Monday, June 17, 2024

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Manchester City: Talking points as Harry Kane record-breaker downs Premier League champions (Video)

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In North London on Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur prevented Manchester City from taking advantage of Arsenal’s defeat to Everton the previous day to close the gap at the top of the Premier League table, courtesy of a record-breaking goal from Harry Kane in the 15th minute, while strengthening their own position in the race for top-four placement.

The amazing Kane

It was goal No. 267 for the England captain in a Spurs shirt, making him the club’s top scorer ever in all competitions, as well as the player to have reached 200 Premier League goals in fewest matches in the history of the English top flight. Head coach Antonio Conte, who was unable to take charge of the team for this game as he recovers from gallbladder surgery, called his striker up after the match to congratulate him on this historic moment.

It must’ve been an amazing feeling for Kane, hitting the back of the net so early in the game to break that record, against none other than the club that has been dominating the English game for quite a long time, and then again at the final whistle when it proved to have been the winner. The fact that it also made Spurs’ arch-rivals happy bears absolutely no significance in such circumstances.

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The 267 goals have been scored in 416 matches in all competitions for the club, and the 200 in the Premier League came in 304. It’s a fantastic record, and while the 29-year-old may still feel unfulfilled having not won a single major trophy to date, there hasn’t been a player so important for a team for a very long time, arguably since Steven Gerrard captained Liverpool to shocking Champions League glory in 2005.

There was a moment when Kane wanted to leave Spurs for City, back in the summer of 2021, but now he likely feels grateful that the club stood firm in their determination not to allow that to happen for any money.

Haaland overshadowed

It certainly shouldn’t be forgotten that Erling Haaland still has 25 goals in just 20 Premier League matches, making him ripe to tear the league’s record for a 38-game season to shreds, in his very first season in English football, at the age of 22. Not even Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo had such numbers at that age.

But with the way this match went, all those things in which Kane is superior to the young Norwegian came to the fore. City are almost always the better team on the pitch, regardless of the name of the opposition or the competition, but this was one of those rare occasions when they’re not, and that’s when Haaland becomes practically useless.

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A poacher, a finisher, full of pace and power, strong in the air, Haaland is a perfect goalscorer, definitely more so than Kane. But Kane is obviously so much more.

Very capable of dropping into deeper positions to pick the ball up and engage his teammates, Kane has quite formidable playmaking skills, something that Haaland clearly lacks at this point in his career. Haaland is not a player to take a contest by the scruff of the neck and win it for his team.

Kane is.

A Pep mistake?

Last season, Manchester City won the Premier League title by beating Liverpool in the race by a single point. The Merseysiders are now in a deep crisis, sitting in the middle of the table, and City are having problems too. Not quite as serious, but problems still.

Conceding an early goal through a defensive mistake, failing to impose themselves on the contest with enough determination to turn it around, losing battles in the middle of the park and wasting a number of chances when they do come – these words describe Liverpool’s form rather accurately, but they also describe the way City played in North London on Sunday and manager Pep Guardiola will not have been happy about it.

And speaking of Guardiola, the Catalan tactician bears a great part of the blame for the way his team fared.

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Many were surprised when the visitors’ starting lineup was announced. For one thing, players like Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte were left on the bench, and with John Stones injured. Guardiola went with a 4-2-4 shape, with Nathan Ake starting alongside Manuel Akanji in the heart of defence, young Rico Lewis on the left defensive flank, and the pair or Rodri and Bernardo Silva was tasked with controlling the middle of the park. Upfront, Julian Alvarez joined Haaland, with Jack Grealish on their left and Riyad Mahrez on their right.

Kyle Walker playing on the right side of the back four was probably the only thing that seemed right, apart from Ederson Moraes in goal.

Spurs also had two central midfielders on the pitch, but Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min, whose primary role was to support Kane upfront, were much more efficient in getting deeper to help Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentacur than Grealish and Mahrez on the other side. The City wingers were constantly kept wide by the relentless efforts of Emerson Royal and Ivan Perisic, the Spurs wing-backs.

This whole equation spelled one thing – Bernardo Silva and Rodri were overrun in the middle, powerless to do anything about the vast space they were supposed to be covering off the ball, and constantly pressed from all sides when on it. That, in turn, led to City failing to control the game the way they usually do, and most notably, failing to get Haaland into any kind of chance throughout.

In fact, the Premier League’s leading scorer did not touch the ball inside the opposition box at all.

Guardiola waited almost an hour to send De Bruyne on. Gundogan was called up with just six of the 90 minutes left on the clock. By that time, the rest of the team were obviously tired and badly frustrated. Conte was not at the stadium, but his mantra was still notable as Spurs players took every opportunity to waste time and have a poke at their opponents.

In the end, Cristian Romero sacrificed himself by taking Grealish out while already on a booking, and referee Andy Madley was not in a forgiving mood. It made no difference as assistant coach Cristian Stellini withdrew Kulusevski and sent on Davinson Sanchez to take Romero’s place in the back line.

The aftermath

The three points won in this match have brought Spurs within touching distance of the top four, with their tally of 39 only one shorter than that of Newcastle in fourth place, though they have played a game more than the Magpies. Having done the hard work against City, Kane and his teammates have to keep the momentum going when they face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

Meanwhile, this was a big opportunity wasted for City. Arsenal have been extremely relentless in their stride towards the finish line, and their defeats won’t be happening often. The gap between them remains five points in favour of the Gunners, but Manchester United have started creeping up on the leading duo too. With the same number of matches played, they’re only three points behind City, who face Aston Villa at the Etihad at the end of the week.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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