MOTD pundit impressed by 'on fire' Luton's defensive 'brilliance' despite 5-1 defeat at the Etihad

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Hatters restrict title-chasers until the final 15 minutes

Ex-Manchester City defender Micah Richards hailed Luton’s defensive ‘brilliance’ in trying to keep his former side out at the Etihad Stadium yesterday, despite the Hatters eventually suffering a 5-1 defeat.

Pep Guardiola’s treble winners went into the contest knowing a win would put them back on top of the table and they got off to the perfect start when Erling Haaland’s volley smashed into the face of Japanese international Daiki Hashioka and flew into the net inside 90 seconds. With the home supporters settling down in expectation of a goal-laden afternoon, although they dominated possession, Luton unable to get out of their own penalty area at times, they weren’t able to score again until the 64th minute when Mateo Kovacic powered home a half volley.

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Having battled so hard throughout the contest, Town were then breached three more times in the final 15 minutes, Haaland with a penalty won by the outstanding Jeremy Doku after he was fouled in the box by Fred Onyedinma. The Belgian international then added a late fourth after turning Onyedinma inside and out to curl into the bottom corner with Josko Gvardiol rifling past Thomas Kaminski in stoppage time.

Reece Burke tries to stop Erling Haaland at the Etihad yesterday - pic: Matt McNulty/Getty ImagesReece Burke tries to stop Erling Haaland at the Etihad yesterday - pic: Matt McNulty/Getty Images
Reece Burke tries to stop Erling Haaland at the Etihad yesterday - pic: Matt McNulty/Getty Images

Although it was their heaviest defeat of the season, Guardiola’s team with 37 shots on the day, 13 on target, winning 12 corners and having 74 percent possession, Richards, who won the Premier League and FA Cup during his playing career with City, was still quick to praise the job done by Luton’s back-line, as he said: “Teams go there and sit in their low block, they were on fire in their own box. We've got from minute two to 64 where they actually defended really well.

"This what they didn’t want, Kevin De Bruyne finding the ball in a pocket of space, but I just want to look at the reaction. They knew exactly what they wanted to do, force the ball wide and get numbers in that area and even when the ball was recycled, they all knew their jobs. There was a really good battle on that left hand side with Doku and Onyedinma and this is what it took in that first half, get really tight, even when he turns you, can he get a tackle in.

"The problem was when they got the ball forward there was no-one there to retrieve the ball, so obviously it was going to be very tough for them. Again, that low block, forcing the ball wide, everyone knows their jobs and Man City of course, are going to get a little bit frustrated, but they always manage to find a way to unlock, It took a little bit longer than they probably anticipated, but it was down to Luton’s brilliance.

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"I mean you lose 5-1, people will say Luton probably got absolutely battered, but only in certain moments. I thought Luton did very, very well, they just got a little bit disjointed in that second half. If you look at Doku’s position here, they allowed him to get the ball in these positions where he could drive into the box, one v one, we know what he does.

“He gets the penalty, it’s difficult to do for 90 minutes. He’s forcing the defender back and we know he can go both ways, and the finish. He had a very good game today, he was really important in what he did. In the second half he was getting the ball more in the box, driving, making more important runs and he was decisive.”

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