City punish wasteful Spurs and show why they are champions
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Premier League: Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester City 1
Tottenham Hotspur slipped to their third Premier League defeat of the season on a night of missed opportunities against champions Manchester City.
Riyad Mahrez’s fifth-minute goal ended up giving Pep Guardiola’s team all three points, but they were fortunate to leave the capital with a win.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs created several openings in the first and second period, but couldn’t produce the required quality in the final third.
The football world was still in mourning following the confirmation on Sunday night Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Leicester City’s owner, had passed away.
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Srivaddhanaprabha, two members of his staff, a pilot and a passenger were killed on Saturday when a helicopter carrying the five spun out of control and crashed into a car park shortly after the 1-1 draw with West Ham United at the King Power Stadium.
It followed the news Spurs legend Glenn Hoddle had suffered a heart attack earlier in the day at the BT Sport studio and a Brighton & Hove Albion fan had died ahead of their clash with Newcastle United.
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Saturday, without a shadow of a doubt, had been a tragic day for the world of football, but as always, the show had to go on and Tottenham welcomed City to London ready to face arguably the best club in the country.
Boss Pochettino sprung a surprise before kick-off when the Spurs starting XI included Moussa Sissoko in place of Christian Eriksen, while Erik Lamela, as expected, took the place of Heung-min Son from the side which faced PSV on Wednesday.
Son and Eriksen dropped to the bench as the Tottenham manager went for the energy of Sissoko against City’s midfield of Fernandinho, David Silva and Bernardo Silva.
Wembley had hosted an NFL match between Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars the day before the league encounter and the logo and pitch markings were visible and the grass was in a terrible condition.
A minute’s silence took place ahead of kick-off for Srivaddhanaprabha, Nursara Suknamai and Kaveporn Punpare, Eric Swaffer and Izabela Roza Lechowicz – all of whom died in the helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium.
The minute’s silence was also for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in armed conflict with this the closest domestic home fixture to Remembrance Sunday.
After it had taken place, while the Last Post was played by Colour Sergeant Simon Heaver of the 7th Battalion The Rifles, the game got underway with plenty of red seats visible in the top tier.
Spurs needed a strong start, but they got the opposite and like against Barcelona, they trailed inside the opening exchanges.
Kieran Trippier looked to win a header against Raheem Sterling, but misjudged the flight of the ball and it rebounded off his shoulder and towards the Tottenham area.
Hugo Lloris stayed on his line and Sterling dribbled past Trippier with ease before he cut back for Mahrez, who drilled in after six minutes before pointing to the sky in a tribute to those affected by the Leicester City helicopter crash.
Pochettino would have been furious and already it seemed like the Lilywhites were set for a long night against the champions.
Yet, out of nowhere, they threatened in the ninth minute and went close when Harry Kane was picked out by Lamela and his dipping effort just flew over the crossbar with City custodian Ederson well off his line.
Tottenham took belief from that opening and attacked again less than 60 seconds later as Kane’s through ball found Trippier, despite Benjamin Mendy’s attempted interception, but his cut back was cleared by Aymeric Laporte for a corner.
Trippier’s delivery was good and Toby Alderweireld got their first, but his header was easy for Ederson.
Despite a strong response from Spurs, City looked dangerous every time they went forward and nerves were present in the home backline.
Tottenham continued to create encouraging openings and the latest occurred in the 23rd minute when Trippier played in Sissoko down the right.
The Frenchman had Kane and Lamela to pick out inside the area, but took too long and it allowed Fernandinho to slide in and intercept his cut back for the Argentinian.
It was a good opportunity wasted, but again offered Spurs encouragement with City’s left-side looking venerable.
Sissoko, despite his lack of quality in the aforementioned chance, had made a bright start and his energy was causing the visitors problems.
City reminded Tottenham of their quality in the 28th minute when David Silva danced his way through a couple of Spurs players before finding Mahrez, but he was denied a second by a stunning finger-tip save by Lloris.
It was a timely reminder of the Frenchman’s quality, but he was struggling with the poor surface at Wembley and sent another kick to the wrong destination minutes later.
The goalkeeper down the other end was called into action with 34 on the clock and the Brazilian showed brilliant reactions to deny Kane.
Laporte miscued his header and Lamela controlled and quickly put Kane through on goal, but his touch was heavy and invited Ederson to come out and slide into the Spurs striker and end the attack.
Both required treatment after the tackle, although Kane’s pain would have been more at the fact he had failed to make the most of an excellent opening.
Sissoko’s fine line between effective and fruitless occurred again in the 38th minute when he chest down a difficult chip from Lloris, but then passed the ensuring pass out for a City corner after missing two of his team-mates.
Two minutes later and the away side’s leaky left-side continued to cause themselves problems as Trippier won the ball back from Mendy, but yet again, the final ball lacked quality and City cleared.
As half time approached, Spurs would have been rueing their profligacy in attacking areas after getting into several dangerous positions in the opening 45.
Two minutes of stoppage time were added on just as Lucas Moura received a yellow for a dive and the 120 seconds went by with little to note except the exasperations of the Tottenham crowd increasing with referee Kevin Fried after he failed to award a few free kicks to the hosts.
After starting the first half slack, it was so important Spurs come out the traps fast for the second period, but yet again they showed a sloppy side to them.
In the 49th minute Lloris’ goal kick went straight to Sergio Aguero and Eric Dier had to foul the City hitman right on the edge of the area.
The position looked imminent for Spurs, but David Silva could only fire the effort into the wall before Mendy crossed behind for a goal kick.
A big opening had been wasted by Guardiola’s side and another went abegging in the 55th minute.
Bernardo Silva ghosted into the penalty area and his centre found namesake David Silva, but he lost his footing at the crucial moment and the ball come to Sterling.
The England winger, on his 200th league appearance, checked back and curled a shot towards goal, but Trippier deflected the ball away for a corner.
Slowly but surely City’s dominance was increasing and they should have tested Lloris in the 58th minute when Kyle Walker went on a fine run against his old club, but with Aguero in a good position, he overhit his pass and the opportunity went.
Tottenham were pushing more and more men forward, but the champions were picking them off on the counter and Aguero should have done better when David Silva found him in the 65th minute, yet he fired straight at Lloris.
Given this was two of the best teams in the country, the finishing and defending at times was poor.
Pochettino did make a change with 23 left, but surprisingly he introduced Harry Winks for Dier and left Son, Eriksen and Dele Alli on the bench.
Guardiola reacted by bringing on Kevin De Bruyne for Aguero with 71 on the clock and then Spurs did summon one of their big runs.
Alli was introduced in the 74th minute, with Dembele, making way, after Lamela had a cross-cum-shot go wide following Trippier’s turnover from De Bruyne.
The seconds were ticking away at a freezing cold Wembley and the hosts’ desperately needed a goal.
In the 80th minute it should have arrived when Moura and Alli pressed Mahrez and the latter pinched the ball back.
Kane made a great decoy run and it allowed Alli to pick out Lamela, but from 12-yards he curled over and a wonderful opportunity had been wasted.
It was probable Spurs would not get a better one, but Pochettino’s final roll of the dice was to introduce Eriksen with nine minutes left with Moura, who left the pitch with a limp, making way.
Could Tottenham find a late leveller? Panic certainly seemed to be setting in for City as Stones inexplicably miscued a clearance out for a corner.
It come to nothing, but did give the home fans more inspiration an equaliser could be forthcoming.
Alli’s flick presented Eriksen with a chance in the 87th minute, but he could only fire into Ederson’s arms before Guardiola looked to shut up shop by summoning Vincent Kompany for David Silva.
Like minutes earlier, Eriksen got into another good position and yet this cross failed to even test the City custodian.
Tottenham had done virtually everything but find the net, although they would have been frustrated at the amount of work Ederson was required to do with the away stopper only being called into action to deny Kane in the first half.
A late corner, deep into four minutes of stoppage time, offered the Lilywhites brief hope they could salvage a point, but it was cleared and the full time whistle followed after to hand City a hard-fought 1-0 win.
It was far from pretty from Guardiola’s men, but showed why they are champions and why Spurs are so far away from contending for the league title.
Tottenham will get the chance to bounce back on Wednesday night at West Ham United in the League Cup, although it will probably be a completely different XI.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris; Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies; Dier (Winks 67), Dembele (Alli 74); Sissoko, Lamela, Moura (Eriksen 81); Kane.
Unused substitutes: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Walker-Peters, Son
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy; Fernandinho, D.Silva (Kompany 89); Mahrez (Jesus 90), B.Silva, Sterling; Aguero (De Bruyne 71).
Unused substitutes: Muric, Sane, Otamendi, Foden.