Manchester City fans arrived at the Etihad on Sunday expecting to see evidence of the greatest team in Premier League history. They were, in all honesty and likelihood, expecting a romp. There were records to be broken and a party to be had.
Instead, they witnessed something they hadn’t witnessed all season at home: a goalless draw.
City will still enjoy its postgame celebration. Fans still stormed the pitch at the final whistle. Players still queued up to receive their winners medals. But Sunday belonged to Huddersfield Town. And it could ultimately prove to be crucial at the bottom of the table.
Huddersfield became the first Premier League side to keep a clean sheet at City in 2017-18, and claimed a point that could prove crucial in the battle to avoid relegation. It moved three points clear of both Swansea in 18th place and Southampton in 17th.
The Terriers, for the second time this season against City, fought and scrapped with relentless enthusiasm and courage. Their defensive line sunk increasingly deep, but the intensity of their challenges never wavered. Every clearance was emphatic. Every tackle was spot on. And this time, unlike in a 2-1 loss to City back in November, they held on for a result.
They are not safe. Not quite. They have two games remaining, against Chelsea and Arsenal, and they’ll be underdogs in both. They will still sweat out the final week of the campaign. But they are much closer than they were hours before the City clash.
They were huge underdogs on Sunday as well. They had been limping toward the finish line, having scored just two goals in seven games. And with three Big Six opponents to close the campaign, there was almost an assumption that Huddersfield would not pick up another point; that their Premier League survival would depend on other results.
There was certainly an assumption that City would break Premier League records for points, wins and perhaps goals on Sunday. And they likely still will next week. But Huddersfield beat the odds.
They’ve now scored only two goals themselves in their last eight. One more point, though, would surely be enough. Two definitely would be sufficient to secure another season in the top flight. That won’t appear to be a remarkable accomplishment, given the Terriers strong start to the season. But according to manager David Wagner, and given the quality in the squad that came up from the second tier, it would be a “miracle.”
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