Soccer

Manchester City survive scare in battling Premier League comeback win at Luton

Jack Grealish scored Manchester City’s winner at Luton (Nick Potts/PA)
Jack Grealish scored Manchester City’s winner at Luton (Nick Potts/PA) Jack Grealish scored Manchester City’s winner at Luton (Nick Potts/PA)

Manchester City survived a scare as they recovered from going a goal behind at half-time to put down a brave fight by Luton and battle to a 2-1 Premier League victory at Kenilworth Road.

The champions had been without a victory in four games and that run looked like stretching in the most unlikely circumstances when Elijah Adebayo headed in for Rob Edwards’ side on the stroke of the interval.

City were missing the injured Erling Haaland – with in-form winger Jeremy Doku also ruled out – and looked set to remain seven points off the Premier League summit as Luton bravely held their lead beyond the hour mark.

Then, Pep Guardiola’s side burst to life to revive their title defence, with two goals in three minutes from Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish turning the game on its head as a famous upset was narrowly bypassed.

City came at Luton from the off. Inside two minutes, Phil Foden broke into the box down the left and stung the palms of Thomas Kaminski, who beat his effort away well. From the rebound, Silva lashed wide with a hurried miscue when greater composure was required.

Rodri was next to test Luton’s goalkeeper, drawing a fine one-handed save after unleashing a fierce drive from 20 yards, before the Belgian made his third and finest save of the opening half-hour, diving low to keep out Foden’s bullet effort with a firm wrist.

City though were getting closer. Julian Alvarez dinked one wide at the near post, getting on the end of Grealish’s intelligent ball into the six-yard box but finding only the side netting.

Elijah Adebayo (left) scores for Luton
Elijah Adebayo (left) scores for Luton Elijah Adebayo (left) scored the opener for Luton (Nick Potts/PA)

But the longer Luton held out, the more frustrated City appeared to become.

The final 10 minutes of the first half saw Guardiola’s side reduced to speculative efforts from outside the box, either closed down by the hosts’ tireless defence who never let City rest on the ball, or sailing harmlessly behind Kaminski’s goal.

Then came the moment that stunned the champions. It began in midfield with Ross Barkley, showing sublime strength and skill to hold the ball, spin and release Alfie Doughty racing down the right.

He moved it on to Andros Townsend, who checked from his right foot to his left, lifted his head and – with a raking cross – found Adebayo rising at the far post between Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias to head Luton into the lead from a yard out.

The hosets had come within seconds of beating Liverpool and drawing with Arsenal here this season and looked determined to finally earn a win against one of the league’s top sides and to put pressure on 17th-placed Everton in their bid to escape the relegation zone.

Jack Grealish scores Manchester City's winner at Luton
Jack Grealish scores Manchester City's winner at Luton Jack Grealish scored Manchester City’s winner at Luton (Nick Potts/PA)

On the hour mark, Dias rattled the crossbar from Nathan Ake’s cut-back in what was the visitors’ first real opening since falling behind.

Within minutes they were level and it was the architect of Luton’s goal Barkley who was at fault, losing the ball in midfield to Rodri who drove at the heart of the defence.

He collided with Tom Lockyer who had come across to challenge and as the ball broke loose, it was pounced upon by Silva, barley glancing up at the goal before thumping it impudently first time inside the far post.

Seconds later it was 2-1 and it was the simplest finish for Grealish. Alvarez’s low cross evaded the desperate lunge of Teden Mengi, arriving at Grealish’s feet six yards out.

With Luton’s defence breached, he had time to take a touch, decide on his spot and stick the ball calmly between Kaminski’s legs to the relief of visiting supporters behind the goal.

Luton’s spirit was unbroken and they sought an instant riposte. Barkley ran round Foden and Mateo Kovacic and sent a fizzing right-footed drive inches past the post.

From that point, City were never comfortable and Luton did not look beaten until the very end, but the champions hung on to end their barren run.