MAN CITY 2, TOTTENHAM 3
Tottenham blew the Premier League title race wide open with their victory at leaders Manchester City.
And Harry Kane, the striker City coveted and came close to signing for £100million last summer, was the architect of a famous Spurs victory with his two goals, his first-ever strikes against Pep Guardiola in 10 matches.
Suddenly City, not long with what appeared a 12-point unassailable lead, have seen their advantage cut to six while second-placed Liverpool have a game in hand.
It was City’s third league loss of the season and the first since October, and two of them have been by Spurs as manager Antonio Conte got his tactics spot on.
Indeed, only four teams have completed the league double against Guardiola since he arrived at City in 2016, and two of them have been masterminded by Conte, the other when he was Chelsea manager.
Spurs defended resolutely – City enjoyed 72 per cent possession – and were a threat throughout on the counterattack.
They made it five wins in 11 games against City in the last four seasons as Guardiola has found them more difficult than any other opponents.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola took the defeat with good grace, explaining: “Well, it was a good game. We tried through many sides, especially down the left. It is very difficult, they defend so narrow.
“Tottenham have a lot of quality, they give the ball to Harry Kane. They are really good up front.
“In the first half they have the goal and no more. In the second half they have one attack with Harry Kane at the start and they score.
“We try to score but we conceded the goal in extra-time.
“It’s difficult when they defend so deep. We had the chances to arrive and score. Unfortunately, we cannot score.
“They are clinical. They have Kane and Son and Kulusevski. Their crosses we could not defend. We didn’t have the momentum.
“We didn’t need to lose a game already to know how hard it is [to win the league]. There are many, many games still to play.”
City captain Ilkay Gundogan added: “We kind of thought we’d rescued it. If you look at the whole game, we deserved to win. But football is sometimes crazy and today we made easy mistakes. We gave them the ball to have possibilities to counter and that made us lose the game.
“They were also ruthless in their finishing up front. We had a lot of chances and the possibility to score a few more goals, but we gave them the chances they had too easily.
“It didn’t feel like a bad game from us. They defended so, so deep, particularly towards the end of the first half. It’s not so easy. Sometimes you have these kind of games and you need to learn from it. It’s a wake-up call for us. There’s still a long way to go.
“It’s not a situation that we’re not used to. We know from recent years that Liverpool are always contenders. They’re always up there. We know they’ll try everything to make our lives as difficult as possible. The good thing is that they still need to come here to the Etihad, but there are still many games to go.”
Conte said: “It was an emotional game for sure. It was an exciting game.
“We played a good game. We followed a plan. Manchester City would keep the possession for 65 to 70 minutes for the game so we needed to be good tactically. But even when defending our first thought should be to attack.
“We created chances and scored good goals against a fantastic team.
“This win will give us more confidence. It wasn’t simple to play Manchester City after three losses in a row.
“But this is a process, we are working very hard to improve aspect. This type of game gives us confidence.
“First of all I hate to lose. Our reaction was important.
“The Premier League is very difficult. Every game you have to fight a lot. We are continuing to improve everything and every level we work very hard.
“Harry [Kane] is for sure an important player for us. Today our strikers played very well. Harry was very good at keeping the ball.
“I think the first goal was great because this goal is about our job and our work that we are doing every day.
“Only one win is not good enough. Don’t forget we are coming off three losses. But a win against Manchester City is very good.
“We have a lot of space for improvement. This is one of the hardest working teams I have managed in my career.”
Kane’s verdict: “It was a crazy game. We worked so hard for so long. We were 2-1 ahead for such a long time in the second half. To see the penalty awarded was so heartbreaking, but credit to the boys for creating another chance at the end.
“For me it was [about ending] three losses in a row and we had to find a way of getting our season back on track. To get the result we did was really, really special. The boys worked their socks off today. To get the goals was obviously nice. We were great from Hugo (Lloris) all the way through.
“We have high standards of ourselves, and we’ve got ourselves in a position where we can really fight for the top four. Football’s about bouncing back. We can’t get too high or too low. The performance today show’s we’re fighting to the end. Hopefully we can use it as momentum going forward.
“We probably have to learn how to be more consistent in a long season. To be in the top four, it has to be on a consistent basis. We’ve got Burnley in midweek – they’re fighting for their lives so we know it’ll be a tough one.”
City made two changes from the team that demolished Sporting Lisbon 5-0 in the Champions League in midweek.
Kyle Walker, who was suspended for the tie in Portugal, returned at right-back with John Stones dropping to the bench.
There was a reshuffle further up the pitch as Ilkay Gundogan came into midfield, with the in-form Riyad Mahrez, who has scored in each of his past nine appearances for City, making way.
Harry Kane led Tottenham’s attack against the team that tried to buy him last summer, hoping to end a run of three league games without a goal.
Spurs boss Antonio Conte made four changes from the side that lost to Wolves last weekend, with Sweden international Dejan Kulusevski handed his first start for the club after joining on loan from Juventus on deadline day.
Eric Dier and Emerson Royal were back in defence and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg returned in midfield. Davinson Sanchez, Matt Doherty, Harry Winks and Lucas Moura dropped to the bench.
Spurs, who had lost their last three league games, made a dream start as they took a fourth minute lead with their first attack of the match.
Son Heung-min sprang the offside trap on the left and squared the ball for Kulusevski to fire home from 18 yards with the City defence in disarray. What a full debut for the player who became the fourth Swede to score in the Premier League.
City’s best early chance came the way of Joao Cancelo who cut in from the left before bending a shot wide.
They came within a lick of paint of equalising when Gundogan’s effort struck the upright after Raheem Sterling cut in from the left.
Cancelo also went close with a drive as City ramped up a gear in pursuit of a leveller.
City drew level in the 33rd minute with a goal Spurs goalkeeper Lloris will be disappointed with as he failed to hold a low angled cross from Sterling at the feet of Kevin De Bruyne.
The ball rebounded to Gundogan who fired home from 10 yards for his seventh goal of the season.
After an absorbing and high intensity opening period, the second half was equally entertaing.
Spurs remained a threat on the break as Kane released Son who cut inside Walker but his low shot was easily saved by Ederson.
And they regained the lead just short of the hour when Kane started and finished a brilliant counterattack.
Kane, on the right wing, sprayed a brilliant ball to Son on the left and then ghosted into the middle to meet the cross of the South Korean, who had played a one-two with Ryan Sessegnon and fire high past Ederson.
It was the first time Kane had scored in 10 matches against City since Guardiola has been in charge.
This was his 16th goal of the season and was so nearly 17 moments late when Son released Kane again only for Ederson to block bravely at his feet.
Lloris made amends for his error for City’s goal as he made a flying save high to his left to turn away a goalbound shot from Gundogan.
Spurs thought they had a third goal in the 73rd minute, which would almost certainly have sealed victory, as Kane struck again only for VAR to rule that Kulusevski has strayed offside in the build-up.
City’s desperation was reflected when centre back Aymeric Laporte was pushed up as a stand-in striker late on.
There was controversy when City were awarded a penalty just as seven minutes of added time was being posted.
Bernardo Silva drove in a low cross from the left which struck the arm of Cristian Romero as he dived in to make a block.
Referee Anthony Taylor waved play on despite the protests of the City players, but VAR reviewed the incident and Lee Mason sent the match official to the pitchside monitor to review the appeal and he immediately pointed to the spot.
Substitute Riyad Mahrez fired high into the roof of the net for his 18th goal of the season, the last four all being spot kicks.
That was City’s 100th competitive goal of the season in their 38th game – it took until the 45th game last season to reach three figures – and underlined just how good they have been.
If City thought they had salvaged a point, they were mistaken as Spurs struck the decisive blow in the 95th minute.
Kulusevski, who was hugely impressive throughout, crossed from the right to the far post for Kane to head home a goal which keeps alive Spurs’ feint hopes of a top-four spot.