Manchester City may have earned a place in the FA Cup Quarter Finals last night, but it was their opponents that won over the nation with a brave performance on a tough night at the Etihad Stadium.
On a night where Huddersfield Town were beaten by a strong Manchester City side, it wasn’t all too convincing at times from the Premier League side, and it was the Terriers who earned the majority of the praise.
After making nine changes from the weekend’s 1-1 draw away at Barnsley, David Wagner’s decision was largely criticised. In comparison, Wagner’s opposite number, Pep Guardiola, fielded a fairly strong side, complete with Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne in the hope of a comfortable progression in to the FA Cup Quarter Finals.
Despite taking a shock 1-0 lead through former City youth player Harry Bunn inside 10 minutes, Huddersfield were unable to hold on and two goals from Aguero, and a goal apiece for Leroy Sane, Pablo Zabaleta and Kelechi Iheanacho saw City earn a Quarter Final tie away at Middlesbrough.
However, despite the score line looking fairly one-sided, there was more that meets the eye to the actual story of the game.
Harry Bunn (R) came back to briefly haunt the side where he first started his career, but his dream goal counted for little in the end
This was a Huddersfield side not at full strength, but it was a Town side that managed to take advantage of a shaky Claudio Bravo inside 10 minutes and take the lead. With some of their big stars on show for City, there was a distinct difference in class between the two sides in large periods, but next season this could realistically be a Premier League fixture.
Wagner may have been disappointed with the result last night, but there will be plenty of positives for the German to take.
Philip Billing was a shining light in the Town midfield, and he has been a key player in West Yorkshire all season. He controlled the game well and with performances like last night coming on a weekly basis, don’t be surprised if he is a Premier League player next season. He has been touted by a few as potential Premier League quality. Many were very impressed with what they saw from the young Dane too:
Harry Bunn took his goal well too, and his performance alongside Billing in midfield will give his manager a huge headache when he decides who will play in this weekend’s crucial Championship game.
This was a Huddersfield team looking forward to the visit of Championship leaders Newcastle United as well. The FA Cup wasn’t Wagner’s priority, promotion to the top tier is. Since arriving in November 2015, Jurgen Klopp’s former right-hand man has overseen the transformation of a Terriers side that was tipped for relegation this season, after recent battles against the drop, and turned them in to a side with a real chance of achieving promotion to the top flight.
Captain Mark Hudson leads his teammates over to applaud the travelling Terriers support after exiting the FA Cup last night.
They started off the season in fine form, sitting at the top of the table until October, and they have only spent one week outside the top six. With nine changes made against City, this was an under-strength side, but it was one that put up a good fight. Going back to full strength on Saturday might just see an improved performance from the Terriers against the table-topping Toon. A rest in mid-week for Wagner’s other key players may just give Town the edge over Newcastle, who beat second-placed Brighton on Tuesday night in a tough match on the South Ghost.
A win on Saturday at the John Smith’s Stadium will really give Huddersfield hope that there might just be a chance that they can sneak in to the automatic promotion places, but they will certainly feel that their play-off place can be secured with a positive result. These are promising times to be a Town fans and it looks to be an exciting end to the season for sure, and maybe Terriers fans are just beginning to dream of a promotion.