Huddersfield Town 0 Manchester City 0
Man of the Match: Philip Billing (Huddersfield)
If achievements in other competitions are measured in pounds, dollars and euros, the FA Cup produces less by way of prize money but plenty in terms of pride.
“A clean sheet against Manchester City makes our chest bigger,” said Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner.
His team are in elite company. Only Tottenham Hotspur, Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton had previously prevented a free-scoring Manchester City side from finding the net.
Huddersfield’s excellence could be measured in a compliment.
“Congratulations to Huddersfield,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “They are a really good team.”
Wagner could not quite emulate his best man, Jurgen Klopp, whose Liverpool beat City in December, but nor did he come off second best. Huddersfield might yet reach the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1972. A promotion-chasing group may pull off greater feats but they have already accomplished much.
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City had won their previous four games, all against top-flight opposition, scoring 11 goals. They had struck eight times in two FA Cup games against Premier League rivals. They were halted by a side third in the Championship.
“We wanted to show we are one of the fittest teams in the competition and we are aggressive and brave. All of this we have proved,” Wagner said.
In the process, Huddersfield gave a manager who has seen much a novel experience. “I will play a replay for the first time in my life,” Guardiola said. His first tastes of the FA Cup had been cruises. City were in rockier waters on Huddersfield’s bumpy pitch.
Wagner’s charges share his can-do mentality. He shares Klopp’s footballing philosophy, unsurprisingly given their shared past at Borussia Dortmund. “They are so aggressive, so dynamic,” Guardiola said.
He made eight changes, Wagner seven. Huddersfield seemed affected less, playing with their normal rhythm. City’s stand-ins stood out, for better and worse. Claudio Bravo had not made a save since January 2 — perhaps a deceptive statistic, given he had only made two appearances since then, even if he did concede six goals in that time — but rendered that fact outdated in the second minute.
The recalled Chilean went to produce two better stops, tipping Jack Payne’s free kick away and blocking a Rajiv van la Parra effort. “Brilliant,” said Guardiola, who also called the much-maligned goalkeeper’s efforts “amazing”.
Bravo does not have a monopoly on long waits. Jesus Navas has gone 13 months without a goal, but when Joel Coleman blocked Nolito’s effort, the rebound fell invitingly for the Spaniard. Navas beat the goalkeeper, but not Mark Hudson, who was on sentry duty on the line.
Nolito also had a volley tipped wide, but Coleman’s real duel was with Sergio Aguero. With Gabriel Jesus sidelined and an opportunity to reclaim his place, the Argentine returned to the starting 11 displaying persistence but not the clinical touch he exhibits at his best. A lob cleared the crossbar and Coleman twice saved.
Guardiola summoned Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane for the last quarter — a third substitute, Raheem Sterling, was targeted when a bottle was thrown at him though it missed, but City did not fashion enough chances.
They lacked their usual invention and incision but not effort, perhaps because they fielded a beefed-up midfield, with Fabian Delph in David Silva’s usual role and Fernando also included. Guardiola understood the physical challenge Huddersfield presented. He was not surprised, he claimed, nor frustrated. Nor has the replay changed plans. City are still due in the UAE for a mid-season break this week, and they will return on Saturday.
By then, the leg injury that ruled Vincent Kompany out — “not a big, big issue,” Guardiola said — should be consigned to the past. A reunion with Huddersfield lies in the immediate future.
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