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Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Manchester City: 3 talking points from Mourinho's biggest win yet | Premier League 2019-20

Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
Modified 03 Feb 2020, 00:52 IST

Steven Bergwijn scored on his Tottenham debut to help to down Manchester City
Steven Bergwijn scored on his Tottenham debut to help to down Manchester City

In a drama-packed match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this afternoon, Jose Mourinho came out on top in his personal battle with Pep Guardiola, as his Spurs side overcame Manchester City 2-0. The result leaves Spurs just 4 points off 4th place, while City remain a monumental 22 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.The first half was utterly bossed by City; Tottenham didn’t have a shot on goal and looked destined to head into half-time behind, especially when a penalty was awarded for Serge Aurier’s crude challenge on Sergio Aguero. But Ilkay Gundogan saw his penalty saved by Hugo Lloris, and Guardiola’s men just couldn’t find a way through.

The game turned on its head in the second half when City left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko was dismissed for a second bookable offence following a cynical foul on Harry Winks, and just 3 minutes later, Tottenham were ahead through new signing Steven Bergwjin, who volleyed home from just inside the box. Just under 10 minutes later, Son Heung Min doubled the home lead, and try as they might, City could not score despite taking 18 shots.

Here are 3 talking points from the game:


#1 What was going on with VAR in the first half?

The passage of play that saw Manchester City awarded a penalty was truly baffling
The passage of play that saw Manchester City awarded a penalty was truly baffling

Despite referee Mike Dean initially waving it off, it came as no surprise when a VAR check awarded Manchester City a penalty in the first half following a Serge Aurier challenge on Sergio Aguero. The challenge was rash, unnecessary, and the Ivorian defender clearly didn’t win the ball. The big question then is why it took so long – over two minutes – for the official at Stockley Park to award the spot-kick?

The worst part was that the game continued on for those two minutes as the ball never went out of play – so what would’ve happened, for instance, if City had scored a goal? Would they then have been awarded the penalty anyway? What if Spurs had broke away to score? Incredibly though, that wasn’t the only baffling moment during the period of play.

Hugo Lloris made a tremendous save from Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty, but then lunged for the ball as Raheem Sterling went for the rebound – and when Sterling went down, all hell broke loose as City tried to claim another penalty. That was eventually waved off, which begs another question – if it wasn’t a foul, then surely Sterling dived?

If that was the case then the City forward should’ve been sent off, as he had already been booked – another controversial call from VAR – following a horror challenge on Dele Alli earlier in the half.

Thankfully the bizarre series of incidents didn’t affect the result of the match, but VAR remains a huge talking point, and clearly needs a lot of work going forward.

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#2 City’s tactical fouling finally catches up with them

Oleksandr Zinchenko was dismissed for a cynical foul, turning the game in Spurs
Oleksandr Zinchenko was dismissed for a cynical foul, turning the game in Spurs' favour

Much has been made of Manchester City’s “tactical fouling” this season; Pep Guardiola’s side have become almost infamous for stopping potential breakaway attacks by using cynical fouls on their opponents – fouls that don’t usually go punished, but allow their defence to reset and prevent any danger. Well, that tendency caught up with them today.

After bossing the first half – leaving Spurs hanging on by their fingertips at times – City’s game fell apart when Oleksandr Zinchenko was red-carded for a foul on Harry Winks after 60 minutes. It was a classic City tactical foul – Winks had broken away following a poor corner and was past the Ukrainian defender when his path was blocked – but this time, it cost them hugely as Zinchenko had already been booked for his part in the melee that followed Raheem Sterling’s first half penalty claim.

Just minutes later Steven Bergwijn put Tottenham ahead, and from there, despite continuing to have the lion’s share of possession and creating more chances, City always had their backs to the wall. When Son Heung-min scored Spurs’ second goal, it was basically game over – something that was almost unimaginable when the Cityzens had 11 men.

For fans of any club that isn’t named Manchester City, this result will feel like justice done; the tactical fouling from Guardiola’s side has been a point of contention for practically every other side they’ve faced this season, and they made 14 fouls to Tottenham’s 8 today, despite having 67% possession. Will it change their ways? Likely not, but it should make them think a little more going forward.

#3 Mourinho pulls off his best result yet

Today
Today's win was Spurs' best yet under Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has overseen some solid results since taking over at Tottenham in November – the 5-0 thumping of Burnley, the come-from-behind win over Brighton and the last-gasp victory over Wolves – but coming into today’s match, it was still hard to shake the feeling that things hadn’t quite yet clicked for the Portuguese in North London.

Well, that feeling should be gone after today. It might not have been a ‘Mourinho Masterclass’ to join some of his older results at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, but today’s result almost definitely marks the best under the Portuguese at Spurs, and it could well prove to be a turning point in the season for the London side too.

Sure, Spurs still didn’t look great going forward – too many times they tried to hit a non-existent target-man, with Lucas Moura reduced to leaping for balls he was never going to get during the first half – but the midfield partnership of Harry Winks and Giovani Lo Celso looked fantastic, Japhet Tanganga again impressed in defence against some dangerous opponents, and debutant Steven Bergwijn’s goal was fantastic.

Add in the fact that Mourinho’s side were able to keep a clean sheet – and scored two goals from open play, showing they’re not missing Christian Eriksen – and this was a tremendous result however you look at it. Spurs fans will be praying that it’s the start of a strong end to the season for them.

Published 03 Feb 2020, 00:52 IST
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