Man City and Sergio Agüero make hay against Spurs yet again
Striker scores 10th goal in seven appearances against London club
Sergio Aguero scores for Manchester City in their Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Tottenham 0 Manchester City 1
Manuel Pellegrini might wish that he could play Tottenham Hotspur every week. And so might Sergio Agüero. The Manchester City manager has now won four out of four against Tottenham while Agüero continues to excel against them.
This was hardly as comfortable as Pellegrini’s previous victories over the north London club, which were marked by a glut of goals but it followed a familiar script, with Agüero once again proving the star turn. The Argentina striker was not perfect but enough of what he did was close to it, particularly during a rampant first-half performance, in which he scored the decisive goal.
Agüero took a cute assist from David Silva following a rapier-like counter to blast an unstoppable finish past Hugo Lloris. Under Pellegrini, Agüero has eight goals in four games against Tottenham while, in total, he has 10 in seven – his highest return in the Premier League against any opposition.
City had seen Chelsea clinch the title earlier in the day with the 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace but they remain determined to finish as the runners-up. They got the job done here to end a damaging run of four consecutive away defeats but they were indebted to the goalkeeper Joe Hart, who made a clutch of fine saves. He blocked from Ryan Mason and Harry Kane while, deep into injury-time, he kept out Érik Lamela’s acrobatic volley.
At the beginning of the day, only Arsenal could mathematically have caught Chelsea and so the result from Stamford Bridge meant nothing to Pellegrini and his players, even though it might have stuck in their throats to see Chelsea’s celebrations. That sort of thing is supposed to hurt.
City had their own targets which, broadly speaking, took in the imperative to muster a decent finish to what has been a trying season. No trophy equals dissatisfaction at the modern City, which certainly reflects how far they have come since the money men from Abu Dhabi took over the club.
Tottenham, too, were determined to give their home fans some cheer and to avoid the season fizzling out, and they should have taken the lead early on. Three times in the opening three minutes they created excellent chances but, on each occasion, the cutting edge was absent. It was easy to fear that the profligacy would return to haunt them.
First, Nacer Chadli failed to pick out the unmarked Lamela in the middle on the break – Alexsandar Kolarov’s block was important – and then Eric Dier somehow headed wide from Lamela’s corner. Dier had slipped Eliaquim Mangala with ease and he had the freedom of the six yard box. In the next attack, Lamela put Kane through but he dragged wide of the far post.
City, though, did not take too long to advertise their threat and, time and again, it came from Agüero. By the end of the first-half, Tottenham’s defenders looked thoroughly spooked by him. His pace and powerful running were a lethal combination.
There was controversy on 22 minutes when, after a long punt forward and an uncharacteristic slip from Lloris, Agüero felt that he was tripped in the area by Federico Fazio. The contact looked to be minimal. But, shortly afterwards, Agüero had put the frustration behind him and lashed City into the lead. The move originated from a Tottenham corner, with Silva driving the counter and slipping Agüero through. The finish was high and hard into Lloris’s near, top corner.
The defending was loose at both ends and it felt as though goals were in the offing. Fernandinho twice went close in the first half, after smart City incisions while Agüero drew gasps in the 40th minute with a piece of skill inside the area before he worked Lloris. Mason had a glorious chance at the end of the half when he found space inside the City area only for Hart to come out quickly and block.
Tottenham have found themselves in a slightly weird situation, given that there is little appetite from their management to finish in the Europa League places. But at the same time, they have their professional pride and they chased the equaliser in the second half, with Mauricio Pochettino replacing the anonymous Christian Eriksen on 58 minutes with a second striker in Roberto Soldado and later sending on a third, in Emmanuel Adebayor.
It was a knockabout sort of game, high on incident and although the second half featured fewer chances, they were nonetheless presentable. Kane robbed Martín Demichelis only for Hart to crowd him out and block while Agüero took Fernandinho’s cross around Lloris but, off-balance, he could not finish. Kolarov also tested Lloris from long-range.
The home crowd revelled in the misfortune of the City substitute and former Arsenal midfielder, Samir Nasri, who was forced off with a muscle pull three minutes after coming on while the home team caught a break in the 79th minute when the referee Andre Marriner did not penalise Danny Rose for a reckless lunge on Pablo Zabaleta inside the area, in which he got none of the ball and some of the man. Soldado saw a shot blocked while the substitute Paulinho and Lamela, at the very end, were denied by Hart.