Sergio Aguero scored the winner after Gabriel Jesus’ missed penalty as Man City beat Sheff Utd 1-0 at Bramall Lane.
Aguero tucked in from close-range six minutes after replacing his regular strike partner from Kevin De Bruyne’s teasing low cross into the six-yard box, as Man City finally made their mounting chances count to break the deadlock 17 minutes from time.
They should have led well before that but Dean Henderson’s fine form kept them at bay. First he kept out Raheem Sterling’s goalbound effort with a wonderful flying save, but his best stop denied Gabriel Jesus from the penalty spot with another full-length dive after Chris Basham had fouled Riyad Mahrez.
After the break Sheff Utd improved and went close through substitute Lys Mousset and Oli McBurnie, but Aguero’s finish earned a deserved victory for Man City, who move six points clear of third-placed Leicester, who have a game in hand.
Aguero helps City come through tough test
It is hard to imagine that a manager who has won trophies wherever he has worked is claiming he can still learn from others, but that’s exactly what Pep Guardiola said prior to this game.
The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss spoke highly of Sheffield United under Chris Wilder, saying they are a team he can learn from.
For large periods of this game the Blades certainly gave Guardiola plenty to think about, with their disciplined and organised defence frustrating City for well over an hour.
In the end, Guardiola had to turn to the ever-reliable Aguero to get the job done.
At 31, the Argentina international is in the twilight years of his football career but is arguably enjoying some of his best form.
It took him just six minutes to get on the scoresheet after coming on for Jesus, who had struggled to get the better of the Blades’ defence.
Aguero has now scored 21 goals in just 23 appearances in all competitions this season, including eight in his last five appearances.
The league title may be increasingly out of reach for City but Aguero’s form could be vital for their aspirations in other competitions.
Just as crucial, though, could be the return of Aymeric Laporte. Injuries have meant Guardiola has often had to field a makeshift defence this season but Laporte made a surprise return at Bramall Lane after five months out with injury.
The result was a first clean sheet since City hosted Sheffield United at the Etihad at the end of December and Guardiola was delighted with the French player’s return.
“We miss him the lot,” he said. “Imagine if the best teams in the world lose their best central defenders.
“We knew he could not play 90 minutes. He is an incredible guy. He was exceptional. It is good news for us.”