Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur were two of the pre-season favourites to lift the Premier League trophy. Both teams came into the match high on confidence after winning their respective opening fixtures.
There was an element of hype surrounding this match owing to an unforgettable UEFA Champions League quarterfinal encounter in which a controversial VAR decision eliminated Manchester City. Tottenham had improved their side with some good signings and are considered a genuine title contender by many experts.
Pep Guardiola made four changes to the starting lineup that won the first match against West Ham. Sergio Aguero replaced Gabriel Jesus as the striker after being rested for the opening fixture. Bernardo Silva started in the right-wing while Ilkay Gundogan replaced veteran David Silva. John Stones' injury forced Guardiola to play Nicolas Otamendi in place of the Englishman.
Mauricio Pochettino opted for a 3-man midfield with Harry Winks, Tanguy N’Dombele and Moussa Sissoko.
The match lived up to its billing as Manchester City pushed for a victory but Tottenham kept clawing back into the game. Manchester City were ruthless right from the first minute and Raheem Sterling’s header gave them an early lead. Out of nowhere, Erik Lamela scored the equalizer at the 23rd minute with a magnificent strike from twenty yards.
Manchester City took the lead again with Kevin De Bruyne assisting Sergio Aguero with a perfect low cross from the right-wing. Tottenham’s UCL semifinal hero Lucas Moura turned out to be their saviour again as he scored a stunning header after coming on as a substitute.
Manchester City kept creating chances throughout the game and with a bit of luck, they could have won this encounter with ease. Their unluckiest moment came during the extra time as Gabriel Jesus's winner was ruled out by VAR. Here are the three reasons why the game ended in a draw.
#1 Kevin De Bruyne’s compelling performance
Kevin De Bruyne was instrumental in Manchester City’s record-breaking victory in the 2017/18 season but he missed out a major part of the last season due to frequent injuries. Manchester City won a domestic treble even without him contributing significantly and that raised questions as to whether he would still be a first-choice player in this City team.
Kevin De Bruyne answered all the doubters by dominating the first 45 minutes of the game with a brilliant display of vision, guile and exquisite passing. In the 20th minute, he played out a beautiful cross into the box which was headed home by Sterling. For City’s second goal, he got away from Danny Rose before perfectly setting up Aguero to score from close range.
He currently has three assists from two games and averages 6 key passes per game which shows why he is a class above from the rest. If he can remain fully fit for the rest of the season, Manchester City has every chance of winning another continental treble.
#2 Manchester City’s defensive flaws
In the last season, only Liverpool conceded fewer goals than City and the main reason for that was their ability to press and defend as a team. But some minor flaws in City’s defensive armour was on display against Tottenham Hotspur. Due to the absence of Son Heung-Min, Tottenham failed to put any sort of pressure on the Manchester City defence for the first 50 minutes.
Pochettino was smart enough to recognize this and introduced Lucas Moura to change the tempo of Tottenham’s attack. The Brazilian caused a few problems for City with his pace as he wriggled free of their pressing many times. Kyle Walker did not have a good game as Lucas Moura out-jumped him to score the equalizer.
Lucas' header was the major reason why Pep Guardiola does not encourage his defenders to give easy corner kicks for the opposition. Manchester City lacked a physical presence while defending set-pieces which eventually cost them two points.
#3 Manchester City’s conversion rate
Sometimes, the scoreline does not tell the whole story and though the game ended in a draw, Manchester City were the better side. They took 30 shots throughout the game and 10 of them were on target. In the initial few minutes of the second half, Manchester City created a string of chances and could have scored at least twice.
This was not Aguero’s best outing and he could have put Manchester City ahead after Gundogan’s perfect pass but his shot flew high over the post. He was substituted after 67 minutes and his frustration was on display as he got into a heated conversation with Guardiola.
Bernardo Silva provided a few magical moments but failed to put away a simple chance after a deflection fell into his path. The major difference in City’s attack today was the number of shots they attempted outside the box but none of them were accurate enough to trouble Hugo Lloris.