Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham are ‘nearly perfect’

Spurs 2 Manchester City 0

Mauricio Pochettino: Tottenham are ‘nearly perfect’

One could, in fact, say that his summing up was perfect, as his Spurs side made a mockery of a Manchester City team who had won their opening six Premier League games on the spin.

Despite the absence of their first-choice striker Harry Kane and even after a midweek trip to Russia in the Champions League, Spurs produced the kind of display which will make the country’s other title hopefuls take notice.

An early own-goal and a strike from Dele Alli did the damage, but even Erik Lamela’s second-half penalty miss could not take the shine off a win which will finally draw a line under the painful memories of last season’s capitulation in the title race.

“I am very happy, very pleased,” said Pochettino.

“The performance was nearly perfect. I think to play against a great team like Manchester City you need to do a fantastic job.

“I think for that I feel very proud of the performance and the work my players showed today.

“Was it the best since I got here? I don’t know.

“We have played some good games, but it is true that today, in a collective matter, we worked very hard and I think all the players were fantastic.”

In the continued absence of Kane, Pochettino decided not to bother with a recognised centre-forward, with Heung-Min Son his most advanced player and Theo Janssen left on the bench.

The Korean has rendered himself almost undroppable with five goals in as many games during a September in which Spurs won five of their six fixtures in all competitions.

Liverpool aside, however, Pochettino’s side had not faced anyone else who might also class themselves genuine title challengers, so this visit of City was considered the ultimate acid test.

Few Premier League managers know Pep Guardiola better than Pochettino, who kicked off his managerial career — at Espanyol — against Guardiola back in 2009.

Pep was in the opposite dug-out again when the Argentinean claimed his first victory as a boss weeks later.

However, having lost the next eight encounters with the feted Spaniard, Pochettino may have been wary of this visit of City, top of the league with six wins from six. His players clearly were not.

There was not even a minute on the clock when Son fashioned himself an opening and fired an early warning shot just over the bar as the home side started brightly.

They made it count after just nine minutes, when they opened the scoring through Aleksandr Kolarov, who helpfully assumed the role of striker.

Danny Rose’s cross had sailed over Son in the middle, but the City left-back made a mess of his attempted clearance, sending it into his own net via the underside of the bar.

Eight minutes before the break, Spurs doubled their advantage. It looked like the move had broken down when Dele Alli was tackled, but Son kept the ball alive, sliding a delightful pass into the Englishman, who did not even break his stride before stroking home past Claudio Bravo.

Although Aguero hit the post five minutes after the interval, there was no real change in the second half, with City second-best in almost every department. Guardiola had already introduced Ilkay Gundogan to provide more incision and Kelechi Iheanacho was waiting on the touchline when Alli won a penalty in the 64th minute.

However, Lamela’s firm strike from 12 yards was saved by Bravo and the score stayed 2-0.

If that was a lifeline, City were unable to grasp it, as the home side held on for a win that moved them just a point behind the league leaders.

“I think it was an exciting game, both teams play in an exciting way,” said Pochettino, who is now the only Premier League manager yet to taste defeat this season.

“We share a similar philosophy. I enjoyed it a lot on the touchline, the fans enjoyed a lot and the neutral people would have enjoyed it too. For both teams, the mentality was to go forward, play football and try to win the game.

“In theory, we are a team who want to have the control always. In front of us was Manchester City who want the same thing as us, so then it’s a battle.”

Guardiola had been vying to become the first manager in Premier League history to win his first seven games in charge, but could muster few words in defence of his players.

“They were better,” he said. “They were the better team. Sometimes, also, that can happen. We played against a team who last season were fighting for the championship. We know the talent they have.

“Do I have regrets about the decisions I made? Maybe yeah, but I am a guy who, when I lose, I try to understand why. But when they are better, they are better.

“Of course we will learn from it to ensure it won’t happen again.”

SPURS: Lloris 7; Walker 7, Alderweireld 7, Vertonghen 7, Rose 8; Wanyama 7, Alli 8 (Nkoudou 85); Lamela 7, Eriksen 7, Sissokho 7 (Dier 72 6); Son 8 (Janssen 90).

Subs not used: Vorm, Trippier, Winks, Davies.

MAN CITY: Bravo 7; Zabaleta 6, Stones 6, Otamendi 6, Kolarov 5; Fernando 6 (Gundogan 53 7), Fernandinho 6; Navas 5, Silva 6, Sterling 6 (Sane 86), Aguero 7.

Subs not used: Caballero, Sagna, Clichy, Garcia

Ref: Andre Marriner 6

Att: 31,793

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