Huddersfield Town, the team that manager David Wagner has continually described as “able to make the impossible possible”, spoiled Manchester City’s title parade with a display of true Yorkshire grit.
By becoming the first team to prevent Pep Guardiola’s champions scoring in front of their own fans in the Premier League this season, the Terriers took a giant step towards survival.
What had been a two-point advantage over Swansea City and Southampton yesterday morning now stands at three.
With the two clubs sitting either side of the relegation line set to meet tomorrow night at the Liberty Stadium this battling draw could be the one that keeps Wagner’s men up.
No wonder Town’s German coach was beaming at the final whistle, as he reflected on a job well done in the Manchester sunshine.
“This was not a stolen point,” said Wagner to The Yorkshire Post, “but a deserved point against the champions, who had scored more than 100 goals.
“We kept a clean sheet and that says everything about the effort the players put in. I am proud, over the moon, for the dressing room and all the supporters that we were able to collect this very valuable point.“
Looking around an expectant stadium before kick-off the inflatable bananas being waved by a smattering of supporters was about the only link to the ‘old’ calamity club that once prompted Franny Lee, former player and then owner, to bemoan, ‘If there was a Cup for cock-ups City would win it’.
Not only have Pep Guardiola’s side set new standards in the Premier League this season, but there is an increasing sense that the club does things right off the field, too.
From the free flags handed out to fans to create a memorable image as the home players emerged from the tunnel to getting the title-winning side of 50 years ago to form a guard of honour along with the Town players, City did just that yesterday.
Once the action got under way, however, this touch of class was lacking in the play of the champions.
In weather more suited to the cricket season Town started and ended proceedings on the front foot.
For most of the afternoon, however, it was a case of digging in like Geoffrey Boycott on a rip-snorter of a wicket as the White Rose county’s sole top-flight representative repelled everything the hosts could throw at them.
Christopher Schindler, the club’s Player of the Year, was superb. But he was far from alone in shining with both Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen and Terence Kongolo also excelling in a three-man backline.
Wagner, as he had done at Old Trafford in February, deployed Florent Hadergjonaj in central midfield alongside Aaron Mooy and Jonathan Hogg.
Again the trio were the very epitome of the underdog spirit that has taken Huddersfield so far under their charismatic head coach.
Town gave everything in the punishing sunshine. This much was evident from how, first, Chris Lowe went down with cramp 15 minutes from time before captain Tommy Smith followed suit moments later.
Steve Mounie was another who looked like he had nothing left to give when substituted on the hour, the Benin striker clearly feeling the effects of the shift he put in during an opening half hour that saw the visitors take the game to City in a fashion rarely seen at the Etihad.
Florent Hadergjonaj really should have done better when found unmarked by Alex Pritchard from a free-kick, Ederson able to make a comfortable save.
Pritchard also brought a flying save from the Blues goalkeeper before Lowe blazed high and wide when well placed.
After this early flurry of Town chances came the response as Kevin De Bruyne brought a smart save from Jonas Lossl and a succession of left-wing crosses simply begged anyone in blue to convert.
The second half saw Huddersfield tighten up, but there was still one horribly nervy moment when Lossl spilt a Leroy Sane corner and Schindler had to hack the ball to safety.
Bernard Mendy’s introduction from the bench did bring a fresh impetus to City, but Town were the side who should have won it at the finish, Scott Malone wasting a glorious chance in stoppage-time when through one-on-one with Ederson
Even then there was time for Laurent Depoitre to dispossess Nicolas Otamendi in the penalty area only then to be crowded out by the back-tracking hosts.
“I am a big admirer for Pep’s style of football,” added Wagner, who could be seen deep in conversation with Guardiola ahead of the game.
“I congratulated him for what he has done in England. Not only that he won the title, but how he won it. It has been so impressive.
“This is what I said to him before the game because I thought I may not get time after because the people will come on the pitch.
“I love to watch his team, but we found the right set-up. We were able to more or less neutralise them in the danger areas, especially in the second half. Defensively, that was one step better than the first half – and I felt we did okay in the first half. We also had opportunities, We don’t like to be too greedy, but it was possible to win the game at the end. That is the truth.”