HALCYON DIGEST: Tottenham Hotspur 1-5 Manchester City, 2014

For a long time, City would travel to White Hart Lane and the result could be pretty much written down by the newspapers before a ball had been kicked. It usually ended up 2-1 to the home side, with Spurs taking an early lead, doubling it later in the first half, before the visitors grabbed their consolation just before or just after the break. Regular as clockwork, the earth would go around the sun, the moon would go around the earth, and City would lose at Tottenham.

Roberto Mancini put the brakes on that sequence with a goalless draw at White Hart Lane in 2010, before he went and demolished Spurs there by five goals to one the following season – as his side went on to claim the title. There was a minor blip the following campaign, as the Italian’s side lost 3-1, despite dominating the game, before Manuel Pellegrini’s first visit to North London.

Tottenham will have been sick of City that year. The Blues’ brilliant run of form was kick started by a 6-0 victory against Andre Villas-Boas’s side at the Etihad – where Jesus Navas scored within 15 seconds – while Tim Sherwood’s good start as Spurs boss was brought to an abrupt end by the eventual champions.

It was the end of January. City hadn’t lost since the start of November and were on a roll, but Tottenham at White Hart Lane had always been a stumbling block for the club – yet Pellegrini’s team made mincemeat of their opponents.

Sergio Aguero opened the scoring with a brilliant dinked effort over Hugo Lloris, following an excellent pass from David Silva. The Spaniard played the Argentine in behind on the right hand side and, as the goalkeeper dived as his feet, the centre-forward delightfully switched the direction on the ball to divert it on target – without even looking at the goal.

That came 15 minutes into the match – after the striker was unlucky not to have broken the deadlock ten minutes earlier, as his solo run ended with a similar shot crashing into the top of the post. Already Spurs will have been wondering what was hitting them – especially when Lloris was called upon to produce a brilliant one-handed save to deny Aguero his second from a header.

By the half hour mark, the away side had also had a strong handball claim for a penalty turned down and an effort from a corner cleared off the line. It was one-way traffic.

The hosts thought they’d equalised with ten minutes to play until half time, but the linesman’s flag ruled it out. Michael Dawson put the ball into the net via the crossbar, but he was standing in an offside position when the free kick from the flank was taken – and Emmanuel Adebayor was beyond the second-last defender when he challenged for it, too.

City’s game could have fallen apart just before the break if they’d begun to feel sorry for themselves. Despite trailing 1-0, the hosts were getting back into the match and the Blues lost Aguero to injury. He pulled up short and had to leave the action early, suffering from a hamstring problem.

However, the away side came out for the second period and put the game to bed. It all started as Danny Rose chopped down Edin Dzeko inside the box, as the Bosnian striker was clean through on goal. It resulted in a penalty being awarded, the defender being shown the red card and Yaya Toure doubling City’s lead.

Seven minutes into the half, it was three for the visitors. David Silva and Pablo Zabaleta linked up well to set the Spaniard up with a shooting opportunity in the box and, when his effort cannoned off the post and back into the area, Dzeko was on hand to smash it into the roof of the net.

Slack marking from City allowed Tottenham to pull a goal back from a corner shortly after. A loose ball was powered home by Etienne Capoue, despite the best efforts of Hart and Fernandinho on the line to keep it out.

With just over a quarter of an hour to play, the Blues extended their lead further and cut any hopes of a Tottenham comeback. Stevan Jovetic was played in on the left flank and he cut inside to open up the angle for a shot. His effort was deflected and it took it around the dive of Lloris, and the ball nestled in the corner of the net. It was the Montenegrin’s first Premier League goal for the club.

The scoring was rounded off in the final minute by the captain, as Vincent Kompany got himself on the scoresheet. A corner was volleyed towards goal and, as Lloris dived for it, the effort was blocked by one of his own defenders and spilled wide for the skipper. He had an empty net ahead of him and was never going to miss – securing a second 5-1 victory at White Hart Lane for the Blues in three visits.

The result took City to the top of the Premier League table.

After the match, City boss Pellegrini wasn’t surprised by the display:

“It is not easy to win away against Tottenham in this stadium by five goals, but I think the team played really well today. In the first half, we scored just one goal but we deserved at least two or three more. In the second half, we continued the same way and after the penalty it was more difficult for Tottenham with one player less. But from the beginning I think we were the team that played in the best way.

“I think this team has a style of play where we’re always trying to be creative. We try to create chances and we’ve got top players so the chances we create, they score. I don’t think it’s a surprise. Of course, it’s not easy to score five goals against any team in the Premier League.”

Meanwhile, Spurs manager Sherwood was impressed by the City team – but felt his side weren’t helped out by a refereeing call:

“Andre [Marriner] got the decision right from the start, he thought it was a corner. It’s a last-ditch tackle from Danny [Rose] and he has to come in like that to have any chance of reaching the ball – which he did. It’s unfortunate it’s gone against us today.

“Even before the red card it was very, very difficult. This team are the best team on the planet – they’re certainly the best team in the Premier League. It was very difficult with even numbers, so once we went down to ten it was over as a spectacle.

“We gave the ball away too often and once you give it away against this top team, you’re not getting it back for a long time and it invariably ends up in the back of your net.”

You can watch the highlights of the game here.

City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure (Nastasic 64), Navas, Silva (Kolarov 80), Dzeko, Aguero (Jovetic 45)
Unused: Pantilimon, Lescott, Rodwell, Negredo

Attendance: 36,071

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Written by David Mooney.


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