Prior to the game, there were positive rumblings from the Spurs camp. When asked on Twitter for their predictions, more fans than expected went for an away win – they had reason to believe too, with recent performances hinting at great things to come.
The match started brightly, with both sides weaving together some intricate passing moves and the ball constantly shifting from one end to the other. Sergio Aguero almost put the hosts ahead at eight minutes, with some neat David Silva footwork freeing him into the box, but the Argentine was correctly judged to be narrowly offside. He was not to be denied, however, and five minutes later the striker arrowed a devastating shot into the bottom right corner to give City the lead.
Fans would be forgiven for rolling their eyes at an all-too-familiar sight, but Pochettino’s men refused to capitulate and responded immediately. Two minutes after the first goal, Roberto Soldado picked Fernando’s pocket just outside of the hosts’ box, before threading a great ball through to Christian Eriksen who hammered it past Joe Hart. The England keeper managed to get a hand to the ball, but could do nothing to prevent the Dane’s powerful shot from finding the back of the net.
The game’s relentless pace continued, with Frank Lampard winning a soft penalty for the home side. Minimal contact was involved but nevertheless the referee gave it and, sure enough, Aguero claimed his second of the game by sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way. Lampard was brought down by Ryan Mason shortly after and had to be stretchered off, prompting jeers from the rightfully-furious away fans.
After starting as arguably the better team, Tottenham began to wane as the hosts clicked up through the gears and carved out numerous chances for themselves. Navas and Milner combined with devastating efficiency down the right multiple times, with Silva proving too much for Fazio to handle out left. A new-look Spurs defence found itself under siege, and half an hour into the game, the little Spaniard proved too tricky for the debutant and was bought down inside the box. Unlike the first penalty, this one was a dead cert – also unlike the first one, this one was saved, with Lloris pulling off a world-class save to deny Aguero his hat-trick.
Spurs then earned themselves two yellow cards in two minutes – Mason for a foul on Fernando, and Eric Dier for a foul on Gael Clichy. After such a slick start to the game, tempers began to fray as the pace slowed down in the build up to half time. Hart made a flurry of good saves just before the interval, with Eriksen and Mason both seeing excellent efforts being rebuffed. Navas, who had found himself in acres of space on the right flank all game, saw an effort of his own denied by the crossbar just before the referee’s whistle went.
After the interval, City raced out of the blocks and Aguero had numerous chances to grab his hat-trick – he would’ve been successful but a more composed Spurs defence stood strong. At the other end, Etienne Capoue put Lamela through on goal but a last-ditch tackle by Martin Demichelis prevented a great opportunity to equalize. Another was given some ten minutes later, with Soldado being clipped in the box. Suddenly, the away team were back in the game but the resulting penalty was expertly saved by Hart. The Spaniard, who has endured a torrid start to his career at Tottenham, put his hands to his head and kicked the ground.
Some sensed that this was the away team’s big chance to turn the game and they were proved right on the stroke of seventy minutes. The referee’s erratic decision-making continued, with Fazio being sent off for a challenge on Aguero inside the Tottenham box. A penalty, perhaps, but it was in no way a red card and the away fans aired their frustration with a massive roar of noise. Five minutes later, he added his fourth goal of the game, with the match effectively over as a dominant City put Spurs to the sword. Lloris made a couple of decent saves to prevent the scoreline, which now stood at 15-2 in three games, from getting even worse. As the game wound down, the home side knocked the ball about with ease and the whistle eventually blew for full-time.
What did we learn from this match?
+Ryan Mason has a big future – the young midfielder was arguably our player of the game, with a couple of venomous shots and some neat passing.
+Pochettino’s style of play is becoming more and more apparent, with some lethal attacking play before the second-half collapse. Smaller teams should be concerned.
-The defence is still as suspect as it has always been, with Rose allowing Navas too much space on the right and the centre-back partnership looking clueless at times.
-We still need an out-and-out striker, somebody who’s comfortable playing alone. Soldado isn’t suited to the lone forward role and you wonder how much time he will be given.
Spurs team rating: 8/10 in the first half, 5/10 in the second.
Opposition rating: 9/10 – absolutely ruthless and the reigning champions proved why they’re one of the favourites to do it again.
Referee rating: 4/10. Some shocking decisions, such as the first penalty given, effected the flow of an otherwise entertaining game and had huge ramifications for the final result.
Final verdict: Tottenham started brightly, but City ultimately proved too much for a team still finding its feet. Ryan Mason is growing in stature and Spurs should take the positives from a reasonable performance.