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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Player ratings as Bernardo & Grealish end winless run for the Cityzens –

Manchester City had to come from behind to defeat Luton Town away from home on Sunday afternoon, bringing an end to the club’s four-game winless run in the Premier League with a 2-1 win.

“Liverpool and Arsenal have struggled to win there,” Pep Guardiola warned ahead of City’s visit to Hertfordshire. “It will be no different for us.” And so it proved.

Elijah Adebayo’s header on the cusp of half-time had Luton ahead and dreaming. But Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish fired City in front, keeping Guardiola’s side within four points of leaders Liverpool.


How the game unfolded

Manchester City limped into the contest reeling from arguably the most convincing defeat of Guardiola’s tenure, a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa which the Catalan coach likened to a “punch in the face”.

Erling Haaland’s enforced absence through injury was another blow for the champions ahead of kick off and Adebayo connected with City’s glass chin to nudge Luton in front seconds before the half-time whistle.

The visitors had been utterly dominant across the opening 45 minutes of the contest, denying Luton a sniff of Ederson’s goal while forcing Thomas Kaminski into a flurry of saves.

Yet, the game was still goalless when Ross Barkley pirouetted past Rodri and Bernardo Silva in his own half, sparking a rare surge upfield. Andros Townsend swung an inviting cross to the back post for Adebayo to gobble up, towering above Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias to nod the hosts into a scarcely believable lead.

Guardiola certainly couldn’t get his head around the situation. City’s frazzled coach argued fiercely with the referee as both sides went down the tunnel at half-time.

The champions may not have had Haaland in their ranks but Rodri was back. Faced with Luton’s obdurate low block, the talismanic midfielder barged through the tangerine mass, driving into the box and the home team’s captain Tom Lockyer. The ball broke favourably for Bernardo Silva to take a swing, picking out the bottom corner with City’s 15th attempt of the afternoon.

City’s 16th effort also found the back of the net. Much like Rodri, Jack Grealish had been suspended for the trip to Villa Park. Upon his return, Grealish capped off a crisp counterattack, hauling City ahead within three minutes of their equaliser.

There were some nervy moments over the final half-hour, with Guardiola delivering a nod of respect to Rob Edwards’ side by making a substitution solely to waste time. Yet, City held on to rediscover what winning felt like.


Luton player ratings (3-4-3)

Elijah Adebayo has scored in consecutive appearances for Luton / JUSTIN TALLIS/GettyImages

GK: Thomas Kaminski – 8/10 – Despite conceding twice, Kaminski managed to maintain his miraculous form, capable of rebuffing efforts from range and scampering off his line.

CB: Teden Mengi – 6/10 – Stayed tucked in to make a compact backline and limit the half-spaces that City so love to exploit.

CB: Tom Lockyer – 6/10 – Faced with a wondering forward, Lockyer followed Alvarez even when he dropped onto the halfway line. This approach paid dividends for much of the contest.

CB: Amari’i Bell – 4/10 – Gave away the ball for City’s second goal, getting tangled up by his own feet.

RWB: Alfie Doughty – 5/10 – Offered a consistent threat from set pieces but struggled against Josko Gvardiol in open play.

CM: Marvelous Nakamba – 6/10 – Snapping into a flurry of tackles in a busy midfield display.

CM: Ross Barkley – 7/10 – The risk of spinning inside his own half with two opposition players around him was rewarded with Luton’s opener.

LWB: Ryan Giles – 6/10 – Not overly involved in the final third, keeping his passing simple and safe.

RW: Andros Townsend – 7/10 – Full of zip and fizz, the 32-year-old delivered an exquisite cross to crack open the champions.

ST: Elijah Adebayo – 8/10 – A physical mismatch against almost every defender in the division, Adebayo’s aerial supremacy was evident outside of his goal.

LW: Jacob Brown – 4/10 – Leapt two-footed into Phil Foden yet escaped a red card, somehow.


Substitutes

SUB: Carlton Morris (72′ for Townsend) – 5/10

SUB: Albert Sambi Lokonga (72′ for Nakamba) – 5/10

SUB: Tahith Chong (84′ for Giles) – N/A

SUB: Jordan Clark (90′ for Lockyer) – N/A

Subs not used: Tim Krul (GK), Mads Juel Andersen, Joseph Johnson, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Luke Berry


Manager

Rob Edwards – 5/10 – On his first anniversary as Luton boss, Edwards’ side almost produced the ultimate victory of his tenure. Regardless of the result, Luton succeeded in getting City “out of their comfort zone”.


Man City player ratings (4-2-3-1)

Josko Gvardiol

Josko Gvardiol (left) was part of a backline that once again failed to keep a clean sheet / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

GK: Ederson – 6/10 – Outrageously composed even with a giant orange-clad figure haring towards him.

RB: Kyle Walker – 4/10 – Pushed right up the wing to overload Luton’s back five but not nearly as useful in City’s defensive third.

CB: Ruben Dias – 4/10 – Bullied by Adebayo, the form that Dias briefly seemed to have recovered against Villa swiftly evaporated again.

CB: Nathan Ake – 6/10 – Carried out what sporadic defensive work he had without a fuss.

LB: Josko Gvardiol – 5/10 – Unusually adventurous, cantering up the left flank regularly with mixed success.

CM: Rodri – 8/10 – The one tackle that he missed in midfield was punished by Luton’s opener. Otherwise, Rodri brought his usual suffocating influence.

CM: Mateo Kovacic – 3/10 – Painfully uninspired on the ball, tamely rolling it square when faced with the faintest whisper of orange.

AM: Phil Foden – 7/10 – Collected the ball between the lines superbly, dancing between the gaps but without that end product.

RW: Bernardo Silva – 7/10 – A right winger in name only, sauntering everywhere from the base of midfield to the left flank. Unsurprisingly, Bernardo was in the right place to

ST: Julian Alvarez – 6/10 – Subdued for large swathes but forced the turnover before teeing up City’s second goal.

LW: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Took his goal well but had spent more of the match on the outside peering in.


Substitutes

SUB: John Stones (69′ for Gvardiol) – 5/10

SUB: Matheus Nunes (83′ for Kovacic) – N/A

SUB: Manuel Akanji (90′ for Foden) – N/A

Subs not used: Stefan Ortega (GK), Scott Carson (GK), Rico Lewis, Kalvin Phillips, Sergio Gomez, Oscar Bobb


Manager

Pep Guardiola – 6/10 – Seemed to be rattled at one point but didn’t let that nervous energy seep into his side, who were worthy winners.

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