This is the closest you will see City trying to play 0-0 football. I am unsure as to the extent that Guardiola’s selection was governed by injuries, although he did make it clear that Bernardo was a casualty, but a line-up involving Delph is one that is destined to cause problems.
Gone is the one-off exceptional season he had last time out and now we have a player who makes no positive, forward-thinking contribution – every pass was backwards- and one who defended lazily when Son scored the winner for Spurs.
But it should have been so different. From the off it was clear that we were not going to see City at their free-flowing best, Guardiola clearly worried that the Blues could be hit with sucker punches. But it the VAR that delivered the first of those awarding City a penalty nobody claimed. Sterling’s goalbound shot hit the arm of Rose and went for a corner. On review the Blues were awarded a spotkick.
Once again everyone knew where Aguero was going to put it including Lloris who guessed correctly and saved easily. This was a great disappointment to City as it would have literally been a gift from the Gods.
But neither Spurs nor City were going to capitalise on it at least for another 70-odd minutes when Son failed to let a lost cause go, Delph nodded off and Son returned to a better scoring angle and made no mistake in scoring his second in as many matches at Spurs new home.
It was not good news for the Blues as there was precious little time to get back in it especially as de Jesus was constantly offside and De Bruyne and Sane only came on for the last 5 minutes. It looked very much as if Guardiola was happy at 0-1 and clearly believes his boys can redress the situation at the Etihad next week.
Aguero was mainly ineffective being starved of the ball and Otamendi, in no need of challenging for a ball easily dealt with by Ederson contributed to an uncomfortable fall for the Brazilian net minder.
Kane, too, chased a ball unnecessarily and got his bad ankle caught in a challenge with Delph and immediately limped down the handily-placed tunnel. The Poch was not too pleased with Delph, but it didn’t look like a foul to me.
City seem to be playing with some brakes on these days and just doing enough to win. But today it came back to bite them. Spurs probably didn’t deserve to win. They were happy to flop to the floor at every opportunity and referee Kuipers, never a fan of City was happy to endorse a succession of freekicks in their favour while waving play on when similar things happened at the other end. Indeed they may think they’re the new pride of North London but in addition they have taken over the mantle of grass-munchers-in-chief, Kane and Alli the main cheating culprits.
We have to look on the bright side in the knowledge that City will not sit back at the Etihad. Pep needs to spend time teaching de Jesus how to stay onside. His constant drifting into the realms of offside holds up play and runs down the clock. The side next week will be much more formidable, especially if King Bernardo is back. Without him today the side lacked energy. Except of course, if they were instructed to preserve it.