Like so many NUFC fans, I came into this one expecting very little, so if someone had told me we’d still be in the game with 10 minutes to play I’d have bitten your hand off.
Despite Man City’s real dominance (having an incredible 81% of the ball), it took Aguero’s 83rd minute goal to kill off our spirited fight-back, with us really coming into the game after Jacob Murphy’s 67th minute strike – his first competitive goal for NUFC.
It’s a funny old game. Shortly after City’s second, BT Sport highlighted a stat showing that the home side had enjoyed were enjoying a staggering 85% possession at the time. Seconds later, a threaded pass from Ciaran Clark put Murphy in behind , who scored to put us right back in it at 2-1. It was our first attack in the second half, yet a marauding run from Mo Diame nearly put us on level terms just minutes later. Some may say we left it a little late to attack but, like the reverse fixture last month, we put ourselves in a position to get a result with 10 minutes to play – and not many sides can say that against City this season.
I said before the game that it was important not to get hammered today for goal difference reasons and a 3-1 defeat is no disgrace against one of the top sides in Europe right now – especially when the likes of Brighton (4-0) and Palace (4-1) were beaten by greater margins themselves today.
They were the far superior side (as you’d expect), but there wasn’t a lack of effort, discipline and desire from our lads today – three traits that we’ll have to show week in week out in the battle for safety over the remainder of the season.
We don't have to play City again
Our GD is still one of the best in the bottom half
Watford, WBA, Brighton, Palace, Hudds, West Ham and Bournemouth all dropping points
Murphy full of confidence
Diame continues to perform
— NUFC 360 (@NUFC360) January 20, 2018
Murphy had a poor first half, but he went from strength to strength after his goal, being our only real attacking outlet and the one player who looked to run at them, carry the ball and make things happen. He has to start at home to Burnley next time out (in the league), and parts of his performance today make it all the more mystifying that Rafa didn’t start him, or at least bring him on in the frustrating 1-1 draw with Swansea last weekend.
Our approach was timid at times, however we did make the odd effort to box them in at the back on occasion – although they often broke out of it and looked so likely to score when we committed men forward. Perhaps this explains why we sat so deep in our two games against them. They just pick you off with ease if you give them space.
Dummett was superb at left-back, keeping one of the leagues most in-form attacker at bay in Raheem Sterling. Hayden also deserves a mention, putting in an impressive display at centre-back. Might he have a new lease of life in this role after looking incredibly ordinary at centre-midfield so far this season? Lascelles and Clark also put in solid displays, with the latter laying on the assist for Murphy with a lovely defence splitting pass; atoning for his error in the first half where he allowed Aguero to get free for their opener.
Onto Chelsea away in the FA Cup next Sunday followed by a crucial home game with Burnley a week on Wednesday. HWTL!
Today’s results & updated PL table
- Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace
- Burnley 0-1 Man Utd
- Everton 1-1 West Brom
- Leicester 2-0 Watford
- Stoke 2-0 Huddersfield
- West Ham 1-1 Bournemouth