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What did Pep say at half time? Man City scoring spree goes on

15:39 GMT 20/01/2019
Pep Guardiola, Man City
The champions were far from their best early on at Huddersfield but a quick burst after the break ensured they kept up the pressure on Liverpool

Pep Guardiola will have had some choice words for his Manchester City players at half-time in Huddersfield on Sunday. They worked, and the result was another City victory to keep them right on Liverpool's tails in a title race that promises to be one of the most thrilling in years.

City led 1-0 at the break but that came from a fortunate deflection, and for all of their possession they created little, and looked sluggish. It should be pointed out, given how bad a decision it was, that they should have had an early penalty when Terence Kongolo bundled Raheem Sterling over in the area. How referee Andre Marriner, and his assistant, decided it was not a penalty is beyond any reasonable witness.

If you ever want an advertisement for VAR, there it is.

But all the same, City were nowhere near their best. Kevin De Bruyne's only significant involvement was the pass to set Sterling free for the would-be penalty. Fernandinho gave the ball away often but fortunately for City he won it back just as quickly. Leroy Sane looked isolated, as he can do when faced with a couple of defenders and without David Silva to help him out.

The visitors barely looked like they would extend their lead, and we know Guardiola would not be happy with that. When he faced the inevitable inquest about his entire footballing philosophy amid the poor results over Christmas, he was asked if he should consider a more defensive approach after his teams go 1-0 up.

"Score another one," he insisted. "And another one, and another one."

Some journalists may not have grasped his ideas by now but his players have, so they will have been in for a rocket at half-time, despite their lead.

The much talked about Amazon documentary showed what Guardiola can be like when he's not happy with his team and while it may not have quite been at Wigan levels of ire - "Nobody talk!" he barked at his players. "Everybody wee, drink water and relax!" - it cannot have been far off, such was his side's dreariness.

Even if Huddersfield were themselves dreadful. The Premier League's bottom club are without a manager and seemingly without much hope of staying up - and their rumoured attempts to recruit Guardiola's highly rated No.2, Mikel Arteta, are doomed to failure.

On another day City could have been troubled by a team relying on set-pieces and counter-attacks but the Yorkshire side seemed incapable even of that. Their forays forward were aimless and quickly broken up, their corners usually met by either Aymeric Laporte or Nicolas Otamendi.

Yet stranger things have happened and it would have been a dreadful place to drop points.

Alas, they did not. Sane said Guardiola "woke City up" at half-time, and while he said there was no anger involved, the Catalan certainly got his point accross.

Less than 15 minutes into the second half they were 3-0 up. For the first, they may have benefitted from the kind of poor officiating that cost them that first-half penalty. Sane was marginally offside when he received the ball but the flag did not go up, leaving the German to dart in behind and fire in a cross that Sterling stooped to head in at the far post.

Most television viewers would have still been watching replays of the offside by the time City worked a way in yet again. The desire that Guardiola would have instilled in them at half-time was in evidence as they broke up a Huddersfield break in the hosts' own half, leaving them scattered across the pitch. Danilo's high ball forward was not perfect but Sergio Aguero's header was, cushioning the ball into the path of Sane, who raced in on goal and calmly passed the ball into the back of the net.

And that was that. City had strolled for the first 45 minutes and now, thanks to their quick one-two, they could do so again, this time safe in the knowledge they would be taking three points back to Manchester.

Fernandinho, who had been booked earlier on, came off almost straight away, kept fresh for harder challenges down the line. Especially as City have decided not to sign anybody in January. It is understood that Schalke's Sebastian Rudy will not be targeted, even on loan.

Huddersfield had a few chances as City dropped their tempo again, but again their lack of quality was evident.

"The way we played we didn't deserve more than three goals," Guardiola said afterwards. "We will improve in the future. We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it's difficult."

Even so, City cut Liverpool's lead down to four points and can now look forward to a couple of opportunities to cut it even further, as they kick off their next two fixtures before Jurgen Klopp's men.

This title race looks sure to go all the long as there is no repeat of the sluggish mentality witnessed in the first half here today. Guardiola will certainly be having more words to make sure that is not the case.