Running Out Of Time: Sluggish Man City In Danger Of Being Left Behind In Title Race

Pep Guardiola’s side were held to a 1-1 draw by newly-promoted West Brom and paid the price for another slow start 

Pep Guardiola spent the closing moments of Manchester City’s 1-1 draw with West Brom arguing with the fourth official and imploring him to add on more than four minutes of injury time.

The City boss might have been better reflecting on why his side had wasted the opening 30 minutes of a game that City would have coasted through for the majority of his reign, but which is now the kind of game they are struggling to win. 

In the opening half hour, City had close to three quarters of the possession without a single shot on target until Ilkay Gundogan finally stabbed them in front after Raheem Sterling had crafted an opening.

But, after conceding their first goal in more than 10 hours of football, they finished the match desperately chasing a winner with a total of 26 attempts and seven on target.

The best two opportunities came in stoppage time when Gundogan and Sterling were denied by outstanding saves from former Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone. 

“You have to win these games and we could not do it,” Guardiola said after.  “We had the chances, but unfortunately we were not able to score goals, especially in the last four or five actions that we had. 

“That is the reality. We are able to control a lot. We are conceding minimum [chances]. [There was] one good save from Ederson and the deflected goal, but no more than this.

“We were better in every department. We are creating, but we cannot do it.”

Guardiola could not hide his frustration and it was the fourth official Anthony Taylor who bore the brunt of his unhappiness as City ran out of time.

His team have consistently brushed aside newly-promoted clubs at the Etihad Stadium since he joined, winning their previous eight matches against former Championship sides going back to May 2018 when they drew with Huddersfield with the title already in the bag.

This time it mattered but they paid the price for yet another sluggish start, which has become a big problem recently.

In Saturday’s tame derby, City started slowly against a Manchester United team that had been 2-0 down inside 13 minutes against RB Leipzig in their crucial Champions League match earlier that week.

Against West Brom, they were even more sedate. There was only one real chance to speak of inside the opening 30 minutes and that went to the visitors; Ederson was forced to make a superb stop from Karlan Grant.

“No, the players were there,” Guardiola insisted when asked if his team started too slowly. “Sometimes you have to do it, you score and don’t concede much. 

“We struggled with long balls and second balls, we could not control it and they made an extra pass. 

“Sometimes you need patience and it is not easy. But in the second half we were much better. When there’s 10 players like that (defending deep), it’s never easy.”

While there was a touch of fortune about the Ruben Dias own goal that cancelled out Gundogan’s 30th-minute opener, Slaven Bilic’s side had something to hold onto and dug in for what could be a precious point in their relegation battle.

City, meanwhile, are struggling to reel in the early pacesetters with the clock already ticking on any potential Premier League title challenge.

With nearly a third of the season gone, Guardiola’s side sit sixth but are certain to slide further down the table after Wednesday night’s matches. They have just 20 points and 18 goals from their first 12 matches.

At the same stage last season, they had five more points and 17 more goals yet still ended up finishing way behind champions Liverpool.

After tightening up at the back, goals are now the biggest problem.

Gabriel Jesus has not scored in his last seven appearances, Sterling has just one goal in 10 and, while Kevin De Bruyne remains the great creator, he has scored only one goal – from the penalty spot – in his last 15 games.

Sergio Aguero, at least, made a further step towards a full recovery from injury when he came off the bench and could provide a solution going forward.

But time is counting down. Guardiola needs some quick answers if City are to have any chance of a third title in four years.

source:- goal

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