola's side reduced the gap at the top of the Premier League to four points once more without breaking sweat

Manchester City: A look back at 2018

Manchester City will not give up their crown easily. For the second time in the space of a week, the champions watched Liverpool increase their lead at the top of the Premier League table to seven points, then nervelessly cut it back down to four to maintain the pressure on the pace-setters.

This meeting with a bottom-of-the-table Huddersfield Town side was always likely to be a mismatch. The highest-scoring side in English football’s top four divisions beat the lowest-scoring as expected, with three unanswered goals from Danilo, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané.

Pep Guardiola’s side were not at their best, particularly in a lethargic first half full of stray passes, though on this occasion they did not need to be. Far from experiencing a famed ‘new manager bounce’, Huddersfield were clearly still reeling from the departure of much-loved head coach David Wagner last Monday.

Mark Hudson, the Under-23s manager, stepped into the caretaker role yet could not end a winless league run which is now in double figures. Jan Siewert, the Borussia Dortmund coach expected to replace Wagner, will intend to turn those fortunes around but, 10 points off safety, it is increasingly hard to see them at this level next season.

At least Huddersfield did not end the day embarrassed, unlike Sky Sports. The match broadcasters believed they had found Siewert watching on in the crowd. After asking their touchline reporter to approach him and cutting away from live coverage, it turned out to be a lookalike.

It was not the only gaffe of the afternoon. The day was supposed to begin with a message from Wagner on the John Smith’s Stadium’s jumbotron, thanking Huddersfield supporters for leaving him with “a backpack full of memories”, but the pictures carried no sound. It would have to be replayed at half time.

And though Huddersfield made a competitive start, Hudson’s side were let down by the odd technical glitch of their own. The first went unpunished. Terence Kongolo entirely mistimed a challenge on Sterling inside his own penalty area, taking all of the man and none of the ball. It was a clear foul but referee Andre Marriner waved protests away.

The second proved more costly. Jonas Lossl appeared to have the measure of Danilo’s speculative effort from 25 yards out until, in an attempt to block the shot, Christopher Schindler headed it into the ground and back towards his own goal. Stranded, Lossl was beaten by this wicked deflection.

It was cruel on Schindler, though Premier League officials spared him the indignity of awarding an own goal. Whether his or Danilo’s, it was certainly City’s 100th of the season to date, scored in the space of just 35 games, and their dominant start suggested that there would only be more to come.

Sterling grabbed City's second

This was not vintage City, though, and the champions’ first-half display was littered with uncharacteristic mistakes in possession. A more talented side than Huddersfield might have punished this sluggishness but that was too much to ask from the basement club, who only registered two shots on target all afternoon.

A different City emerged for the second half and put the contest to bed in the space of two minutes, with Sané acting as both a provider and poacher. Huddersfield felt he was offside in the build-up to the second, before crossing for Sterling to tap in at the far post, but assistant Simon Long kept his flag down.

There were no such doubts moments later when Sergio Aguero nodded Danilo’s long ball back towards Sané. The German’s first touch evaded Jonathan Hogg and his second slotted a simple finish past Lossl. Any hope on Merseyside that City’s first-half sloppiness might lead to a shock result was now lost.

Sane wrapped things up for the champions

City eased off once three up, perhaps mindful that their schedule over the coming months is significantly busier than Liverpool’s, perhaps aware that Huddersfield’s lean attack - with just 13 goals to their name all season - would not pose them much of a threat for the remainder.

Hudson’s introduction of Steve Mounié changed that somewhat. The substitute went close than any other Huddersfield player to scoring and registered all three of his side’s second-half attempts at goal. The best came in the stoppage time, when he turned inside the six-yard box but mis-kicked wide with the goal gaping.

Yet it would have only been a consolation and of little consequence. After Liverpool’s life and death with Crystal Palace, City won this comfortably when not at their fluid and flamboyant best. It may be that composure which proves crucial down the stretch.

“Champions of England, we know what we are,” the away end chanted. There is still every chance they will be singing the same next season.

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