Sunday Mirror

LIVE AND LET FLY

Pep: We’ve lost our li­cence to thrill

- By JOHN RICHARD­SON at Bra­mall Lane Sports · Soccer · Josep Guardiola · Sheffield United F.C. · Sheffield · Kyle Walker · Chris Wilder · France · France national football team · Marseille · Olympique de Marseille · FC Barcelona · Barcelona · England national football team · England · Raheem Sterling · Kevin De Bruyne · Panama · Diego Maradona · James Bond film series · West Ham United F.C. · Riyadh · Manchester City Football Club · Manchester · South Yorkshire · Aaron Ramsdale · Rodrigo · Sean Connery · Riyad Mahrez · John Lundstram

EYE SPY

Pep Guardi­ola has spot­ted City’s scor­ing prob­lem.

HAL­LOWEEN spe­cial­ists Manchester City were at it again as they try and put the fright­en­ers on their ti­tle-race ri­vals.

But on the day of spooks and ghostly spir­its, any­one search­ing for a bag of goals in­stead of ghouls from Pep Guardi­ola’s side would have been bit­terly dis­ap­pointed.

Free-flow­ing in the first half – but with just a cul­tured strike from for­mer Sh­effield United player Kyle Walker on his 100th City Premier League game to show for it – the vis­i­tors took their foot off the gas and spared Chris Wilder’s side a hid­ing.

Whether the demons of a slug­gish start to their do­mes­tic cam­paign have been ex­or­cised only time will tell.

No Premier League side has had more suc­cess on Oc­to­ber 31 than City – and at first it ap­peared that the con­fi­dent, stri­dent foot­ball witnessed in the south of France against Mar­seille in mid­week had been brought to South York­shire.

Guardi­ola, who has again knocked back over­tures from for­mer club Barcelona, said: “We played re­ally well in the first half and cre­ated a lot of chances but we strug­gled with scor­ing goals.

“When you ar­rive in the sec­ond half at 1-0 any­thing can hap­pen. ppen. They had just st one clear chance ance in the 90 minut es e s which h was good d for us.

“But when we ar­rived d in the fi­nal nal t h i rd we were not ot as clin­i­cal as we were be­fore efore and that’s un­for­tu­nate.

“Scor­ing nine goals in six games is not enough.

“I un­der­stand com­pletely why, many rea­sons.”

A sky- blue tide had threat­ened to en­gulf the home side at first, with Aaron Rams­dale do­ing his best to erect a one- man dam.

Smart saves had de­nied Fer­ran Tor­res twice and Ro­dri be­fore City made their early dom­i­nance pay through the un­likely fig­ure of Walker – whose last goal had been al­most 12 months ago.

But given the big build-up, with Guardi­ola in­sist­ing the Eng­land man was in the form of his life, the 30- year- old didn’t dis­ap­point.

As Ra­heem Ster­ling caused trou­ble down the left flank, Kevin De Bruyne took over and his cro cross- field ball found fou the a dv a n c i n g Wal Walker who st stead­ied h him­sel f b be­fore f fir­ing low f from 25 y yards in into the co cor­ner pa past a d de­spai esp r ing Ramsda Rams­dale.

But af­ter aft be­ing a boy­hood Blade, there were no cel­e­bra­tions from Walker.

His ec­static team-mates, now look­ing to get their do­mes­tic cam­paign back on track, more than made up for it.

Walker said: “My mum and dad still live here so if I’d have cel­e­brated they would have got a lot of stick.

“Any­way I’m also a big Sh­effield United fan so there was no way that I’d cel­e­brate.”

Leg­end has it that for­mer Blades boss Harry Haslam just missed out on bring­ing a 17-year-old Maradona to the club. When they are in this mood it would take a few Maradonas to halt a City side clearly stung by their in­dif­fer­ent start to their do­mes­tic cam­paign.

In homage to de­parted film leg­end

Sir Sean

Con­nery a se­lec­tion of the James Bond themes were played.

The home side def­i­nitely needed to be shaken af­ter not stir­ring in the open­ing half.

But what ap­peared to be purely dam­age lim­i­ta­tion for United turned into some brief op­ti­mism as City’s early storm ap­peared to have blown it­self out.

There was still time for De Bruyne to force Rams­dale to turn a fierce free-kick around the post and then deny Riyad Mahrez be­fore the Blades sud­denly burst into life.

Their best mo­ment came from San­der Berge cut­ting into the area and set­ting up sub­sti­tute John Lund­stram whose close-range ef­fort sped over the bar. Not ex­actly the way to en­hance his chances of a new im­proved con­tract.

By now City were con­tent to run down the clock with Ster­ling not so ef­fec­tive af­ter be­ing dou­ble marked.

For Blades boss Wilder the pain con­tin­ues, just one point from seven games now in the af­ter­math of last sea­son’s stun­ning per­for­mance in the Premier League af­ter their pro­mo­tion.

Wilder in­sisted: “Any­one think­ing we can go toe to toe with Manchester City are de­luded.

“City have spent £1bil­lion on their struc­ture and have some in­cred­i­ble play­ers.”

Any­one who thinks that Sh­effield United are able to go toe-to-toe with this Manchester City side are de­luded...

 ??  ?? THUN­DER BALLED Kyle Walker blasted long-range win­ner
THUN­DER BALLED Kyle Walker blasted long-range win­ner

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