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A City Fan’s Perspective: Bad Referees Made Diving a Good Idea

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Thanks, Andre Marriner

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Coming into the game at the Etihad, struggling Manchester City had to rebound against a Tottenham Hotspur side on a seven-game win streak. Earning a point would be an accomplishment, but most would agree Andre Marriner robbed City of two more.

City capitalized from two mistakes by Hugo Lloris, and they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second half. However, Dele Alli was not to be outdone and scored a header for his 11th goal this season.

Then, in one of the most controversial plays of the seasonseason, Raheem Sterling had a one-on-one chance with Lloris in the box. Kyle Walker shoved Sterling in the back, and he tried to stay up and shoot. The shot went directly to Lloris’ arms, but City were livid that referee Andre Marriner didn’t call a clear penalty.

Tottenham weren’t finished scoring, and build-up play from Harry Kane immediately after the penalty non-call led to a Son Heung-Min goal at the far post. Most spectators believed a winner was on the rise.

City added a game-changer with the substitution of Gabriel Jesus late in the game, and the debutant almost scored with his first three touches. However, the teams heard the whistle blow at the final score of 2-2.

Here’s a look at City’s performance from a fan.

Defense

While City’s defense has struggled throughout the season, the back line looked much more secure than before. Nicolas Otamendi and Aleksandar Kolarov made plenty of key tackles at center back, and Pablo Zabaleta led City on the attack and while defending.

The defense prevented many Spurs counter attacks, an aspect that many believed City would struggle with. However, it’s the few chances that City allow which make the difference on the score sheet.

Just like last week, the opposing team scored with each shot on target that they managed (this time, it was only two). Walker’s cross to Kane was extremely hard to defend, but it could be argued that Kolarov had the opportunity to clear it. Other than that, there was nothing City could truly do.

But the second goal was much different. Yes, Son picked out the bottom left corner off his shot, but Claudio Bravo proved useless once again. He did absolutely nothing to prevent the shot from hitting the net, which is not surprising.

Pep brought Bravo in for passing, but he forgot that a goalkeeper’s job is to save the ball from the goal. Bravo doesn’t deserve any Bravos for his performance.

Midfield

When City released the lineup, I was quite worried that Pep chose to play a 4-1-4-1. I have firmly stood that Yaya Touré is not a good holding midfielder because of his low defensive work rate, but he proved me wrong today.

Yaya made lots of tackles and passes under pressure, and his role in the center was crucial to City’s success. Meanwhile, the attacking midfield proved to be world class.

Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sané both capitalized on mistakes by Hugo Lloris, and the whole group constantly pressured Tottenham’s defense. They created most of City’s chances and could play the ball outside to the fullbacks or up the middle to Sergio Agüero. Their versatile play led to City’s attacking prowess throughout the game, and the Sky Blues arguably played their best football all season in the first half.

Attack

Sergio Agüero played alone up top as usual, and he contributed constantly to City’s attack. He is one of the world’s best strikers, but he struggled to put all of his chances on target.

The midfield fed the ball to Kun all game, and his three shots on target seem to be a great number for the Argentine. But his efforts were easily blocked by Lloris, who had to play well to make up for his two embarrassing mistakes.

However, the player to praise in the attack had to be Gabriel Jesus. In his first game for City, the Brazilian striker only played for ten minutes, but he made his presence known with his first three touches.

First, he fizzed in a deadly low cross across the box, which a City player couldn’t put his foot on. Then, he leaped like a salmon towards a cross and almost scored an immaculate header, but his effort was inches above the bar.

Finally, De Bruyne whipped a ball across the goal, and Jesus tapped it in for what seemed to be the late winner for City. However, the linesman correctly disallowed the goal because he was a yard offside. Still, very encouraging signs from Jesus.

The Penalty

While I say it was “the penalty”, Andre Marriner had to disagree on this occasion. Raheem Sterling refused to go down off a shove in the back from Kyle Walker, and Marriner ignored the play as if nothing happened.

Diving is frowned upon by the worldwide football community, but this example proves why it has become such a regular occurrence. Had Sterling gone down, Marriner surely would have blown the whistle, given Walker a red card for interfering with a clear cut chance, and awarded Sterling a shot from the penalty spot to make the score 3-1.

Ultimately, City were the better team in this contest, proving that Guardiola’s tactics can truly work wonders and that they’re still a threat to the top four and even the title. Yet, the refs robbed them of earning a vital three points against Spurs.