No case for the defence as City suffer derby blues

No case for the defence as City suffer derby blues
By Reuters

07/12/2019 at 22:06Updated 07/12/2019 at 22:09

By Peter Hall

MANCHESTER, England, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Defensive problems were again Manchester City's undoing as another damaging defeat, 2-1 to local rivals Manchester United, left their title hopes hanging by a thread on Saturday.

City travelled to Burnley in midweek having lost three of their previous 10 league games but put in a relentless showing, scoring sublime goals and defending with authority in a 4-1 win.

With United visiting the Etihad on the back of their joint-worst start to a Premier League season after 15 games, City looked favourites to continue their revival.

A below-par City, however, were blown away by United on the counter-attack in the first half, conceding two goals on their way to a defeat that left them a yawning 14 points behind leaders Liverpool.

In English top-flight history, no side has ever gone on to win the title after being as many as 14 points behind the top side.

DEFENSIVE CONCERNS

The goals have continued to flow this season -- City remain leading scorers in the top flight -- and Pep Guardiola's side continue to play the same way, dominating possession.

Offensively, against United, City had 22 shots at goal, and almost 72% possession but, as has been the case for much of the season, it was defensive problems that undid them.

Every attack from United, especially in the first half, looked like ending in a goal. Other than their two goals, one a penalty from Marcus Rashford and the other a smart finish by Anthony Martial, United could, and probably should, have had more.

Rashford hit the crossbar, Jesse Lingard missed a good chance and City goalkeeper Ederson was forced into several smart saves in the opening 45 minutes.

"Us defenders need to hold our hands up,” City defender Kyle Walker said. "They have quick players and they are going to hurt you on the counter. They had a game plan and it worked."

That game plan is not a new one against City. Wolverhampton Wanderers beat City with 24% possession and two efforts on target at the Etihad in October and Norwich scored three times in a 3-2 victory in September with less than 32% of the ball.

"We have to try and improve against teams like this," Guardiola said. "Every week team are looking for these kind of situations.

"We conceded three or four counter attacks. Sometimes we control it, but sometimes we struggle."

The return of Aymeric Laporte from injury will help City's cause, but the problem for Guardiola now is the damage could well have been done.

Liverpool, unbeaten in the league all season, would need to lose at least five times with City winning every game until the end of the campaign for Guardiola's team to retain their crown. (Reporting by Peter Hall, editing by Ed Osmond)