Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are on a roll. After swashbuckling performances against the likes of Leicester, Stoke, Liverpool and Arsenal, City have shown another side to their winning streak by grinding out consecutive 2-1 wins over Huddersfield and Southampton courtesy of late Raheem Sterling winners.
Momentum is a wondrous asset to have, and right now, City have it in abundance. That winning feeling, regardless of how it is earned, is vital for confidence and team-spirit as winning almost becomes a habit. What’s more it keeps the accumulation of points going, with City opening up their lead at the summit to eight points over their local rivals.
This eight point lead is what will concern Guardiola more than anything else. Yet, as an added bonus for good measure, City’s 2-1 win over Southampton also broke the club record by winning twelve Premier League games in a row for the first time. Statistically-minded onlookers will be licking their lips at this City side, as the win also took the league-leaders to 40 points, which equals the top-flight record for points after fourteen games have been played. Nineteen successive wins in all competitions sums up the unstoppable force that is Manchester City right now.
Sterling’s 96th minute goal, virtually the last kick of the game, sparked off wild scenes in The Etihad as Guardiola and other members of the City coaching staff ran onto the pitch in pure ecstasy. Sterling himself ran nearly the full length of the pitch in a frenzied state of celebration, after curling a brilliant finish past Fraser Forster from the edge of the penalty box. Sterling has now scored thirteen goals this season, and continues to play with a new sense of confidence under Guardiola.
19 consecutive wins in all comps
27 games unbeaten in all comps
— Manchester City (@ManCity) November 29, 2017
Southampton must have thought they had pulled off a classic away performance to snatch a point from their in-form opponents. Running the clock down, thereby ensuring tension filtered down to the pitch from the increasingly impatient home fans, was working brilliantly for The Saints. City could not seem to find the rhythm of play that often makes them so pleasing on the eye. Passes were going astray and Mauricio Pellegrino’s team were doing their job efficiently in keeping the likes of Sergio Aguero generally quiet.
The visitors even produced the best chances of the first-half with Wesley Hoedt heading against the crossbar from close range following a Nathan Redmond corner. City demonstrated their attacking pace and dynamism by going straight up the other end and forcing Forster into a save from a Sterling strike after a rapid counter-attack. Yet, it was to be another Saints corner that nearly proved to be City’s undoing in the first-half. This time, Maya Yoshida fired over from close-range when the net seemed braced to bulge.
Such misses often prove costly against the best teams, and so it seemed when Kevin De Bruyne’s whipped free-kick in-swinger was diverted into the Southampton goal by Virgil Van Dijk two minutes into the second-half.
Cue the floodgates? Well no. Southampton stuck to their well-organised game plan, and continued to stifle the hosts. Over the course of the game, City amassed 74 per cent of possession, yet Southampton nearly snatched something from the game when Oriol Romeu finished off substitute Sofiane Boufal’s pull-back after he had jinked into the home side’s penalty area.
Plenty of City fans flooded to the exits as the clock was run down by Southampton, unaware that there was to be a thrilling finale. Sterling had already had the ball in the net once in the closing stages, only for it to be ruled out for a foul, before his winner. The Englishman has now scored the winning goal past the 84th minute-mark on four separate occasions this season.
There seems to be no stopping his own individual form, and likewise, the signs are ominous for City’s title rivals as we approach the pivotal Christmas period.