Sheffield United 1-2 Man City: Champions maintain perfect start despite Pep Guardiola absence

27 August 2023 0 By Total Football News

His trademark prowl along the touchline may have been absent, but Pep Guardiola’s influence on Manchester City was there for all to see as they ground out a battling victory at Sheffield United.

Guardiola had to watch Sunday’s game in Barcelona as he recuperates from minor back surgery, with coach Juanma Lillo leading the side at Bramall Lane.

But City still displayed the kind of resilience that has seen them win 15 trophies in seven years under the Spaniard’s leadership, including last season’s Treble.

Pegged back by Jayden Bogle’s 85th-minute equaliser, City suddenly found another gear to retake the lead through Rodri’s rocket just three minutes later.

It was enough to lift City back to the top of the Premier League as the only side to win all three of their matches so far.

It was also Guardiola’s 200th Premier League win as City boss in just his 269th game, the quickest any manager has reached that landmark in the English top flight.

“Pep has always been here,” Lillo told BBC Match of the Day.

“He was speaking to the technical staff at times and also to me, but all I had to do was move one seat along. He was always there.

“We had a lot of the ball but found it very hard to find the spaces in behind because there weren’t any. In the second half it was a different story – we were able to have more of the ball in better areas and more continuous pressure.

“Suddenly, after one chance we are level again after we had dominated the majority of the game – it wasn’t very fair. I still felt the team were alive and strong. In the first half we could have scored the penalty too, so I still felt we were going to score again.”

Juanma Lillo using earphones to speak to Pep Guardiola on the Man City benchJuanma Lillo (left) was in contact with Pep Guardiola during the game

City ‘have the hunger to go again’

City had 80% possession and 30 shots on goal but were frustrated for large periods against a defiant Sheffield United backline.

Erling Haaland, who missed a first-half penalty, finally broke the deadlock with a 63rd-minute header, but City failed to get a crucial second to kill the game off.

That always left them vulnerable to a sucker punch, and so it proved when Bogle drilled past Ederson with United’s first shot on target.

But with Bramall Lane bouncing, City simply moved up a level and immediately carved out a good chance for Julian Alvarez, before Rodri blasted home when Kyle Walker’s pass was deflected into his path.

“When you have excelled so much last season, won the Treble, you question whether a side would have the hunger to go again,” former City defender Andy Hinchcliffe told Sky Sports.

“Well, this game has shown they definitely have. They felt stung by the equaliser and hit straight back.

“This is what great teams do, they get angered by conceding goals.”

Speaking to Sky Sports, Lillo added: “Thirty shots is a lot, especially in the second half we had a lot, but not being able to finish the goal just at the right time made it more difficult as the game went on.

“Straight after their goal we had another chance as well. Mentally this team have had seven years of preparation and they are very, very impressive.”

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