Thunderous Spurs swat aside Man City to make big statement

Pep Guardiola suffers first City defeat as Pochettino’s side show title credentials

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester City 0

It was a performance of furious intensity and it was one that served to make the most eloquent of statements. Tottenham Hotspur mean business and, after their near-miss last season, they are once again shaping up as serious contenders for the Premier League title.

Manchester City had arrived in north London with a perfect domestic record. They departed well beaten, having been knocked from their cultured rhythms by the blood-and-thunder basics that Mauricio Pochettino demands. Tottenham brought the class, too.

The most eye-catching players wore white and Heung min-Son, Dele Alli and Victor Wanyama vied for the man-of-the-match award. Son was granted a thunderous ovation when he was substituted in the last minute. Alli dazzled with his quicksilver incisions and Wanyama offered the platform upon which Tottenham played. They could even afford to miss a second-half penalty through Erik Lamela and, by the end, the White Hart Lane crowd could sing about Pochettino being magic.

City had their moments, mainly through Sergio Agüero, but this was an afternoon when, try as he might, he could not find a way past Hugo Lloris.

Pep Guardiola, the City manager, had grown used to enjoying the upper hand over Pochettino when they were rivals at Barcelona and Espanyol but the playing field looks rather more level these days. Tottenham are buoyant.

Pochettino's team had taken the lead early on, and what a horror story it was for Aleksandar Kolarov. Danny Rose's cross from the left was flighted into the danger area but there were no white shirts too close to it and Kolarov ought to have known that there was nobody coming in behind him, either. He did not, and his decision to attempt a volleyed clearance resulted in an ugly slice, which sent the ball spinning into his own net, off the underside of the crossbar.

City had conceded after three minutes in the Champions League tie at Celtic last Wednesday and, once again, they had to shake their heads clear. They might have led at the outset when Jesús Navas crossed from the right and David Silva could not apply the decisive touch. There was a hairy moment for Toby Alderweireld when he did get something to the cross and he watched as the ball squirted past the far post.

But Tottenham were hungry from the first whistle, squeezing and harrying their City counterparts. Wanyama set the tone – it was he who won the ball ahead of the opening goal – and there were times when it came to look uncomfortable for the visitors.

Nicolas Otamendi skated on thin ice and, already on a booking for a lunge at the excellent Alli on the very edge of the penalty area, the City centre-half might have felt his stomach flip when he fouled the Tottenham midfielder again in the 35th minute. Otamendi had earlier got away with a deliberate hand-ball. Pochettino raged at the fourth official. Where was the second yellow card, he wanted to know.

Son started as the No9, with Pochettino having preferred his mobility to the more traditional centre-forward virtues of Vincent Janssen, and the South Korean was a persistent threat. He unnerved City with his pacey and direct running and he laid on the second goal for Alli, after an initial Tottenham break had run into Pablo Zabaleta.

The weight of Son's pass was perfect and, as City's defenders floundered, Alli rammed a lot shot past Claudio Bravo. It was remarkable to think that Son had not played up front since his days at Hamburg. His hold-up work was also first-class.

Son had worked Bravo at his near post in the 11th minute while Christian Eriksen thumped inches wide with the free-kick that had followed Otamendi's challenge on Alli while there were moments when Bravo looked anything but secure, particularly with the ball at his feet. Guardiola wants Bravo to be an additional outfield player but some of his decision-making was risky and it invited Tottenham pressure. The home crowd jeered him every time he went near to the ball.

Agüero was City’s most obvious threat, as he so often is against Tottenham. The striker extended Lloris with a free-kick midway through the first half and, shortly after the interval, from Fernandinho’s pass, he saw his shot scuffed by Lloris onto the near post and away.

Guardiola had sent his players out for the second half well before those of Tottenham appeared, which seemed to speak volumes and he made tweaks to his team, including sending on the striker, Kelechi Iheanacho in the 65th minute. But Tottenham were largely comfortable and, after Son and Wanyama had gone close, they ought to have added to their lead.

Alli picked his way into the City area again and, when he was clipped by Fernandinho, the referee, Andre Marriner, was compelled to point to the penalty spot. Lamela grabbed the ball and he resisted Son's attempts to snatch it from him. In those circumstances, the player really has to score.

Lamela’s kick, though, was too close to Bravo, who beat it away. City sought the goal that might have levered them back into the contest but Iheanacho had a shot saved by Lloris and Agüero watched a late effort deflect and fly towards the roof of the net. Lloris tipped it over the crossbar.

(Guardian service)

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