Manchester City ascended to the summit of the Premier League standings with a 2-1 triumph over Sheffield United on Sunday, courtesy of an 88th-minute winner delivered by Rodri, securing their third victory of the season.
With the match knotted at 1-1 and the minutes dwindling away, fate placed the ball at the feet of Phil Foden within the United penalty area. While the English midfielder had no immediate control, Rodri exhibited impeccable timing, lashing a half-volley into the top corner of the net.
Pep Guardiola, the City manager, was conspicuously absent from the Bramall Lane touchline due to back surgery. Nevertheless, with assistant manager Juanma Lillo adeptly deputizing for Guardiola, City accomplished their mission, even as seven additional minutes were tacked on, with the home side fervently seeking an equalizer.
The reigning champions, City, remain the sole squad boasting a flawless start to the season, amassing nine points, which positions them two points ahead of West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal.
Lillo expressed his thoughts, stating, “Overall, I believe we exhibited a commendable performance today. The scoreline doesn’t truly reflect how closely we adhered to our game plan.”
Erling Haaland, City’s striker, experienced a rollercoaster first half, as he flubbed a penalty attempt due to a handball call, striking the post. Nevertheless, he redeemed himself just after the hour mark, nodding home a close-range header from a Jack Grealish cross to open the scoring.
Lillo reflected on the missed penalty, remarking, “The outcome could have been drastically altered if that penalty had found the net. We observed that our team maintained a high level of stability and remained focused on the goal.”
He further noted, “In the second half, we significantly increased the tempo, enabling us to regain possession more rapidly. We exploited the newly created spaces resulting from our improved ball recovery… We had opportunities to score even before our first goal.”
Nonetheless, United managed to draw level in the 85th minute when they capitalized on a defensive lapse stemming from Kyle Walker’s errant backheel clearance. Jayden Bogle seized the moment, firing an angled shot through a sea of defenders, eluding City’s goalkeeper Ederson.
Just as it appeared that United might secure their first point upon returning to the top flight, Rodri crushed their hopes by firing home the winning goal, a strike fashioned by Walker, a former United player.
In the standings, United languish in 17th place, still seeking their inaugural point after three fixtures. Despite the defeat, their valiant effort against last season’s treble winners earned them applause from the crowd.
Heckingbottom, United’s manager, conceded, “I’d choose points over pats on the back any day. To defeat City, you must play a near-perfect game.” He added, “Even though City enjoyed possession, we felt we had a degree of influence over how that possession was utilized… It’s just another bitter pill to swallow.”