Manchester City salvaged a 2-2 draw against Middlesbrough, thanks to a late equaliser in a thrilling match at the Riverside.
Nobody probably even expected this game to be as much of a nail-biter as it was. Both sides faced their share of ups and downs, and finally a late equaliser helped City tie with Middlesbrough. However, while the draw must’ve been a relief for City, it must’ve been equally miserable for Middlesbrough, after having come so close to beating Pep Guardiola’s squad.
Guardiola’s Manchester City line-up was rather startling, to say the least. What came as the biggest shock was possibly the introduction of a back three. The decision could’ve been influenced by seeing how well that tactic worked for Arsenal.
Having said that, Guardiola has tried the same tactic earlier this season. After their humiliating 4-2 away defeat against Leicester City, Guardiola did admit that perhaps he pushed the players a little too much, owing to his frequent changes in formation.
Unfortunately for Guardiola, it did not quite work out, and Middlesbrough’s first goal almost seemed like it was bound to happen.
The basic problem was the fact that City need two proficient wing-backs, if they are serious about implementing a back three. The boss recognized his error after the first half, and switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half.
The second half also saw Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling join the game to add to the attack. Middlesbrough sort of gave up after securing a lead, and City wasted no time to capitalise on the same. The changes worked and City fought hard for a well-deserved point.
Here are the five talking points in the game:
Middlesbrough edge closer to relegation
Although Middlesbrough avoided a defeat, they still remain precariously close to getting relegated in their first season back in the top-flight. They face Chelsea in their next match, and facing the league leaders while being close to relegation isn’t an ideal position to be in.
If they lose against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, it might just be enough to guarantee relegation for Steve Agnew’s side.
Middlesbrough have failed to do much this season, and most of their performances were below average. While they do have a defence which is steady enough, their attacking power is extremely feeble and almost non-existent.
They have also scored the lowest goals so far along with Sunderland, but they’ve considered a lot less than the other teams in the bottom half, which goes to show how they are in dire need of a good attack.
It will be a Herculean task for them to even play on par with Chelsea, let alone beat them at Stamford Bridge. The future might seem dim for Boro, but this should be a time for them to seriously rebuild their attack.
Gabriel Jesus picks up from where he left off
As mentioned earlier, Pep Guardiola’s selections for last night’s game, came as a massive surprise to a lot of people. Players like Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure were left out of the starting XI, while youngsters like Aleix Garcia and Gabriel Jesus came in.
Jesus showed promise but then had to be ruled out for a long time after enduring an injury. However, last night, he picked up from where left off as he scored that late equaliser which Manchester City desperately needed. It is evident that Jesus has been an integral part of Guardiola’s plans, even to the point where he was picked instead of stalwart Sergio Aguero.
Recently, however, the City boss did talk about how both Jesus and Aguero can be utilised in a variety of options, as he can either use both or one of them, depending on what the situation demands.
It might be too soon to say whether or not the duo can form a lethal combination, but based on what we saw last night, they might just be the new deadly duo of the Premier League if they play together more often.
Will Sergio Aguero add to City’s injury list?
In what could possibly be a concern for Manchester City, Aguero limped off towards the end of the game with Middlesbrough. If he is seriously injured again, it’ll be a major blow to him, as well as the team, given his amazing form right now.
Hopefully, it is not as much of a big deal and probably some minor muscular issue as he still has four games to play, and perhaps record his best season as far as goals are concerned.
Aguero has been electrifying in the last couple of weeks, and he’s been a delight to watch. It took him some time to find his footing again after returning from an injury earlier, and Guardiola will be hoping that the Argentine player is able to continue with his form.
Meanwhile, David Silva should be in line to return against Crystal Palace and Yaya Toure, who was rested against Boro will be available. There’s also Fabian Delph and John Stones waiting in line, and might play against Palace.
Vincent Kompany is regaining his old confidence
Initially, there were reports of arguments between Guardiola and Kompany on his playing style, and it even came to a point where Kompany was rumoured to quit Manchester City. Last night’s game saw yet another positive performance from Kompany, following a couple of good games after which Guardiola praised the captain.
With Guardiola’s ever-changing formations, it seemed impossible to find the right spot for Kompany, and his future at the club seemed rather bleak as newer and fresher talent joined the squad.
Kudos to Kompany for keeping himself focused and fight back. It did reward him well as he has enjoyed five starts in the last six games this month, and based on his performances, its obvious that he has regained his mojo.
The fact that Kompany is now becoming a better player for City can save Guardiola some big bucks as the transfer window approaches.
Middlesbrough’s anger at the referee
Possibly the biggest talking point of the game was during the second half as Aguero slid a ball through for substitute Leroy Sane inside the box, and Sane fell (read: dived) over the leg of Marten de Roon. Almost immediately, referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot, as the angry fans erupted across the stadium.
The decision sparked anger among the players as well as Fabio was held back by Ben Gibson, as de Roon plead his innocence, but to no avail. The decision was made, and people were quick to figure out that it was a dive on Sane’s part, and the fans in the stadium broke out in angry chants.
‘You’re not fit to referee’ echoed around the Riverside, while Sergio Aguero made no mistake from 12 yards to level the score, making it his third goal against Boro this season.