If Leicester City are having a fairy-tale season, then Tottenham Hotspur’s must have a little bit of magic about it too. After seeing North London rivals Arsenal peg back Leicester’s lead at the top, Spurs travelled to the Etihad to face their biggest test of the season. The was an acid test, and Mauricio Pochettino’s men dived in head first, before emerging the other side looking stronger than ever.
When the Manchester club travelled to White Hart Lane earlier in the season they were brushed aside by a Tottenham side full of exuberance and flair. The margin was 4-1, and marked the beginning of a few to take note. However, that was a City side without the likes of Hart and Kompany. It’s common knowledge to those that follow the Premier League that if City lose a couple of their talismans, the task isn’t so daunting.
Kompany made his competitive return following another stint on the sidelines
When Tottenham came to visit the Etihad however, they found themselves against a City side at near full strength. Bar Kevin de Bruyne, City welcomed back talismanic captain Vincent Kompany, to a side that also contained the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Spurs nemesis Sergio Aguero. Manchester City had only conceded once with Kompany in the starting XI this season, and Sergio Aguero had scored more goals against Tottenham than any other side in the league during his time in England.
This, added to the fact that Tottenham hadn’t won at this ground since Peter Crouch’s goal that sent us to the Champion’s League over five years ago, and that City were smarting after a home loss to high-flying Leicester, meant that this was the young Tottenham squad’s greatest challenge since Pochettino took over.
In years gone by, most people, including Tottenham fans, would expect us to wilt in the face of such a difficult task. However, this is a Tottenham side unlike anything many of us have seen in our lifetimes. City had a team brimming with players with championship winning experience, and yet it was Tottenham’s youngsters who held onto the ball with assured confidence. And when the ball was lost, this calmness was replaced with a rabid hunger to win it back, at times almost immediately.
Tottenham’s youth outshone an experienced City
The first half was a cagey affair with chances at a premium. Sergio Aguero scooped a left footed effort over the bar, whilst at the other end Christian Eriksen stung Joe Hart’s hands with a drive from just outside the box.
The standout performer for the half was Danny Rose though. Pochettino’s full-backs are rotated regularly, and the energy that Kyle Walker and Danny Rose showed that this policy is working. Rose played like a man possessed. Bombing up his left-flank tirelessly, in a performance that epitomised the work that Pochettino has done in developing this squad. He showed commitment in flinging himself in front of a Raheem Sterling shot that could well have been goal-bound. Before steaming down the other end and seeing a volley deflected behind for a corner.
It was Rose in the thick of it again after the break as we broke the deadlock. After another powerful run forward, Rose’s attempted cross into the box hit Raheem Sterling. Referee Mark Clattenburg adjudged Sterling to have had his arm in an unnatural position that the ball then hit. When viewing the replays this decision seemed harsh however as the City winger had his back turned with the ball possibly striking his ribs. There were no complaints from Harry Kane and the Spurs faithful however, and it was the Tottenham striker who was cool as ever to step up finish for his 16th premier league goal of the season.
Kane opened the scoring from the spot, his 16th goal of the season
Going a goal down seemed to be the tonic the home side needed though. Shocked out of their malaise by the thought of their title hopes slipping away from them, City began to attack Spurs with new vigour. It wasn’t long after the restart that Yaya Toure thundered a free-kick against the bar, and then saw a deflected shot loop over for the lurking Aguero who was unable to finish. The home side saw their pressure pay off when a slick interchange saw Silva free Clichy, before the Frenchman pulled back for teenage striker Kelechi Iheanacho to finish well past Lloris for 1-1.
In years gone by this may have been the moment that Spurs crumbled and allowed City to run away with it. Again though this young Tottenham side showed the grit and determination that any would champions need. The players on the pitch steeled themselves whilst Pochettino introduced Erik Lamela. This change provided great rewards shortly after, as Yaya Toure was hunted down the in the middle of the pitch by a pack of Tottenham players. The ball fell to Lamela who charged forward. Eriksen darted inside and the Argentine found him with a through ball popped between Otamendi’s legs. The Dane’s first touch was glorious, caressing it into his path leaving Kompany helpless, as he coolly slotted it past Joe Hart. Cue delirium.
Catch our piece on the insatiable Eriksen here!
There was still work to be done in the final ten minutes as City sought to salvage something from the game. It appeared they may have done so when Aguero wriggled free and lofted a cross across the six-yard box. Any other keeper in the world would have been left helpless. Fortunately for Spurs Hugo Lloris isn’t just any other keeper. Our captain sprinted across the length of his goal, eyes always on the ball, before clawing it off Otamendi’s head, who would have had a simple finish. David Silva could only put the rebound over, and that proved to be that for City.
This was a statement from Tottenham. A statement that this squad not only believes they are title contenders, but also have the quality to make this a reality. At full time Pochettino celebrated with his players one by one before applauding the always excellent away support. When asked last week if Tottenham could win league, his response was simple. Why not? After taking on another set of would be champions and beating them. Leaving us two points off top. With the best defence in the league. Why not indeed?
Written by Josh Smith
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