will end the weekend at the top of the table after overcoming a resilient Sheffield United side in dramatic fashion to secure a 2-1 win on Sunday afternoon.
The defending champions, who often make rather pedestrian starts to campaigns, are the only team still boasting a 100 per cent record after rallying superbly following the concession of a late equaliser to grab all three points courtesy of a thunderous finish from Rodri.
was absent at Bramall Lane as he recovers from back surgery with assistant Juanma Lillo deputising in the dugout, though he was still able to spring a few surprises with – so imperious against Newcastle a week ago – left out of the starting XI.
Even without some of their biggest creative weapons, and with new signing Jeremy Doku on the bench, City asserted total control from the first minute in what quickly became an exercise in attack versus defence.
The home side had a few, sporadic bursts forward but none resulted in an effort on goal until the 74th minute with City enjoying 80% possession and 30 shots.
They thought they had taken the lead early on in the contest when Rodri looped a header high into the air from a set-piece and Nathan Ake steered the ball into the bottom corner, but the Spaniard had been in an offside position.
At times United had virtually every player in their own box but City struggled to carve out any real clear-cut chances in the first half until John Egan was penalised for handball after Julian Alvarez had hit the byline and attempted to pull the ball back.
Erling Haaland stepped up and sent Wes Foderingham the wrong way but dragged his effort against the inside of the post and away from danger, and he was still seething with himself when the players walked off at half-time.
He returned from the dressing room after the break looking decidedly meaner and eager to make amends, with City now bringing far greater intensity to their play in the final third.
Last season’s Golden Boot winner did not have to wait long for his next chance, firing a right-footed attempt wide at the near post, before Rodri – who had several long-range attempts – also went close.
City were ramping up the pressure more and more, with Haaland slipped in only to be denied by Foderingham, while the United keeper had to push an effort from Alvarez around the post.
The corner was taken quickly, with Jack Grealish dribbling along the byline and dinking the ball to the back post where Haaland was on hand to head home and finally break the deadlock in the 63rd minute.
It was just reward for City’s dominance, particularly the five-minute spell before the goal, and despite Sheffield United now needing a goal the visitors maintained their calm control of the contest. At least for a while, anyway.
They thought they had put the game to bed when Haaland put the ball in the back of the net a second time, but he was a long way offside, while Alvarez had Foderingham scrambling from a free-kick.
United started to show a little more intent and occasionally rattled the City rearguard with long balls into the box – forcing Ruben Dias to make a particularly excellent block.
Suddenly the champions did not look quite so nerveless, with the hosts’ more direct approach and attack-minded subs unsettling City, and they thought they had snatched an unlikely point when the ball broke to Jayden Bogle and he fired into the far corner.
The strike sent Bramall Lane wild but only seemed to enrage City, with local lad Kyle Walker – who had given the ball away prior to the equaliser – immediately rampaging down the right flank and setting up a great chance for Alvarez, but he fired over.
City were suddenly attacking in waves again, with Haaland failing to connect with a header, and yet again they found a breakthrough.
Walker was central to the goal, collecting the loose ball and firing it into the box for substitute Foden, who in turn laid it off to Rodri who nearly burst the back of the net with a stunning finish. With the ability to produce moments like this seemingly at a whim, it remains almost impossible to look past City to win the title yet again.
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