Sky Sports jinx Forest and bless Man City as commentator club allegiances under scrutiny

Will Ford
Haaland Man City
Erling Haaland scored Manchester City's second goal.

Peter Drury did the dirty on Chris Wood before his co-commentator blessed Manchester City’s brilliant substitute. We must question their club allegiances.

We weren’t at all sure about Alan Smith’s claim on commentary when Mateo Kovacic was brought on at half-time that the Croatian has had a “new lease of life” under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City this season. He’s been fine; a useful body. But any better than that? Their summer transfer business in general was uncharactersitically poor.

But they probably wouldn’t have won this game without him. Nottingham Forest were much the better side in the first half, with Ola Aina and Callum Hudson-Odoi particularly effective on their left as Jeremy Doku – in for Phil Foden, who was absent through illness – provided his typical lack of defensive support for an overrun Kyle Walker. It wasn’t working for City, who were fortunate to be in the lead after Josko Gvardiol headed in Kevin De Bruyne’s corner, and Guardiola’s change was crucial to turn the tide in their favour, as was Smith’s blessing of City’s substitute. An Arsenal traitor, perhaps?

Despite only coming on at half-time for Doku, Kovacic completed more passes (61) than any Forest player in the whole game, made more successful tackles (3) than any City player but Rodri (4) and was their only outfield player other than the two centre-backs not to cede possession. He did exactly what Guardiola will have asked of him, and his tranquility appeared to imbue his teammates in a second half in which City weren’t at their best but looked more like they normally do at this stage of a season: a team programmed to win games of football.

Just as Erling Haaland is programmed to score goals. His all-round contributions of late have been questioned, but no sane individual has doubted the quality of his finishing. And this was classic Haaland, running off the shoulder of a defender, a quick change of direction to put Murillo off balance and an unerring shot into the corner. And in many ways it could not have been more typical of Manchester City. Twenty-nine passes in the build up and De Bruyne playing the perfectly weighted final ball. And incidentally, it was Kovacic who found De Bruyne between the lines.

They looked comfortable by that point even without that victory-sealing goal, but they could, and perhaps should, have had far more work to do.

The Forest comms director may well have been of a mind to check on the club allegiances of Chris Wood. Two extremely poor finishes – two goals not scored – which we simply cannot accept. Their patience was tested multiple times by both the New Zealand striker and fellow Luton fan Peter Drury, who jinxed Wood at the start of the game by pointing out his Premier League-high shot conversion rate of 35 per cent, and ensured the hoodoo endured by continuing to mention it as the percentage decreased after two fluffed shots in the six-yard box.

Nuno Espirito Santo looked initially bemused and then genuinely concerned by Wood’s misses, as if he thought that anyone spurning such chances must be injured, stoned or in the midst of some sort of pyschotic episode. It’s 32 per cent now by the way, after failing to score from three efforts against City. But crucially still the best in the Premier League, if Stuart Attwell or anyone else is interested in jinx bolstering in their remaning games.

Which are Sheffield United away, Chelsea at home and Burnley away, and Nuno will be hoping that points earned in those first two games, or returned after their deduction appeal, will make what could be a relegation decider on the last day of the season a dead rubber with Premier League safety secured.

Chances are the title will come down to that final day after Arsenal skipped over a banana skin in the North London derby – it doesn’t look as though Mikel Arteta’s side will drop more points. And although City have the advantage of a game in hand, they’ll have to play a lot better than they did in the first half on Sunday.

More of what we saw after the break should be enough, and Kovacic may prove to have been an excellent summer signing if he continues to exude calmness that permeates his teammates – as he did at the City Ground – for the rest of the season.