Manchester City arrived at Bramall Lane full of confidence, having edged past a strong Newcastle United last time out. In the absence of Pep Guardiola who is recovering from back surgery, Juanma Lillo looked to guide the treble winners back to the top of the Premier League table once again, and another win would do just that. Paul Heckingbottom’s Sheffield United came into this still looking for that victory that will get them off the mark for this season.
SHU: Foderingham; Ahmedhozic, Egan, Robinson, Baldock; Norwood, Souza, Osborn; Hamer, Osula, Traore
MCI: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Gvardiol, Ake; Rodri, Kovacic; Alvarez, Silva, Grealish; Haaland
A cloudy afternoon in Sheffield began with City dominating the ball as Pep Guardiola’s side often do, and this soon saw the first half-chance of the game as Bernardo Silva’s cross found Erling Haaland in the box, but the Norwegian’s header floated well over the bar. Haaland had another headed effort a few moments later, but it was a tame header and Blades goalkeeper Wes Foderingham collected the ball comfortably.
The Blades were forced into an early change as Ben Osborn had to be replaced by Yasser Larouci due to injury – the Frenchman has joined Sheffield United on loan from Ligue 2 side Troyes earlier this summer.
With just twenty minutes gone, City did have the ball in the net through Nathan Ake as he directed the ball home, but the Dutch international was ruled offside following a Bernardo Silva free-kick. Another chance fell the way of Mateo Kovacic – a summer signing from Chelsea – whose low drive was blocked well and cleared. Julian Alvarez also had a shot that was saved at close range by Foderingham, but the Argentinian then couldn’t finish on the rebound.
In the 35th minute, City won a penalty after Alvarez’s cross caught the arm of John Egan and referee Jarred Gillett pointed to the spot, and it was Haaland who stepped up to take it. However, to the surprise and relief of the home faithful, last season’s Golden Boot winner saw his spot kick come off the post and out! It was a miss that summed up Manchester City’s first half so far – all bark, no bite.
The Blades finally got forward in what was turning out to be a rather extraordinary first half, as Hamed Traore found some space on the edge of the City box. He whipped the ball towards intended target Osula, but Ederson collected the ball in time to prevent a shock opener.
As the first half neared its end, City continued to try and find the opener, but no chances came to fruition, as a defensively resolute Blades side kept the Champions at bay.
The second half kicked off in a similar vein to the first half with City keeping the ball and creating the chances, as Rodri unleashed a high driven effort, which rocketed over the bar. Erling Haaland also had the chance to atone for his penalty miss in the first half, but his close range effort somehow curled just wide of Wes Foderingham’s bottom right corner.
Just before the hour mark, another chance arrived for Rodri. An excellent first touch led to an unusually tame effort from the Spanish international that drifted wide. Blades stopper Foderingham then made a superb close range save from Haaland, before watching Alvarez’s latest effort a few moments later come back off the post and out.
City continued to build pressure on the Blades, and because of that, they finally found the opener. Jack Grealish found some space down the left hand side and delivered a sumptuous cross in for – guess who – Erling Haaland, who had the simple task of heading the ball in the net at the far post. It was an opener that City’s dominance had fully warranted, but it was also harsh on the home side, who had defended heroically.
Haaland had the ball in the net eight minutes after his opener, but the flag went up for offside as the Norwegian thought he’d scored again.
After being starved of the ball for so long, Sheffield United finally recorded their first shots all game. A long throw-in from Jack Robinson was cleared, but only as far as Gustavo Hamer – a summer signing from Coventry City – whose low drive was blocked wonderfully by Ruben Dias. A second attempt soon followed as Ederson’s clearance landed at the feet of Anel Ahmedhozic, whose lob drifted just wide of the top left corner. Substitute Oli McBurnie also headed just wide from a corner soon after.
City almost found an answer to that brief spell of Sheffield United pressure, but Julian Alvarez’s free kick was excellently saved by Foderingham. The resulting corner was cleared after Jack Grealish’s pinpoint delivery into the Sheffield United box. Another chance arrived moments for Kovacic, but his low shot was saved comfortably by Foderingham.
In what was an extraordinary twist of events, the Blades found an equaliser six minutes from time. Former Blade Kyle Walker’s backheel in the Manchester City box was intercepted by Benie Traore, but the ball was cleared just in time. The ball then found its way to substitute Jayden Bogle, who looked up and fired home a leveller past Ederson.
However, any dreams that Blades fans may have had of an unlikely result against the Champions were shattered only two minutes from time as City found that precious winner. Kyle Walker’s ball into the box came off substitute Phil Foden, and from that deflection, it then fell to Rodri who unleashed a ferocious strike into the top corner to send the away end into raptures.
All in all, a day in which City remained dominant and resilient throughout and deservedly picked up the points. However, for the Blades, they are left still looking for their first point of the Premier League season.
Manchester City return to the Etihad Stadium next Saturday to face Fulham, while Sheffield United travel to League One side Lincoln City on Wednesday evening. City kick off at 3pm, while the Blades’ Carabao Cup tie at the LNER Stadium kicks off at 7:45pm.