Anxiety in the stands ramps up title tension at Manchester City

The joviality around the Etihad as Man City fans ridiculed neighbours United with a pile of DUNG before the game was replaced by anxiety in the stands as the title tension was ramped up in nervy first half against Brighton

  • Tension was ramped up for Pep Guardiola and his players on Wednesday night 
  • Riyad Mahrez finally made the breakthrough after a frustrating opening period
  • Phil Foden needed the aid of a deflection to beat the goalkeeper for the second
  • Midfielder Bernardo Silva wrapped up the scoring late on against Brighton

Someone went on a dung hunt when they arrived. A quest to locate horse manure. There was a little, neatly-written message to go with it. ‘If found, return to Old Trafford!’ it read, waiting for Manchester City supporters to ridicule their beleaguered neighbours.

And they did, crowding around, gleefully taking pictures. Two members of the local constabulary, both on horseback, roared with laughter as they trotted past.

They found it so funny that they circled round for a second look. They even had their own snaps taken before riding off elsewhere.

Manchester City fans ridiculed their beleaguered neighbours with this stunt before the game

That was half-an-hour before kick-off and the levity, the joviality, stopped not long after. Brought to a juddering halt by referee Mike Dean’s first peep of his whistle. The plight of Manchester United was not quite so amusing then. More important things were in play.

The Etihad was edgy for much of last night. Really, really edgy. A dome of nervous energy. Sharp intakes of breath when Brighton had the temerity to enter City’s final third, collective winces as crosses evaded everyone.

Gasps as a midfielder gave the ball away and restlessness when chances did not fall their way.

The title tension was ramped up for Pep Guardiola and his players on Wednesday night

City fans didn’t know what to do with themselves, breaking into chants, then reverting to biting their nails. And repeat.

Whether the anxiety originated in the stands or on the pitch is up for debate but whatever, there was a feeling for almost an hour that one mistake could see the title bid go up in smoke.

This was scoreboard pressure after Liverpool had dismantled United 24 hours earlier.

Riyad Mahrez finally made the breakthrough after a frustrating opening period

Phil Foden had head in hands after overhitting a pass to Kevin De Bruyne, hardly crime of the century. But that is what this engaging battle is doing to the very best.

It felt like the tense night against Leicester City here in May 2019, when Pep Guardiola was desperate for victory and owed it all to Vincent Kompany’s thunderbolt.

Aided by an early goal, Anfield had been raucous with expectancy whereas this ground was engulfed by trepidation before Riyad Mahrez forced a way through Brighton and the shackles loosened.

Phil Foden needed the aid of a deflection to beat the Brighton goalkeeper for the second

There are more of these matches to come and Liverpool will experience them, too.

City went top again, ahead by a point.

It was comfortable by the end, but City fans had long since lost their fingernails.

Six games like this left.

Bernardo Silva wrapped up the scoring eight minutes from time against Brighton 

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