Sunday 8 April 2018

Match report: City 2-3 United

United turned the tables on City's title celebrations and completed a stunning second half comeback with a magnificent climb off the canvas victory at a disbelieving Etihad.
Pep Guardiola's side - looking to hit back after their Champions League defeat in midweek with the win that would seal the title - left Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero on the bench, but this did not deter them as the hosts raced into a 2-0 lead by the half hour mark to leave United reeling and bewildered.

In truth, the seemingly dead and buried Reds could have been even further behind at the break, with Raheem Sterling having missed three clear cut openings to extend the advantage further.  But Paul Pogba pulled the Reds level with a close range finish and a header, before Chris Smalling volleyed home an Alexis Sanchez set-piece on 69 minutes to ensure that City will be forced to wait at least another week to get their hands on the coveted prize.

There was little hint of the breath-taking drama to follow as the tie started in a cagey manner, with both sides feeling each other out early on. But City began to exert their authority on the contest and took the lead in the 25th minute. Antonio Valencia's risible clearance resulted in a set-piece, and from Leroy Sane's inswinging corner, Vincent Kompany rose above Chris Smalling and planted his header beyond De Gea in a repeat of the 2012 meeting. City now had their tails up with United struggling to lay a glove on their superior counterparts. Five minutes later, we were 0-2 down and facing humiliation. Uncharacteristcally, DDG was this time partly at fault as his weak clearance fell only as far as Ilkay Gundogan, who started and finished the swift and clinical passing move after he steered home an unerring finish on the turn. The shell-shocked Reds were reeling and on the ropes.
Sterling was then presented with two gilt-edged openings in quick succession but fortunately for United he put both of his efforts over the bar from close range when well placed. De Gea saved well from Gundogan who then rattled the upright as the torment continued in the early stages of the second half.

The Reds desperately needed a route back into the derby and Pogba improbably provided it. After having an effort saved by Ederson, he struck twice in 97 seconds to turn the tide in United's favour. The first - in the 53rd minute - saw Alexis and Ander Herrera link up to play in the Frenchman, who ghosted into space and slotted home. Then came the equaliser when another Alexis cross found Pogba, who guided his header beyond the despairing keeper.

Incredibly, there was more to come as the unbelievable comeback culminated in another assist for Alexis and what turned out to be the winner from an unlikely source. Smalling showed all the technique of a striker as he latched on to a floated Sanchez delivery and planted the ball in from eight yards.

Inevitably, there were some fiery flashpoints but the football continued apace as De Gea's magnificent one-handed stop from Aguero preserved United's slender lead and the substitute striker then went down under a challenge from Ashley Young but referee Martin Atkinson was unmoved.

On a remarkable day, United took the plaudits and left City's champagne on ice.

Overall team performance: 9/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Paul Pogba. Honourable mentions must go to Alexis and Ander Herrera. 

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