Manchester City opened their defense of the Premier League title with a 1-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur. A packed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium witnessed a spirited effort from the home side. Playing without Harry Kane, Spurs were lead to triumph by Son Heung-Min and the tactics of new manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
City were bested on the opening match for the first time in 13 seasons, ending a streak of 10 victories. Pep Guardiola’s side fell victim to a number of factors, not the least of which was a raucous showing from the Tottenham Hotspur supporters. With Premier League stadiums back to full capacity, grounds across the league saw spirited support. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was no exception.
City dominated possession throughout the game, but Spurs were able to mount several promising counter attacks when they turned City over. Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling were able to apply pressure up the left hand side of the pitch, forcing Japhet Tangana into several early fouls. Despite having most of the ball the chances were not plentiful for the Blues. City’s best chance came on a gorgeous Sterling pass that found Riyad Mahrez alone just in front of the Spurs penalty spot. With a clear shot at goal and Hugo Lloris dead to rights, Mahrez’ left footed shot sailed well wide.
City had their nervy moments at the defensive side of the pitch as well. Son, Lucas Moura, and Steven Bergwijn applied pressure to the back line of Benjamin Mendy, Ruben Dias, Nathan Aké, and João Cancelo all afternoon. Spurs were particularly dangerous from set pieces. I took perhaps City’s best save of the day from Ilkay Gundogan to keep the game level. Son floated free kick from about 30 meters into the City 6 yard box. Ederson came for the ball but was unable to handle it. The ball found its way onto the foot of Moura with the Brazilian netminder still dreadfully out of position. Moura’s right footed shot got around Mendy and headed for the right corner of goal. Dias and Gundogan sprinted for the post, with Gundogan making the nervy stop.
Son had another quality chance off the break at the 40 minute mark. He received the ball just outside the 18 yard box. With Dias and Cancelo moving to the left, he deftly moved the ball back onto his right foot and let fly. The ball went wide to the right with Ederson closing in. City were awarded the goal kick, but replays clearly showed the ball glancing off Cancelo’s backside before heading to the end line. An unlucky break for Spurs, but also a sign of things to come.
The second half featured more of the same, with City possessing and Spurs looking for the counter. In the 55th minute however, Spurs finally broke through. Son got the ball to the wide right of the penalty area and pushed it on to his left foot where he wrapped it around the retreating City defenders and into the lower left corner of Ederson’s net. A clinical, high quality strike from a player whom showed his class all game. Son was easily the Man of the Match for me.
In the 60th minute, Spurs should have doubled there advantage when Bergwijn went in on goal from another transition chance. Streaking in from the left, Bergwijn received a perfect pass from Moura as he went to ground. Bergwijn was one-v-one with Ederson and needed only to lift it past the sliding goal keeper. Instead he attempted to wrap it around and the ball glanced off the outside of the City goal.
Pep sent Gabriel Jesus in for Raheem in the 70’. In the 79th he substituted Oleksandr Zinchenko for Mendy and Mahrez made way for Kevin De Bruyne. The late additions were able to inject some late life into the attack, but nothing truly threatening ever materialized for City in the end. Fans did get a 15 minute preview of KDB and Jack on the field together. A tantalizing idea as the season moves forward.
It wasn’t to be for the Champions on the afternoon however, and they are leaving North London empty handed. It is possible that Spurs all-time leading goal scorer joins them in Manchester soon. A fact that was not lost on the Spurs crowd. As Tottenham were seeing the game out, the supporters could be heard singing “Are you watcjhing Harry Kane?” Certainly he was. But was he thinking he should stay with his current club, or how much better this City side might have faired with him in the line up?