Unrelenting Tottenham produce ‘perfect performance’ to end Man City’s flawless start

Greg Lea reports from White Hart Lane where Tottenham Hotspur remained the Premier League's only unbeaten side after dismantling leaders Manchester City.

Dele Alli caps off a fine move to score Tottenham's second goal in the 2-0 victory against Manchester City. John Walton / PA
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Tottenham Hotspur 2 Manchester City 0

Tottenham: Kolarov (9' og), Alli (37')

Man of the match: Victor Wanyama (Tottenham)

LONDON // Every advance was met with a roar of appreciation from the terraces and a cry of encouragement from the touchline. Tottenham Hotspur, inexorable and unrelenting, did not give Manchester City a moment's peace throughout the encounter at White Hart Lane, and the visitors had no answer to their opponents' intense and aggressive pressing.

This game was billed as a clash between the Premier League's meanest defence and deadliest attack, with Tottenham having conceded the fewest number of goals and City having scored the most heading into the weekend.

It was the defence that won out — and in emphatic fashion, too — but this was far from a backs-to-the-wall performance from Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who owed their fourth clean sheet of the league season to their attackers and midfielders as much as their back four and goalkeeper.

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The tone was set in the opening minute as Tottenham flooded forward straight from kick-off to force Claudio Bravo to kick the ball long with his first touch of the afternoon. City may have been hoping to settle into their rhythm with an early spell of patient possession, but such plans had to be hastily shelved in the face of Tottenham’s vigorous pressing.

The hosts went ahead shortly after when Aleksandar Kolarov horribly scuffed the ball into his own net after a deep cross from Spurs left-back Danny Rose, but the insurance of a one-goal advantage did not lead to any alteration in their approach. If anything, Tottenham further turned up the heat after breaking the deadlock. City, rattled and ragged, looked like a colony of rabbits caught in the headlights.

Son Heung-min, selected ahead of Vincent Janssen as Tottenham’s nominal central striker, led the effort from the front, harrying John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi and making it difficult for Pep Guardiola’s men to build from the back. It was notable that City’s most common pass combination was Stones to Bravo, an indication of how much they struggled to work the ball through the pitch.

Victor Wanyama, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli, fielded together in a midfield three, were all industrious and made it difficult for City to pick out David Silva and Fernandinho in dangerous positions between the lines.

Further back, Kyle Walker was excellent in his direct duel on the right with Raheem Sterling, and Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen dealt with Sergio Aguero’s considerable threat impressively.

Tottenham were also terrific in possession, their passing moves purposeful and incisive. Son’s lateral movement towards the flanks caused problems for Stones and Otamendi and opened up space into which Alli could dart, while Wanyama, Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko were all tidy in their use of the ball.

This convincing victory, however, was mostly down to Tottenham’s powerful pressing and the fine discipline with which they carried it out.

“They were the better team,” Guardiola said. “They played with talent and we knew how aggressive they are — home and away, but especially at home. They were a step ahead of us today. When the opponent is better you have to learn from it.”

Pochettino, meanwhile, was left to reflect on a “nearly perfect” performance.

“To play a great team like Manchester City you need to do a fantastic job,” he said. “I’m very proud of the performance and the work our players showed.”

Guardiola’s City had displayed few signs of vulnerability in the Premier League before this weekend, but Tottenham’s sublime showing at White Hart Lane proved they will not have everything their own way this season.

Having seen their challenge fade away at the end of last season, Pochettino’s side look revitalised and ready to go again in the battle for the title.

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