REPORT: TOWN 0-0 MAN CITYA hard-working and energetic display earned Huddersfield Town a replay in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round as Premier League high-flyer Manchester City was held to a goalless stalemate in front of a record football attendance at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The Head Coach made seven changes to the eleven that started in Tuesday’s late win at Rotherham United; Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Joe Lolley, Collin Quaner and Philip Billing the only survivors. Chris Löwe made the bench after missing out in the Club’s previous match due to tight hamstrings, with Regan Booty also making the match-day eighteen.
The Terriers more than matched a star-studded Citizens side, with chances at both ends becoming a large factor in the outcome of the game; the first of which fell to the restored Rajiv van La Parra. The Dutch winger, who started on the left side of a usual 4-2-3-1 set-up, reminded the City back-line early doors that the attacking prowess of a side sat twenty-two places below them in the footballing pyramid was not going to give them an easy afternoon.
Chilean ‘keeper Claudio Bravo had to be sharp from the off; not only did van La Parra’s effort ensure his reflexes were up to scratch, the agility aspect of his game came into the fold as Nicolas Otamendi’s short back-pass was very nearly met by an on-rushing Collin Quaner.
However, the quality of Pep Guardiola’s City outfit was evident shortly after; a smart stop from Joel Coleman between the Town sticks to deny Sergio Aguero was followed up by an excellent decisive goal-line clearance from Skipper Mark Hudson to deny Navas.
To Town’s large defensive credit, the effort and desire to restrict a potent Sky Blues’ attack was gratefully appreciated by the 24,000+ crammed in to the terraces; firstly the impressive Jon Gorenc Stanković threw himself at Nolito’s goal-bound effort, before Mark Hudson showed an exceptional turn of pace to dash across the face of his own 18-yard block and deny the ever-dangerous Sergio Aguero once again; the Skipper providing another crucial rescue for Town after Philip Billing uncharacteristically gave the ball away to the Argentinian forward.
City’s number 10 was in the thick of the action yet again shortly after he was denied; a highly unfamiliar way of transition from Guardiola’s men saw a route one distribution from Bravo run straight through the heart of the Town defence. Aguero had the touch and skill to bring the ball down, but his resulting looping effort sailed over the cross-bar to the relief of a stricken Joel Coleman.
The solid Dean Whitehead largely restricted the amount of time ex-Leeds man Fabian Delph and Fernando had on the ball, with the flanks being used to full effect through live-wires Joe Lolley and Rajiv Van La Parra.
After Jack Payne’s dipping free-kick was tipped over the bar by Bravo, the resulting corner ended with City failing to clear their lines and the ball falling into the path of Philip Billing. Town’s number eight rifled home, only to send the home support into premature dream-land; only to see the linesman’s flag on the near side raised, cancelling out the Huddersfield opening goal.
Billing then had another pop at the Citizens’ net, only this time to see his effort trickle wide of Bravo’s left-hand post.
The hallmarks of a typical Manchester City response were quickly on show after the disallowed effort; Fernandinho slipped a clever ball through to Aguero, who once again saw his attempt thwarted by a determined Joel Coleman; the shot stopper pulling out two magnificent saves to keep the Terriers in a half which could’ve seen Town take an imperative lead into the break, but instead settling for a more than deserved intermission stalemate.
The blue half of Manchester flew out of the traps in the second period; Aguero once again proving to be a thorn in the side of the Town back-four after testing Coleman from the edge of the area. The same player then proceeded to waltz through a number of Town challenges before seeing his attempted through ball to Fernandinho marginally evade its target.
England international John Stones was the next to see an effort tail away from the Huddersfield net. The ex-Barnsley man rose highest to meet Nolito’s corner, before watching his glancing header evade every player stood within range of the six-yard area.
David Wagner proceeded to inject further energy in to the play with the double introduction of Elias Kachunga and Nahki Wells; a move which saw the hard-working Collin Quaner slot over to the left-hand side of the Town front-line. The Bermudian would instantly provide the required injection by winning his side a corner after confidently taking the ball past Serbian Aleksandar Kolarov on the right-wing.
Joel Coleman gave another good account of himself, this time by commanding his area in a delightfully convincing style after Kolarov volleyed an inventive Nolito corner back into the danger zone, before comfortably smothering the ball before an on-rushing Kevin De Bruyne could reach it.
The introductions of De Bruyne and Leroy Sane threatened to dismantle a Town performance which was built on the foundations of grit, determination and a sheer desire to get the ball down and match a side who will be competing in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.
However, those introductions paid little dividends as following a late Elias Kachunga effort ending up high and wide over the cross-bar, as well as a Philip Billing through ball to Wells being crucially cut-off by Zabaleta. The Terriers hung on to claim a superbly deserved replay at the Citizens’ Etihad Stadium and be in the hat for the Quarter-Final of the Emirates FA Cup.
Town’s team (4-2-3-1):
Joel Coleman; Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Mark Hudson (c), Martin Cranie; Philip Billing, Dean Whitehead; Rajiv Van La Parra (Nahki Wells, 59’), Jack Payne (Isaiah Brown, 72’), Joe Lolley (Elias Kachunga, 59’); Collin Quaner
Danny Ward, Tommy Smith, Chris Löwe, Regan Booty