EPL

Manchester City survive scare in battling Premier League comeback win at Luton

By Sports Desk December 10, 2023

Manchester City survived a scare as they recovered from going a goal behind at half-time to put down a brave fight by Luton and battle to a 2-1 Premier League victory at Kenilworth Road.

The champions had been without a victory in four games and that run looked like stretching in the most unlikely circumstances when Elijah Adebayo headed in for Rob Edwards’ side on the stroke of the interval.

City were missing the injured Erling Haaland – with in-form winger Jeremy Doku also ruled out – and looked set to remain seven points off the Premier League summit as Luton bravely held their lead beyond the hour mark.

Then, Pep Guardiola’s side burst to life to revive their title defence, with two goals in three minutes from Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish turning the game on its head as a famous upset was narrowly bypassed.

City came at Luton from the off. Inside two minutes, Phil Foden broke into the box down the left and stung the palms of Thomas Kaminski, who beat his effort away well. From the rebound, Silva lashed wide with a hurried miscue when greater composure was required.

Rodri was next to test Luton’s goalkeeper, drawing a fine one-handed save after unleashing a fierce drive from 20 yards, before the Belgian made his third and finest save of the opening half-hour, diving low to keep out Foden’s bullet effort with a firm wrist.

City though were getting closer. Julian Alvarez dinked one wide at the near post, getting on the end of Grealish’s intelligent ball into the six-yard box but finding only the side netting.

But the longer Luton held out, the more frustrated City appeared to become.

The final 10 minutes of the first half saw Guardiola’s side reduced to speculative efforts from outside the box, either closed down by the hosts’ tireless defence who never let City rest on the ball, or sailing harmlessly behind Kaminski’s goal.

Then came the moment that stunned the champions. It began in midfield with Ross Barkley, showing sublime strength and skill to hold the ball, spin and release Alfie Doughty racing down the right.

He moved it on to Andros Townsend, who checked from his right foot to his left, lifted his head and – with a raking cross – found Adebayo rising at the far post between Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias to head Luton into the lead from a yard out.

The hosets had come within seconds of beating Liverpool and drawing with Arsenal here this season and looked determined to finally earn a win against one of the league’s top sides and to put pressure on 17th-placed Everton in their bid to escape the relegation zone.

On the hour mark, Dias rattled the crossbar from Nathan Ake’s cut-back in what was the visitors’ first real opening since falling behind.

Within minutes they were level and it was the architect of Luton’s goal Barkley who was at fault, losing the ball in midfield to Rodri who drove at the heart of the defence.

He collided with Tom Lockyer who had come across to challenge and as the ball broke loose, it was pounced upon by Silva, barley glancing up at the goal before thumping it impudently first time inside the far post.

Seconds later it was 2-1 and it was the simplest finish for Grealish. Alvarez’s low cross evaded the desperate lunge of Teden Mengi, arriving at Grealish’s feet six yards out.

With Luton’s defence breached, he had time to take a touch, decide on his spot and stick the ball calmly between Kaminski’s legs to the relief of visiting supporters behind the goal.

Luton’s spirit was unbroken and they sought an instant riposte. Barkley ran round Foden and Mateo Kovacic and sent a fizzing right-footed drive inches past the post.

From that point, City were never comfortable and Luton did not look beaten until the very end, but the champions hung on to end their barren run.

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    Mikel Arteta is not setting a points total he believes will deliver the Premier League title – but the Arsenal boss has warned the rest of the season may have to be perfect if they are to do so.

    The Gunners travel to bottom club Sheffield United on Monday night knowing victory will once again see them close to within two points of Liverpool at the summit.

    Reigning champions Manchester City are also locked in the three-way tussle for the title as Arteta aims to bring the Premier League crown back to Arsenal for the first time in 20 years.

    Asked how many points might be required to win the league this season, the Spaniard replied: “You always ask me this question and I never get it right.

    “The demands, you might have to win every game. I don’t know. I have no clue.

    “There are a lot of games and we are all going to have crazy schedules and this league might be different to last season. Anything under 90 points I think it (winning the league) would be very difficult.

    “We have to improve in every aspect, that is all, all managers try to be better in what we do.”

    Arsenal were top of the table at this stage last season and led the pack for a total of 248 days before ultimately slipping behind City in the run-in.

    “I think we are where we deserve to be,” Arteta said on Arsenal’s current standing.

    “We could probably be a little bit better in terms of the points that we have deserved in the league

    “Being (back) in the Champions League is another step – that makes obviously the challenge more difficult and the amount of injuries that we had I think we are going good but we want to do better.

    “The target is clear. It’s to be better every day so that when it comes to the weekend, earn the right to win and do everything you possibly can to win the game.

    “This is the focus and the way I see them training every day gives me  more confidence and more reasons to believe that we have a good chance because they really want it.”

  • Now he is winning games – Pep Guardiola talks up Phil Foden’s impact on Man City Now he is winning games – Pep Guardiola talks up Phil Foden’s impact on Man City

    Pep Guardiola praised fantastic Phil Foden and said the Manchester City midfielder is developing into a world-class player after his wonderful, derby-winning display against Manchester United.

    Nobody expected anything other than embarrassment at the Etihad Stadium for Erik ten Hag’s stumbling Red Devils, yet Marcus Rashford’s scorcher gave them a shock half-time lead.

    United were under the cosh for large periods before and after the break, finally buckling as 23-year-old Foden scored a superb leveller in the 56th minute before then firing City ahead 10 minutes from time.

    Erling Haaland added gloss in stoppage time but there was no doubt who the star of the show was in Sunday’s important 3-1 victory for Guardiola’s title-chasing team.

    “He is right now this season (one of the best players in the Premier League),” the City boss said of man-of-the-match Foden.

    “He’s been the best so far. I always had the feeling he would score goals, in training sessions, always I had the feeling but now he is winning games.

    “To become a world-class player at that age you have to win games and he always played good, always had an incredible work ethic. Doesn’t matter what position, he doesn’t complain.

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    Foden helped the treble winners get out of a hole on Sunday after City fell behind for the 12th time in the league this season.

    It was their first-ever Premier League comeback win against United and means they have recovered 21 points from losing positions this term.

    The result put them back within one point of leaders Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s mouth-watering battle between the sides at Anfield.

    “We have Copenhagen on our mind and we will have time after to talk about Liverpool,” Guardiola said ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg at the Etihad Stadium.

    “We have a lot of points still to play for and different places to go.”

    United bowed out of Europe before Christmas so there are no distractions before Saturday lunchtime’s return to Premier League action at home to embattled Everton.

    The injury-hit Red Devils have regressed during Ten Hag’s second season and sit an eye-watering 19 points behind leaders Liverpool, who they face in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

    Similarly concerning is the fact that sixth-placed United are 11 points off Aston Villa in fourth and six behind fifth-placed Tottenham, which could yet be enough for Champions League qualification.

    But Ten Hag does not believe United are that far behind City when not beset by injuries and felt key decisions hurt his battling side on Sunday.

    “On defining moments, we didn’t have it on our side because just before the 1-1, I think Rashford was on another break,” Ten Hag said.

    “And just before 2-1, there was (Alejandro) Garnacho in a breakthrough. I think we were really close to win or at least get a draw here.

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    “I saw it back, it was very soft, but you will understand when you are on a full-speed run, if you get a little touch then you are out of control and I think that is what happened.”

    Asked if this match highlighted a chasm between the teams, under-fire Ten Hag said: “No, I don’t think so. Absolutely not. We have many problems in injuries and, still, we had an opportunity because it was really small margins.

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    Walker, asked about Foden’s stunning equaliser, told Sky Sports: “You know when he comes in on his left foot…we call him the sniper, because he likes to shoot.

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    Foden then switched over to the left side, from where he scored his second and earned City a big victory in their Premier League title challenge.

    Walker added: “The second, probably coming off the left-hand side, you don’t really see Phil in that position but for him to find the corner as he has done, I think that just shows his flexibility.

    “He’s even been trusted down the middle as well this year, which I think is a big part of the responsibility he has taken on. We lean on him and we need important players like him.

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    Foden, who now has 18 goals in all competitions for City this season, said: “That’s my aim, to turn up in the big games.

    “That’s what I want to do and I think this season I’m proving that. I just need to keep working hard on the training pitch and keep putting performances like that in, keep working hard.

    “I understand what it means for the fans, a derby at the Etihad, it means everything for me. To score as well is even better, but overall to get the win was the most important thing today.”

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