Johnny On The Spot:#DIGFORVICTORY. Manchester City’s 56th game of a marathon season has ended in another battling victory over a dangerous Spurs side.
The third episode of the City v Spurs trilogy opened up to a thumping atmosphere. Following their last minute ejection in last Wednesday’s Champions League berserker, this game would be a test of a brilliant squad’s courage, resilience and endurance.
In blistering April heat City hunted in packs from the off pushing back the Spurs backline repeatedly. Well on top, their early endeavour resulted in a crucial goal from the Stockport Iniesta. Foden was everywhere, constantly harrying the Spurs midfield and great value for his goal.
Yet 3 or 4 times inside the first 20 minutes Spurs got Son on Laporte or Stones shoulder and the Blues had to be alert to the clear and present danger. City were sloppy in possession at the back repeatedly. As the game settled, it became clear that Mauricio Pocchetino’s game plan was for Moura, Eriksen and Son to stay high up the field feeding off one ball over the top. City were indebted to Ederson saves on 3 occasions in the first half. Son’s movement off the ball was sensational once again.
The worrying withdrawal of super Kevin De Bruyne on 38 minutes once again underlined The Blues wretched luck with injuries to key players throughout this unprecedented season. To have maintained contention in all competitions until mid April off the back of an ever present casualty list has been incredible. With regard to KDB, it is not uncommon for players on the way back from lengthy knee injuries to suffer muscle strains during their on-field re-conditioning. All eyes on the treatment room early next week. We need his will to win, his edge, his brilliance.
City had just about done enough by the break. The second half would constitute a massive 45 minutes in all contexts for the reigning champions. They would need to hold the ball better AND if they could not, then they would have to take their chances up front.
Tottenham began to dish out some fruity challenges in the opening phase of the second period as both sides rode their defensive luck with leggy mistakes made in possession.
By the hour mark we were operating in no margin for error territory. The overwhelming sense was that one goal would not be enough.
On 65 minutes, Pep went false nine, calling upon Sané for Kun who had run his socks off. With every passing minute the intensity and the stakes heightened. Chances fell to both sides as nerves began to utterly shred across Planet Blue.
Entering the final quarter of an hour, The Blues lost some shape while Spurs set traps all over the park. Pocchettino made attacking changes to go 3 up top. They were going for it. City were forced into playing narrow and were struggling to reach wide areas. Inside the last 10 minutes, Pep and right hand man Mikel Arteta engaged in deep discussion. Despite Spurs pressing opening up gaps in behind them, El Boss opted for containment and sent on Spanish Dave to get hold of the ball. The Etihad was engulfed in anxiety but maintained the raised noise levels.
And after what seemed like an eternity and a supremely attritional rearguard action, the game ended with City’s 10th consecutive league win and Spurs tasted defeat in Manchester for a second time inside 4 days, their 16th loss in all competitions. City have now recorded a stunning 22 points from the top six clubs in this campaign.
City’s mental fortitude was admirable today considering the scenario that they took the field to. The squad can breathe a little easier for a couple of days before heading out of town to meet the Stretfords on Wednesday night whose new coach’s manager speak is increasingly reminiscent of Stuart Pearce back in the day.
Four league games now remain of a pulsating Premier League title race. Ultimately, the narrative of the season is yet to be written, but as we have seen from the media’s season long Liverpool procession, one of their defenders is still being talked up as the imminent Player Of The Year. Strange days.
JB’s Man of The Match: Ederson. Directly responsible for securing a priceless victory.
The Etihad Stadium
Referee: Michael Oliver of Northumberland
|Manchester City||Tottenham Hotspur|
|31 Ederson||22 Paulo Gazzaniga|
|2 Kyle Walker||4 Toby Alderweireld||Llorente 78'|
|5 John Stones||6 Davison Sánchez|
|14 Aymeric Laporte||5 Jan Vertonghen|
|35 Oleks Zinchenko||21 Juan Foyth|
|17 Kevin De Bruyne||Fernandinho 38'||20 Dele Alli||Rose 69'|
|8 Ilkay Gündogan||15 Eric Dier||Wanyama 61'|
|47 Philip Foden||Silva 85'||33 Ben Davies|
|20 Bernardo Silva||23 Christian Eriksen|
|10 Sergio Agüero||Sané 66'||7 Son Heung-Min|
|7 Raheem Sterling||27 Lucas Moura|
|19 Leroy Sané||3 Danny Rose|
|21 David Silva||9 Vincent Janssen|
|25 Fernandinho||12 Victor Wanyama|
|26 Riyad Mahrez||13 Michel Vorm|
|30 Nicolas Otamendi||16 Kyle Walker-Peters|
|33 Gabriel Jesus||18 Fernando Llorente|
|49 Aro Muric||52 Oliver Skipp|