MAN CITY 2, TOTTENHAM 2
Manchester City were denied a dramatic injury-time winner as substitute Gabriel Jesus’ goal was ruled out after VAR was used for the one and only time against Tottenham.
The match official based at Stockley Park ruled the ball had brushed the arm of City defender Aymeric Laporte before it reached Jesus.
It was a hugely controversial call as Spurs’ players did not appeal and City thought they had clinched a 16th straight Premier League victory as they closed in on their own league record of 18.
City must still be wondering how they failed to win after they had an incredible 30 goal attempts to Spurs’ three.
They twice held the lead through Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero only each time to be pegged back by Erik Lamela and substitute Lucas Moura.
It was an enthralling game which had everything, even a spat between Pep Guardiola and Aguero after the striker was substituted and which was witnessed by a global audience as was the kiss and make up after what appeared a match-winning goal from Jesus.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola praised his players, declaring: “The way we played was incredible and it was one of the best games in my time here.
“People may say we can play better but I don’t see how we can play better against the second best team in Europe and restricted them to two chances.
“It is just the beginning (of the season) and if we continue to play that way, we will have no regrets.”
Guardiola was frustrated by the inconsistencies of VAR after he claimed his side ought to been awarded a first-half penalty when Lamela appeared to wrestle Rodrigo to the ground.
“VAR was taking a coffee,” he joked while also referring to the goal scored by Fernando Llorente in last season’s Champions League quarter final which also brushed his arm.”
And of his spat with Aguero, Guardiola described emotion as being part of the game.
“I love him a lot. I know his feelings are a part of his performances.”
Spurs’ manager Mauricio Pochettino praised the spirit of his side, saying: “I am pleased with the way we came back after twice falling behind.
“I happy with that, but we still need to improve. We will take a lot of confidence from a result like this.”
City made four changes from the side that started the season so well at West Ham.
John Stones was ruled out through a thigh strain while David Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Jesus also lost their places.
There were recalls for Nicolas Otamendi in defence, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan in midfield and Aguero up front.
Spurs had Son Heung-min and Serge Aurier suspended while Dele Alli was injured.
City made a bright start in which Sterling had a goalbound shot blocked by Kyle Walker-Peters while a penalty appeal was rejected after Lamela appeared to wrestle Rodrigo to the ground.
And it was no surprise when they made a 20th minute breakthrough as Sterling scored his fourth goal of the season.
He stole in at the far post to head Kevin De Bruyne’s cross back across the face of goal from three yards, a well-executed goal.
It was his seventh goal in his last four games in all competitions and Sterling also became one of only four players in Premier League history to score four goals in the first two league games of the season.
City were still celebrating when Lamela equalised three minutes later, curling an exquisite low shot from 25 yards low to the right of Ederson.
In what was become a pulsating encounter, City regained the lead in the 35th minute when Aguero, lurking at the near post, got on the end of a low cross from De Bruyne, flicking it low beyond goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. It was his 11th goal in 15 Premier League appearances against Spurs.
City ought to have added a third goal towards the end of the half when Ilkay Gundogan shot agonisingly wide from a De Bruyne cross.
Oleksandr Zinchenko had terrific efforts either side of the break which again could have extended City’s lead but for Lloris’ alertness.
De Bruyne also fired wide and Aguero over while Bernardo Silva had an effort saved as City were in total command carving out chances at ease.
Spurs brought on Moura for Harry Winks in the 56th minute and he scored with his first touch after 15 seconds heading home Lamela’s corner which looped over Ederson, a dramatic introduction.
City’s response after being pegged back for a second time was furious as Rodrigo forced a great save from Lloris, Bernardo Silva’s lob hit the bar and Otamendi’s header was cleared off the line by Danny Rose.
City made their first change mid-half when Aguero was replaced by Jesus and the striker and manager had an angry exchange in which assistant Mikel Arteta had to intervene as peacemaker.
And the second and third changes soon followed as David Silva and Mahrez came on for Rodrigo and Bernardo Silva.
There was drama in the second of four added minutes when City thought they had won the game.
Laporte looked to have headed on De Bruyne’s corner for Jesus to rifle home a close-range shot.
There were no appeals only for VAR to intervene for the first time in the match as it was ruled the ball had brushed the arm of Laporte to the dismay of City and their supporters.
And on the touchline there were incredible scenes when the ball hit the net as Aguero raced from the bench to embrace Guardiola as they had a lengthy reconcillation not long after their spat.
City will still be wondering how they did not win as they had an amazing 30 goal attempts to Spurs’ three and played some sumptuous football, but lacked a clinical cutting edge. That’s the beauty of the game or in City’s case frustration.