Men's Team

Club records and late winners: November

Club records and late winners: November
The six games played in November are perhaps best viewed as offering an epitome of the traits that enabled City to break all manner of records on the way to becoming Premier League champions in the 2017/18 season.

Pep Guardiola’s side showcased the unrivalled fluency of their brilliant best, and, just as importantly, the invaluable ability to snatch victories at difficult away grounds, come from behind and score late, late winners when performing short of their full potential.

The 100-per-cent records from September and October were matched with six wins from six in a month that saw the Blues qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League and end the month eight points clear at the top of the table, with the winning run extended to 19 successive games in all competitions.

November began with City securing their berth in the last-16 of the Champions League by expertly putting four past Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo, where the Italian outfit had previously conceded just three goals all season.

All the more impressive was the manner in which Sergio Agüero scored the goal that put City 3-2 up, breaking Eric Brook’s 78-year record as City’s leading marksman with his 178th City strike in just 264 appearances. “He’s a legend for the club, for the history, and everybody has to be so proud of that,” Pep Guardiola said afterwards of the Argentine’s achievement.

POWER: Sergio Agüero bursts through the Napoli defence on his way to scoring a club-record 178th City goal.
POWER: Sergio Agüero bursts through the Napoli defence on his way to scoring a club-record 178th City goal.

The strike knocked the wind out of Napoli’s sails, despite, in Guardiola’s view, the Italian side having “destroyed us in the first 20 minutes”. Lorenzo Insigne sent Napoli ahead before a pair of headers from Nicolás Otamendi and John Stones gave City the advantage. Jorginho drew the hosts level before Agüero fired in his record-breaking strike to finish off an electric counter-attack and Raheem Sterling provided further evidence of his outstanding start to the season with City’s fourth on 92 minutes.

The Blues became the first English club to win in Naples and the four goals on the night increased the season’s tally to 49 from just 16 games. “Whenever it is going well it is easy,” Guardiola said, impressed by his side’s resilience. “The point is how in the bad moments the team can react and we did that well, that’s why I am so pleased.”

A return to Premier League action was up next with Arsenal the visitors to the Etihad Stadium. The Blues ran out 3-1 winners and it was telling of City’s blistering form that the result fractionally lowered the goals-per-game ratio for the season to date.

Guardiola’s side might have been short of their refined best but goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Agüero – whose goal-scoring record was honoured with the Blue Boot before the game – and substitute Gabriel Jesus rendered Alexandre Lacazette’s strike – to make it 2-1 – a mere consolation as olés rang around the Etihad.

The exceptional goal-scoring tally was taken to 52 from 17 matches in all competitions, prompting Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger to ask: “Can anyone stop them?”

Guardiola was particularly pleased to claim another top-six scalp. “If you want to win the Premier League, you have to win, especially at home, against Liverpool, United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea,” he said. “The players did an amazing performance. Twelve points more than Liverpool and Arsenal is a lot in November, and eight more than Tottenham [and United].”

An international break followed and the resumption of the Premier League saw Vincent Kompany return to make his first appearance in more than two months against Leicester.

The Blues had lost the corresponding fixture 4-2 the previous season and it was evidence still of City’s immense form that City put two unanswered goals past the Foxes to record a 10th consecutive league win.

After weathering an early Jamie Vardy-induced storm, Gabriel Jesus demonstrated his knack of popping up in the right place at the right time to finish off a wonderful passing move to break the deadlock. De Bruyne then scored a customary goal in a performance that was only dampened by a hamstring injury to Stones that would see the defender sidelined for a month.

ROCKET: Kevin De Bruyne fires in City's second of the game against Leicester.
ROCKET: Kevin De Bruyne fires in City's second of the game against Leicester.

The boss was happy but knew that his side had more to give. “We scored two amazing goals, but we created a lot more promising situations,” he said. “We could still be a little better in the final action.”

The Blues’ relentless form continued in the Champions League with a late Sterling winner securing three points against Feyenoord at home to ensure that Guardiola’s side won Group F with a game to spare.

The then-22-year-old finally broke the Dutch outfit’s stubborn defence with a delicate chip in the 88th minute for his 11th of the campaign. City had recorded 76 per cent of the possession but it took an inspired finish from Sterling to keep City’s incredible winning run intact.

“He’s enjoying scoring important goals,” Guardiola said afterwards. “Scoring goals is so important for our wingers and strikers. It’s good but I always say the same, he’s still young, still he can improve.”

DINK: Raheem Sterling scores a late winner against Feyenord as City win Group F in the Champions League.
DINK: Raheem Sterling scores a late winner against Feyenord as City win Group F in the Champions League.

The game marked a transition in City’s squad with 17-year-old Phil Foden, fresh from winning the under-17 World Cup with England, making his City debut by replacing Yaya Touré on 75 minutes. Brahim Díaz also made his first Champions League appearance and Guardiola was delighted with the resources at his disposal.

“I want to say a big congratulations to the academy,” he said. “The club has to be so proud to have two young players on 17 and 18 years old making their first appearances in the Champions League. Hopefully they can stay for a long time and help us develop the club.”

YOUNG FOR OLD: Phil Foden makes his City debut, replacing Yaya Toure.
YOUNG FOR OLD: Phil Foden makes his City debut, replacing Yaya Toure.

Sterling was again at hand to snatch a late winner in the Premier League against Huddersfield. Otamendi had put through his own net before Agüero levelled the scores for Sterling’s 84th-minute strike to ensure what was, rather incredibly, City’s first win after being behind at half-time since 1995. It was a further indication of the resilience and stoutness that underpinned the Blues’ attacking flare.

Captain Kompany knew only too well what such a result signified: “Today was what epitomises the Premier league. it’s a bit colder, it’s a bit harder to move the ball, and they defended well. I feel the team deserved the win because we kept at it.

“You don’t ever go into the game thinking it’s not a big three points, but this one’s even bigger because we were 1-0 down and we ran out of options at some points.”

City rounded off an incredible month fittingly with another late goal from Sterling to secure a 2-1 win over Southampton at the Etihad. De Bruyne had put City ahead before Oriol Romeu drew the Saints level. What followed was perhaps the wildest celebration at the Etihad since the Agüero goal to win the league against QPR in 2012.

The England man cut in from the left and unleashed a curling effort in the 96th minute – with just 20 seconds remaining – which nestled into the top corned and prompted scenes of such jubilation that Benjamin Mendy, sidelined with a serious knee injury, took off down the touchline in hobbled-pursuit of Sterling who ran the length of the pitch with countless City players and staff in tow.

It was the cherry on the cake of a terrific month for the Blues and the third game in a row that Sterling had saved the day. “Mendy’s crazy,” an incredulous Guardiola said afterwards, smiling. “He has a six-month injury and he is running like that… disaster!”

Played: 6 Won: 6 Drew: 0 Lost: 0 For: 14 Against: 5

Etihad Player of the Month: Raheem Sterling