LONDON: Events at halftime exposed the chasm between the clubs as Manchester City maintained their Premier title defence with a 3-0 win which pushed Huddersfield Town ever closer to the second division.
The teams went in at the interval with an unconvincing City leading 1-0 on a goal from Danilo. In that 15 minutes Huddersfield fans watched a farewell video message from departed manager David Wagner on the stadium screens. They listened in silence and applauded enthusiastically at its end.
Meanwhile, out of sight, City manager Pep Guardiola was haranguing his players for their failures to kill the game despite all their possession. Message understood. In the first 11 minutes of the second half City raised the pace and struck twice through Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane to put the result beyond doubt.
Sane provided the assist for Sterling’s 10th league goal. The pair have combined for six Premier goals this season and the only duo to combine for more are Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser (seven).
Sane, with eight goals of his own, said later: “The manager woke us up at half-time. He always tries to give us the solution and he did it again. I think everyone could see in the second half it was much better.”
Guardiola said: “We didn’t deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future. We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it’s difficult. They defended deep and man to man.
“What we have done so far has been incredible but we’re in January and there’s many more games to play. You don’t win or lose the Premier League in January. We have to focus on what we have to do. If Liverpool win, we have to win. And if Liverpool lose then we also have to win.”
City thus remain within four points of Liverpool and, on Wednesday, will secure their place in the League Cup Final after the semi-final return against lower-division Burton whom they massacred 9:0 in the first leg. Then they should progress in the FA Cup against Burnley before maintaining the pressure on Jurgen Klopp by winning away to Newcastle.
The prospect for Huddersfield is not as enticing. The club with the smallest wages and transfer budget in the league are expected to appoint Jan Siewert this week to succeed Wagner. He will face a twin challenge of leading an apparently hopeless fight against relegation while preparing to regroup next season in the second tier.
Attack was always the problem for Wagner and the arrival of Olaf Rebbe as sporting director last summer could not offer an answer. They have 11 points, have lost nine of their last 10 games and have scored only 13 goals. Their top scorer, with three, is defender Mathias Jorgensen.
At this same 23-game stage last season they had 24 points — and even then stayed up only by four points.
** Tottenham added Dele Alli to their injury list after he strained a hamstring in a 2-1 derby win at Fulham. Spurs were already without skipper and top scorer Harry Kane and needed a stoppage-time winner from midfielder Harry Winks.