On the eve of the weekend’s marquee Premier League clash between two-time defending champion Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur — the club that shocked City in the Champions League last season — Sky Blues manager Pep Guardiola said that Spurs were “the second-best team in Europe.”
Saturday’s 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium did little to dispel that notion.
Guardiola made four changes to the lineup that dismantled West Ham 5-0 in the opener. While City still dominated against what Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino called his strongest possible team, they had to settle for a point.
Gabriel Jesus’ apparent game-winner in stoppage time was ruled out by video assistant referee after Aymeric Laporte handled the ball right before Jesus scored:
As it stood, Lucas Moura was the hero for the visitors, scoring the goal that stole two points for Spurs just 14 seconds after Pochettino summoned him from the bench:
Raheem Sterling scored the first goal 20 minutes in off a pinpoint Kevin De Bruyne cross, but Erik Lamela cancelled it out almost immediately with a well-taken equalizer. De Bruyne set up a second when he found Sergio Aguero shortly before halftime, but in the end — and because of VAR — it wasn’t enough.
Here are three quick thoughts on the match:
A confidence-building result for Tottenham
Facing perhaps the best team of the Premier League era in their home opener was always going to be a tough task for Spurs.
And for the most part, the match played out the way any realistic Spurs supporter would’ve expected, with the home side utterly dominant. Man City was all over Spurs early, and Lamela’s goal came on the visitors’ lone shot of the first half.
City’s superiority was even more impressive considering Guardiola’s lineup changes, with Aguero, Ilkay Gundogan, Nicolas Otamendi and Bernardo Silva replacing Jesus, Riyad Mahrez, David Silva and John Stones.
Meantime, Christian Eriksen — who was the difference-maker off the bench in last week’s comeback win over Aston Villa — was the only new player for Pochettino, with Moura back to a supporting role until his star turn in the 56th minute.
In truth, the visitors didn’t play all that well. Much of that was down to the hosts, of course. But controversy or not, it still says something about Spurs’ growing stature that they were able to visit the Prem’s most daunting side and take a share of the spoils on a day they probably didn’t deserve a point.
Kevin De Bruyne the key man for Man City
The Belgian winger was limited to just a handful of games for the champions last season, but he’s started the new campaign in scary-good form. De Bruyne set up both of City’s strikes and was a general thorn in Tottenham’s side all afternoon.
This disappointing result aside, De Bruyne’s resurgence through two games is huge news for City, which more or less stood pat during the summer transfer window. It’s been said before, but it’s accurate that having a healthy De Bruyne available this year is like adding another world-class player to a roster that is already the deepest in Europe.
Spurs dodged a bullet on this day, but that’s a scary thought for every other team in the Premier League, as most of them won’t get that lucky.
Raheem Sterling’s hot start continues
Sterling already has four goals this season after last week’s hat trick against the Hammers. Saturday’s opener represented another quality finish from the English national team standout, who sent this one home with a rare header:
Sterling scored 24 goals in 2018-19 and is on pace to smash his career-best. His improving scoring touch is good news for Guardiola in light of the manager’s testy exchange with Aguero when the Argentine was subbed off in the second half:
Pep and Sergio Aguero exchange words after he's subbed off.
Watch the end of this one on NBC. pic.twitter.com/ROA0vnHFBm
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 17, 2019
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