Tottenham announce title credentials with victory over Manchester City
TOTTENHAM'S title credentials are no longer in doubt after they blew away Pep Guardiola's Manchester City with a breathless 2-0 victory at White Hart Lane.
City arrived unbeaten and with a perfect six out of six record in the Premier League this season, but Aleksandar Kolarov's own goal and Dele Alli's crisp finish gave Spurs an impressive win. The scoreline would have been more emphatic had Erik Lamela not missed a penalty in the second half but Mauricio Pochettino's side now move within a point of their opponents in the table and look primed for another title challenge.
Much of the talk so far this term has been about Guardiola's brilliant start as City boss, but Celtic proved in midweek his star-studded team can be rattled when pressed high up the pitch, and Tottenham picked up where Brendan Rodgers' side left off.
For the first time in his Tottenham tenure, Pochettino is having to manage a significant injury list that currently includes Harry Kane, Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier - arguably the team's three best players last season - and it is ominous for their rivals that his side will improve when they return.
For City, this may prove a timely reality check after their blistering start to the campaign but opponents will draw belief from how Tottenham's relentless pressing paid off. Before kick-off, a video played out of their 4-1 thrashing over City 12 months ago, the result that set in motion Tottenham's surprise title challenge last season, and perhaps this result will have a similar effect.
Son Heung-min was preferred up front to the misfiring Vincent Janssen and barely 30 seconds had passed before he fired over from the angle. However it was City who should have taken an early lead, when David Silva tried to flick home Jesus Navas' cross but failed to connect. That was as close as the visitors came in a torrid opening 45 minutes as Spurs hustled and harried in every corner of the pitch and their frantic opponents were simply unable to find a way out.
As one rushed clearance followed another, it seemed inevitable Tottenham would eventually capitalise and so it proved as Lamela snatched possession off Fernandinho, played in Danny Rose and the left-back's cross to the back post was skewed in off the post by the right foot of Kolarov.
Kolarov's miscued clearance had led to Celtic's third goal in midweek. On the touchline, Guardiola could only rub his forehead in disbelief. The error was symptomatic of City's state of panic and Nicolas Otamendi was fortunate not to be sent off after two rash challenges on Alli, the first of which led to Christian Eriksen flashing a free-kick just past the post.
Sergio Aguero, who had hardly had a sniff, nipped ahead of Jan Vertonghen and fell to the ground, but there appeared little contact and even the Argentinian appeared unconvinced a foul had been committed.
Instead, Tottenham's dominance only grew, and in the 37th minute they doubled their lead as Alli ghosted past three dozing City defenders and clipped Son's pass first time into the bottom corner for his second goal of the season.
The home crowd were euphoric and when City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, taunted every time he received the ball, sliced into touch under pressure from Son, it felt like Tottenham's only complaint at the interval could be they were not further ahead.
The second period began as the first had ended, as Son and Victor Wanyama unleashed shots from distance, but Aguero remained a threat on the counter and one of his shots almost squirmed through Hugo Lloris and into the net but instead cannoned back off the post.
In the 65th minute, Spurs should have put the game to bed. Kyle Walker was clattered by Kolarov but referee Andre Marriner played advantage, only for Alli to be brought down in the box by Fernandinho. In the absence of Harry Kane, Lamela stepped up to take the penalty but his effort was too high and too straight, and Bravo palmed it away.
Kelechi Iheanacho, on for Navas, could have set up a nervy finish but was thwarted by Lloris and the French goalkeeper did brilliantly to divert Aguero's deflected shot over late on. Iheanacho then comically air-kicked a shot late on, much to the home fans' delight.
It summed up City's miserable afternoon.