Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League as Riyad Mahrez’s early goal gave them victory over Tottenham in a scrappy encounter on a Wembley surface scarred by Sunday’s NFL game.
Former Leicester City forward Mahrez, who swept home Raheem Sterling’s sixth-minute cross, dedicated his goal to Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who was killed in a helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium after Saturday’s game with West Ham.
It settled a match made more difficult by a Wembley pitch still bearing the markings and after-effects of the NFL encounter between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
City deserved the win and could have avoided an anxious finale had David Silva and Sterling taken second-half opportunities, while Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris saved twice from Sergio Aguero.
Tottenham were restricted to limited opportunities but could have rescued a point late on, only for Erik Lamela to waste a golden opportunity in front of an open goal from substitute Dele Alli’s pass.
City go ahead of Liverpool on goal difference with both teams on 26 points from 10 games.
‘A win on which title campaigns are built’
Manchester City sent out another message to those wishing to take their Premier League crown with a win of real significance.
Pep Guardiola prides himself and his team on their purist approach but this was a night for doing some of the dirty work on a poor playing surface against opponents wishing to make a statement of their own after the latest disappointment in their Champions League campaign.
City came out of the blocks fast to score the early goal through Mahrez and set the platform for a deserved win.
If there was a flaw in City’s performance it was a lack of ruthlessness that should have seen the three points secured before an anxious finale, especially in a second-half spell when they over-elaborated.
They showed they have steel in among the artistry as defenders John Stones and Aymeric Laporte, both more than happy to be uncompromising, complemented the silkier approach of David Silva and Bernardo Silva.
City’s win was the sort on which title-winning campaigns are built and they are on top of the Premier League after an opening 10 games that have included visits to Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs.
Spurs struggle for inspiration
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino said in the build-up to this game: “My feeling is the worst feeling I have had in my five years I have been here.”
Pochettino’s dark mood may be the result of delays in the move to Spurs’ new stadium, no summer signings and a Champions League campaign that has started with two defeats and a draw.
And he will hardly be in better humour after this.
This was a night of frustration for Spurs as they struggled to make any serious inroads into Manchester City’s defence until that late spell and the miss from Lamela.
Wembley was nowhere near full, with thousands of empty seats, especially around the top tier, while Spurs fans are still coming to terms with the news that one of their icons, Glenn Hoddle, is currently recovering from a heart attack.
The players came out to an almost eerie silence after a difficult few days for the football community and the atmosphere was subdued throughout.
Spurs missed the invention of Christian Eriksen and Alli, currently only fit enough to be on the bench, although there was a lively contribution from the other substitute Harry Winks.
They could have snatched a point in the closing phases as they were left to rue Lamela’s wayward finish – but the brutal truth is that Spurs have now lost to both Liverpool and Manchester City at home and look nowhere near title challengers.
Wembley surface spoils the spectacle
The sight of the battle-scarred Wembley surface – complete with NFL pitch markings – did not bode well for an eagerly awaited spectacle.
It had an ugly appearance, with both flanks looking bare and the pitch an open invitation for a series of wisecracks about NFL, but there was nothing funny about the impact on this game.
Players from both sides occasionally looked like they did not trust the surface and there was no question there was an understandable element of safety first about some of the defending.
NFL may help pay the bills and draw the crowds but it did nothing to assist two teams renowned for their fluent, passing football.
Man of the match – David Silva (Manchester City)
‘It was not conditions to play football’ – what they said
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino on Erik Lamela’s missed chance:“When the ball was going to Erik I said ‘goal’ but no, watching the replay, the ball just bounced before his boot and that is why he missed.
“I think it was a great game in difficult circumstances. I feel very proud. The effort was fantastic and we competed really, really well. It is a shame we conceded after five minutes but the team was good. I am happy with the performance.”
On the goal: “Very poor. It is clear it is our mistake. We conceded a very cheap goal. In the big games, this type of action, you can not concede a goal like we conceded today. We lost the game but I think playing Man City, they suffered the most (they have this season).”
Man City manager Pep Guardiola : “It was a great victory in special conditions, against one of the most physical teams in Europe. We had many chances. We have to score and we didn’t. That is why hopefully we will improve in the future.
“It was not football conditions to play. We reacted well. For our players and the players of Tottenham, hopefully they will sort the problem for the future.”
Man city top – hot streak in the capital – the stats
- Manchester City became the first non-London side to win five consecutive Premier League games in the capital, with all wins coming in 2018 (against Arsenal twice, Spurs twice and West Ham).
- Two of Tottenham Hotspur’s four Premier League defeats at Wembley have been at the hands of Manchester City.
- Manchester City have conceded just three goals in their first 10 Premier League games this season – in top-flight history, only one team has conceded fewer in their first 10 games of a season (Chelsea in 2004-05, two conceded).
- Spurs have lost two home Premier League matches in a calendar year against a single opponent for the first time since 2005, when they lost twice against Chelsea at White Hart Lane.
- Man City winger Riyad Mahrez has been involved in five goals in his past three Premier League appearances against Tottenham Hotspur (three goals, two assists).
- Raheem Sterling made his 200th Premier League appearance, aged 23 years and 325 days – only four players have reached the figure at a younger age (Wayne Rooney, James Milner, Cesc Fabregas and Gareth Barry).
- Since the start of last season, only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (50) and Spurs striker Harry Kane (38) have been involved in more Premier League goals than Sterling (36 – 22 goals, 14 assists).
- Manchester City remain unbeaten in the Premier League when Aymeric Laporte has featured (P19 W17 D2 L0) – the Spaniard has played more Premier League games without losing than any other player in the history of the competition.
Tottenham travel to West Ham on Wednesday (19:45 GMT) in their Carabao Cup fourth-round tie before heading to Molineux to face Wolves in the Premier League on Saturday (19:45).
Manchester City host Fulham in the Carabao Cup fourth round on Thursday (19:45 GMT) and return to Premier League action on Sunday when they welcome Southampton to the Etihad (15:00)
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