MAN CITY 1, TOTTENHAM 0
Pep Guardiola was given a positive reaction – just what he had demanded – following Manchester City’s Champions League elimination in midweek.
City defeated Tottenham who were back at the Etihad three days after they knocked them out following a dramatic quarter-final.
This time Premier League points were at stake as City regained top spot thanks to an early goal from teenager Phil Foden.Embed from Getty Images
City’s manager said: “It was not the best performance compared with the other two against Tottenham.
“They played with nothing to lose as Tottenham are going to finish fourth as they have three games at home, but we played to lose the Premier League.”
Guardiola, who added his Champions League record is “the big failure in my career I have to accept” spoke about having little time to recover from Wednesday’s defeat.
“After Wednesday it was a tough two days, but we like it tough. We started incredibly well against an incredible Tottenham team,” he continued.
Guardiola again praised his players for its achievements of the last two season, pointing to the fact it amassed 100 points last season and has 86 with four games left.
He explained: “The last two seasons has been one of the most incredible moments of my career.
“Winning 10 Premier League games in a row is not bad, but we need to make it 14 to become champions.
“I am happy to be in the Champions League next season. That is incredible that for our club to be in it for six or seven seasons in a row.”
While it would have been impossible to replicate the drama of City’s 4-3 win – they lost on away goals in what was described as one of football’s greater-ever games – it proved another captivating contest.
It was impossible to compare but it proved to be another excellent game of football, despite it yielding only one goal.
City goalkeeper Ederson arguably had more work to do than in midweek as his clean sheet proved as crucial as Foden’s first Premier League goal which helped them to a 10th straight league victory.
Spurs, who introduced a third central defender, were far more solid as they didn’t allow Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero to dominate as they did three days earlier.
City also made it 22 points out of a possible 27 against top-six sides whereas Spurs have amassed only seven against the same sides.
City made three changes from midweek with John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Foden replacing Vincent Kompany, Benjamin Mendy and David Silva.
Spurs had five alternations to their starting line-up as goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, defenders Davinson Sanchez, Juan Foyth and Ben Davies and midfielder Eric Dier won recalls.
Losing out were the injured Hugo Lloris and Moussa Sissoko, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier and Victor Wanyama.
Spurs also had a new formation from midweek as they switched from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2.
Sloppy defending from Kyle Walker and John Stones helped present Spurs with the first chance of the game as Son Heung-min forced a smart save from Ederson.
City made the breakthrough in the fifth minute through Foden’s seventh goal of the season and first in the Premier League.
Bernardo Silva’s cross to the far post was headed back across the face of goal by Aguero for Foden to find the net from two yards with a diving header.
Foden at 18 years and 327 days became the third youngest scorer in the Premier League for City.
And after the game Guardiola was again fulsome in his praise again describing him as an “incredible talent”.
Ederson was called into action again with a good block to keep out a shot from Christian Eriksen while Son burst through only to be denied by a last-gasp tackle from Aymeric Laporte.
City suffered an injury blow late in the opening half when Kevin De Bruyne pulled up, kicked the ball out of play and limped off after receiving treatment for what is believed to be a hamstring strain. He was replaced by Fernandinho.
Son, surrounded by City players, made an amazing run only to be denied by an excellent block by Ederson on the edge of the box as he raced from his line.
Spurs had a strong shout for a penalty rejected just short of the hour when Kyle Walker appeared to clearly handle the ball before making a clearance.
City’s second change mid-half saw Leroy Sane replace Aguero.
Sterling almost sealed victory with 19 minutes left only to be denied by the outstretched leg of Gazzaniga as he looked certain to convert a low cross from Sane.
Spurs remained a threat and Edersen came to the rescue again with an important block to deny Lucas Moura.
Spurs’ manager Mauricio Pocchetino brought on Wednesday’s hero Fernando Llorente with 12 minutes left switching from 3-5-2 to a more adventurous 4-3-1-2 formation in pursuit of an equaliser.
City’s third change with five minutes to go was like-for-like in midfield as Foden made way for David Silva.
It proved a nervy and somewhat feisty finish for City as Spurs pressed for an equaliser. At one stage they were happy to either play keep ball in the corner or desperately lump the ball out of defence to clear danger.
City held their nerve and picked up what could be three priceless points as they close in on retaining their Premier League title.