Man City brush past Sheffield United to extend lead at top of Premier League
Gabriel Jesus struck early as Premier League leaders Manchester City maintained their winning run with a hard-fought 1-0 success over bottom side Sheffield United.
The Brazil striker netted after just nine minutes at the Etihad Stadium but victory proved far from straightforward as the battling visitors, buoyed by their midweek win at Manchester United, made the going tough.
Despite dominating possession, City struggled to create meaningful chances and they were almost caught out late on when John Fleck shot narrowly wide.
Yet other than that late scare, and despite not peppering the visitors' goal with chances, it was still a strong performance by City.
It was their eighth successive win in the Premier League and maintained their position at the top.
With 11 clean sheets in their last 13 games, they are starting to look formidable, even without star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero.
In a further sign of their depth, it also came after manager Pep Guardiola made five changes from the side that thrashed West Brom 5-0 on Tuesday.
Raheem Sterling and in-form defenders John Stones and Joao Cancelo were among the substitutes. Aymeric Laporte, fit again after injury, returned and looked imposing.
The pattern for the game was soon established as City took control of possession and patiently looked to carve out chances.
They found a way through after just nine minutes as Ferran Torres regained his footing to shake off a challenge near the byline and wriggled through the area to pull back for Jesus.
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The Brazilian got the ball trapped under his feet but, before Aaron Ramsdale could react, he quickly adjusted himself and thumped past the keeper from close range.
Ordinarily such an early blow could sap energy from a struggling side but, as they showed at Old Trafford, the Blades are made of sterner stuff.
The visitors refused to allow the setback to disrupt their game plan and they worked hard to prevent City creating further opportunities.
Jesus failed to control a Fernandinho ball from one opening, Torres had a cross cut out and Laporte had a shot blocked as City were thwarted.
Bernardo Silva was almost gifted a chance after a weak header from Ethan Ampadu but he put his own header tamely into the arms of Ramsdale.
The problem for Sheffield United was that they saw little of the ball themselves. Rhian Brewster, still awaiting his first goal for the club, shot at Ederson on the turn but otherwise they threatened little in the first half.
Jayden Bogle looked one of their livelier players but he spurned an opening after City failed to clear early in the second period.
There was a lengthy delay after a clash of heads between Phil Foden and John Lundstram but both were able to continue.
Foden was involved as City created one of their best chances of the game in the 72nd minute, deftly cushioning a pass to tee up Oleksandr Zinchenko outside the area after a good break by Silva. Zinchenko struck his shot firmly but Ramsdale saved well. The keeper also pushed over Laporte's header from the resulting corner.
City had that late moment of alarm when Billy Sharp chested down for Fleck after 86 minutes but his well-struck effort flew just wide. Oliver Norwood had a shot blocked as City held on and almost added a second in injury time as Ramsdale saved from Jesus.
Will any side come close to Manchester City in the title race this season? Have your say in the comments.
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