Tottenham 4 Man City 1: The reactions of Manuel Pellegrini and Harry Kane on Saturday spoke volumes about how quickly the fortunes of a campaign can turn at this early start of the season.
Kane, the Tottenham forward, exuded happiness, relief and a strong sense of vindication at having scored his first club goal of the season after a seven-game barren spell that had prompted whispers the striker’s prolific first senior season may prove to be the exception rather than the rule for the 22-year-old.
By contrast, Pellegrini was rattled. The normally calm manager eventually growing tired of being asked about his side’s second-half capitulation, cutting short a post-match interrogation. The Chilean returned, insisting he would only speak about football but in truth, after the way his side were overwhelmed by Tottenham after the break, that was equally uncomfortable ground to tread for the manager.
Just seven days earlier, City had gone into their home meeting with West Ham United boasting a perfect record of five wins from five league games, with no goals conceded. The Champions League defeat to Juventus a few days previously raised concerns, but Pellegrini’s side were already installed as champions elect, particularly given Chelsea’s struggles.
By five o’clock on Saturday, City looked a very different proposition, knocked off the top of the table by Manchester United and distinctly fragile ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League group game at Borussia Moenchengladbach. After three defeats in four games – a run punctuated by a Capital One Cup victory at shambolic Sunderland – that game has suddenly acquired even greater significance after memories of last season’s under-achievements have been reawakened.
“Once you are in Europe you have to be at your absolute best to compete in that competition too,” said Nicolas Otamendi, the centre back who has formed a distinctly unimpressive partnership with Martin Demichelis in the absence of the injured Vincent Kompany.
Their cause will not be helped by the likely absence of Kompany with a calf problem while keeper Joe Hart and the influential Yaya Toure are also doubts. With Sergio Aguero looking short of full fitness, Pellegrini’s side appear a very different prospect to the team that strolled through the opening weeks.
“We never said that we are invincible,” said the manager. “We know the Premier League is always close games and very difficult. Anyone can beat another team. We must continue working, we have 15 points, we try to get a victory in the next game.”
Things appeared to be running smoothly for the visitors when Kevin De Bruyne scored his third goal in three games midway through the first half, but Eric Dier’s equaliser immediately before the break - allowed to stand despite a glaring offside in the build-up – gave Spurs hope and the home took control through Toby Alderweireld’s 50th minute header and Kane’s 61st minute effort after another dubious offside call. Erik Lamela capped his best game with the fourth.
Kane’s goal, a well taken finish after following up Christian Eriksen’s free-kick was the high point for Spurs and drew an appreciative reaction from England manager Roy Hodgson watching from the stands.
“Maybe I shut up a few people who have been talking over the last few weeks,” said the forward.
“Only seven games and a few people said one-season wonder. People can judge me at the end of the season and we will go from there. I have to stay focused but it is great to score. When you score like last season it becomes a drug, and when someone takes it away from you, you want to get it back.”
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-2-3-1):
Lloris (c) 8; Walker 7, Alderweireld 7, Vertonghen 7, Davies 7; Alli 7, Dier 8; Eriksen 6 (Chadli 68, 6), Son 7 (Njie 77, 7), Lamela 9 (Carroll 87, 6); Kane 8
Subs not used:
Vorm, Rose, Trippier, Townsend.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-2-3-1):
Caballero 4; Sagna 6, Demichelis 4, Otamendi 5, Kolarov 6; Fernando 7, Fernandinho 6 (Nasri 70, 6); De Bruyne 7, Toure 8 (Navas 56, 6), Sterling 5; Aguero 5 (Roberts 86, 6)
Subs not used:
Hart, Kompany, Zabaleta, Barker.
Mark Clattenburg 4
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