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In this instalment of our season-long review, we look back to the New Year…
After City’s Premier League winning streak ended through goalless draw with Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve, the Blues entered 2018 in blistering fashion.
Just 38 seconds into our clash against Watford and Raheem Sterling took us 1-0 up at the Etihad with – at that time – the fastest Premier League goal of the season. By 13 minutes, we had doubled our lead against the Hornets through an own goal from Christian Kabasele and it was evident that City were somewhat revitalised after dropping points at Selhurst Park just days before.
Sergio Aguero wrote his name on the scoresheet mid-way through the second half to seal the three points, and although the visitors pulled a late goal back, it was clear that Pep’s side were fully in the driving seat.
Our Watford win was followed just days later by a third round FA Cup clash against Burnley. At this point we’d already secured a 3-0 win over Sean Dyche’s side in the League, but when Ashley Barnes hammered a strike past Claudio Bravo it looked as though it might be a different story.
Trailing at the break and a place in the next round of the competition at stake, City’s dogged determination was unleashed in the second half.
Clever link ups between Iklay Gundogan and Aguero saw us equalise and move into the lead just minutes later thanks to the duos' moments of magic.
On the back of our FA Cup victory, City’s focus turned to our Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Championship side Bristol City. With Wembley calling and Pep Guardiola’s first English trophy in touching distance, the Blues entered the clash all-guns blazing.
It looked as though we would enter half-time level until the Robins were awarded a penalty on the stroke of the break when Bobby Reid was brought down in the box. The visitors converted and the away support erupted.
Cue Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian managed to break through the thick sea of Bristol jerseys with a quick one-two with Sterling to level up the scoreline, but it was Aguero who came off the bench to break deadlock.
The topscorer’s last gasp winner meant that the Blues took a narrow – but valuable - lead to Ashton Gate in the second leg.
Next, a highly anticipated trip to Anfield.
The game was very much a seesaw clash, with Sane expertly cancelling out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s early goal to leave the game at deadlock as both sides entered the tunnel on 45 minutes.
But a whirlwind second half with quickfire goals from Liverpool trio Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah put Jurgen Klopp’s side 4-1 up in a nine minute flurry.
The Blues threatened to stage a lung-bursting comeback as Bernardo and Gundogan both struck the target late on, but it wasn’t to be and City slipped to their first Premier League defeat of the season (and the first since April 2017).
City didn’t stop to lick their wounds, instead the hunger and determination was thrown into our next Premier League clash against Newcastle.
This time, an Aguero hat-trick sealed the three points and pushed us back on track to extend our lead at the top of the table. The trio of strikes marked his 12th, 13th, and 14th goals over the Magpies and the fans absolutely lapped it up at the Etihad.
It was a win City absolutely needed, and proved to Pep the resilience and strength of his squad.
Having beaten Bristol City 2-1 just two weeks before, Guardiola’s men travelled to Ashton Gate for Round 2.
We firmly booked our place in the final against Arsenal with a final 5-3 aggregate victory, although the Robins threatened to fight back in the closing stages of the game. A goal either side of half-time from Sane and Aguero gave us a leg up to Wembley, while De Bruyne – quite literally – won the match with the final kick of the game.
Games came thick and fast in January, and just 5 days after our Carabao Cup semi-final we returned to FA Cup action to face Cardiff City in the fourth round of the competition. The Blues cruised through.
After just eight minutes, KDB’s cunning and cheeky free-kick slid underneath the jumping Bluebirds’ wall and into the back of the net. As a result, the travelling City fans erupted to the coolness of his shot while ‘keeper Neil Elderidge continued to look bewildered.
The free kick completely set the tone of the match and City marched on, with Sterling’s header cementing the scoreline before the break.
Despite the win, the game was somewhat marred by Leroy Sane’s ankle injury as he was brought to the ground via a reckless challenge from Joe Bennett. Luckily the German international made a quicker than expected recovery, but it was a worry to see.
However, the month ended on a high with a comfortable 3-0 win over West Brom. At this point, our lead had already been sliced down to 12 points and it was clear that Pep Guardiola did not want to drop anymore.
His wish was granted as City moved 15 points clear on a night when January signing Aymeric Laporte made an impressive debut at the Etihad. We pinned the Baggies back in their own half for a majority of the clash and simply dominated. Fernandinho broke deadlock in the 19th minute and although the fans had to wait until the second half for Aguero and De Bruyne’s strikes it was well worth the wait.It was a brilliant end to yet another great month for City, and it’s easy to forget how successful it was simply because of our narrow loss at Anfield. Aguero was rightly named the Premier League Player of the Month after netting five times in four months and the Blues ended January 15 points clear at the summit of the table.
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