Manchester City blasted their way to the top of the Premier League with a 5-1 victory against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. The often-exhilarating Sergio Aguero put the visitors in front early on with a sublime finish, and the result could have been put beyond doubt well before the interval as City tore through a Spurs side whose attacking lineup was never allowed to get going and was crudely exposed.
Against the run of play, Tottenham were denied an equalizer by the raising of an offside flag, but within the first 10 minutes of the second half the game was put beyond them. First, Danny Rose conceded a penalty and was sent off for bringing down Edin Dzeko in the box to allow Yaya Toure to stroke home from the spot. Dzeko himself then finished from close range to make it 3-0. Etienne Capoue pulled one back before his fellow substitute Stevan Jovetic and then Vincent Kompany ensured it was yet another emphatic win for City as they remain on course for a record goals tally.
The only negative on the night for City was a injury for the man Jovetic replaced, Aguero. With a crucial top of the table clash to come against Chelsea on Monday, his hamstring problem may be a significant concern. But the Premier League summit now looks far more encouraging for Manuel Pellegrini’s side. Chelsea followed Arsenal in dropping points to mean City now hold a one-point advantage on the latter and a three-point edge on the former.
And on this evidence they will take some stopping. Tim Sherwood spoke beforehand of his players being out to avenge their 6-0 drubbing by the same opponents earlier in the season, but City could have been well on their way to at least equaling that total in just the opening 30 minutes. City’s start was extraordinarily intense, both with and without the ball, and Spurs were inactive participants, simply hoping for mercy.
That mercy first came in the form of the woodwork. Aguero, with what is becoming his trademark, accelerated past defenders moving across the penalty area and finished with a fiercely struck effort, but on this occasion had to watch as it came back off the far post. Tottenham must also have been glad that Dzeko was in the lineup ahead of a man who has been in ruthless form of late, Alvaro Negredo. Dzeko seemed almost too eager to impress, knowing the competition he is up against for a starting berth, and on more than one occasion took on an early shot when he had teammates better placed.
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City did get their reward for their relentless start 15 minutes in. David Silva was a joy to watch throughout, gliding across the pitch, popping up everywhere and anywhere as Spurs chased shadows, and he found a big pocket of space in behind Tottenham’s midfield in order to play a typically perfect through ball for Aguero to seize upon. The Argentine burst easily clear of Michael Dawson to latch onto it and met the ball with an exquisitely guided touch to the side of Hugo Lloris and into the net.
Tottenham were fortunate not to concede a penalty when Nabil Bentaleb handled the ball in the box with his arms up at his chest. There was nothing fortunate, though, about a stunning save from Lloris that again somehow kept City’s lead at just a single goal. After Kyle Walker was exposed, not for the first time, down City’s left, Gael Clichy’s cross looked certain to be headed into the net by Aguero but Lloris reacted superbly and managed to somehow get enough strength behind one hand to keep the attempt at bay.
Tottenham finally got a foothold in the match in the final 15 minutes of the half and thought they had an equalizer, too. Dawson volleyed in Christian Eriksen’s driven free-kick from close range, but while he may not have been offside, Emmanuel Adebayor who got the merest of flick-ons certainly appeared to be.
Sherwood will have been hoping his side would have built on that encouraging spell after the interval, but those plans were blown out of the water within six minutes of the restart. With Dzeko through on goal and about to pull the trigger, Rose came lunging in from behind and, although he got a touch to the ball, he clearly took down the leg of the striker first. Referee Andre Marriner required some consultation with his assistant but the penalty was awarded and the inevitable red card followed. Toure duly converted and, if the match wasn’t already decided then it soon was.
Tottenham appeared to still be in a state of shock as they fell three goals behind just two minutes later. Lloris was at full stretch to help Silva’s shot onto the post, but could do nothing when the ball fell to Dzeko and he finally produced a composed finish to get his seventh Premier League goal of the season.
To their credit, Tottenham refused go away quietly. Just before the hour mark they pulled one back when substitute Capoue slammed the ball after Zabaleta had slipped in the middle of the box from a corner, and despite the best efforts of Fernandinho to keep it out in the line with his arm.
But City would fittingly have the last word and deliver a score-line that more accurately reflected their dominance. First, Jovetic cut inside Walker before hitting a shot toward the far corner that got a deflection off the outstretched leg of Vlad Chiriches to help it past Lloris. Having had the start to his City career blighted by injury, few could bemoan the former Fiorentina’s man bit of fortune.
City’s appetite for goals this season is unrelenting and they got their 68th after just 23 Premier League games with just over a minute remaining. Dzeko’s initial effort was blocked but Kompany was on hand to slam home the rebound and put the exclamation point on a performance that will have their title rivals looking on with a sense of dread.