Huddersfield – Manchester City reduced Liverpool’s lead at the top of the English Premier League table to four points as they eventually found top gear to win 3-0 away to basement club Huddersfield Town on Sunday.
This was by no means City’s most outstanding display of the season but, ultimately, goals from Danilo, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane ensured they did not trip up in the latest leg of their quest to keep the Premier League title-race alive.
Liverpool’s captivating 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday ensured this was a crunch fixture for Pep Guardiola’s side, yet any hopes Huddersfield could pull off a shock win never materialised.
The embarrassment of riches available to City manager Guardiola meant Gabriel Jesus, who had scored seven goals in three matches, dropped to the bench alongside David Silva while Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero returned to his starting line-up.
That depth of quality would be difficult for any side to counter, especially a team struggling as much as Huddersfield are at present.
They parted company with manager David Wagner on Monday, a mutual decision but a sad one for Terriers’ fans who will always remember him as the man who not only secured promotion to the Premier League for the Yorkshire club but also kept them in the top-flight last term.
A repeat of that looks highly unlikely this season and this match pitted the Premier League’s highest scorers against the lowest, with Huddersfield having netted just 13 times going into this encounter and having lost eight of their last nine league games.
Huddersfield made six changes for the game but did manage to match reigning English champions City early on.
After 12 minutes, Sterling felt he was denied a penalty after Terence Kongolo’s heavy challenge in the box.
But City’s wait to break the deadlock lasted just six more minutes as Danilo’s fierce shot was deflected past Jonas Lossl by Christopher Schindler.
The goal was City’s 100th of the season in all competitions, a statistic underlining their potent attack, but they were surprisingly lacklustre in the remainder of the first half.
One clumsy Kyle Walker foul on Chris Lowe might have been worthy of a red card but the England international escaped with a booking.
An emotional message from Wagner was broadcast on the big screen at the John Smith’s Stadium during the half-time interval and that comfortably eclipsed most of the entertainment offered in the opening period.
Yet after the break, City finally upped the tempo and were soon out of sight.
After 52 minutes, De Bruyne’s pass found Sane on the left and his pinpoint cross was met by Sterling who finished off a diving header with some aplomb.
City’s afternoon soon got even better when Sane then scored a wonderful team goal that demonstrated how City had finally woken up.
Danilo pumped a ball forward and Aguero steered a fantastic cushioned header into the path of Sane who slipped the ball past Lossl.
Immediately, it felt as if Huddersfield would need to enter damage-limitation mode to stop City from running riot as they did in the 6-1 reverse fixture victory at the Etihad Stadium in August.
But to the credit of Huddersfield caretaker coach Mark Hudson, he implored his team to keep on trying to attack despite being three goals down.
However, Huddersfield never really looked like conjuring up a miracle comeback as Stevie Mounie resorted to attempting to score from 30 yards but with little effect.
A close-range header from Mounie was also well saved by Ederson towards the end.
But that incident was the City goalkeeper’s first real piece of action, which said everything about the lopsided nature of this contest.