City ripped apart by Spurs
Spurs look like real title deal after ending City's 100 per cent record
(Aleksandar Kolarov 9-og, Dele Alli 37)
MAN CITY 0
The English Premier League has finally witnessed the definitive Pep Guardiola performance, a masterclass of aggressive pressing and flawless defending.
The trouble was the performance came from Tottenham Hotspur.
Mauricio Pochettino managed to out-Guardiola last night, pulling off a spectacular 2-0 victory against Manchester City.
In doing so, Pochettino officially unveiled Spurs' legitimate title credentials.
History may judge events at White Hart Lane as the perceptible beginnings of a changing of the guard, the moment when Guardiola's reign as all-powerful, all-knowing coaching colossus was challenged.
He's still the best there is of course. But his ego won't be massaged by looking over his shoulder too often. Pochettino is coming.
The younger Argentinian sent out Tottenham to press like a Guardiola side, to counter like a Guardiola side and to defend like a Guardiola side.
His final scorecard read three out of three. City, on the other hand, were left with a big fat zero.
Privately, Guardiola probably suspected that City's perfect record was at risk at White Hart Lane, leaving Tottenham as the only undefeated side in the EPL.
The two managers have history. Pochettino has done this before.
In 2009, Pochettino's bottom-placed Espanyol defeated La Liga-leading Barcelona, Guardiola's Barcelona, in the Nou Camp.
Later, Guardiola praised the rising star in the dugout. Barcelona did not need to look for Espanyol, he remarked, Espanyol went looking for Barcelona.
Different teams, different leagues, but the same remarkable game plan played out at White Hart Lane.
From kick-off, Tottenham went looking for City, hounding them, harassing them and perfecting the template that was attempted by Celtic in midweek.
Put simply, Pochettino drills and programmes his fitness freaks like no other. Eight members of the Tottenham side started in the Champions League game in Moscow in midweek.
And yet, they never stopped running. And City never looked like winning.
Pochettino sent out Tottenham to expose the fatal flaws in Guardiola's line-up.
Arguably the only person in the EPL who refuses to succumb to the incessant hype surrounding City is their manager.
Guardiola has repeatedly stressed that the squad's inherent problems haven't been fully addressed.
Tottenham required only nine minutes to prove him right.
Guardiola's fast pressing game, just like Pochettino's, depends upon quick, dependable fullbacks. Spurs have them. City do not.
From kick-off, Tottenham probed Pablo Zabaleta's flank, hounding the right back.
Erik Lamela and Danny Rose combined to confuse the AWOL City defender. Rose whipped an enticing cross across the box and Aleksandar Kolarov shaped to clear at the far post.
Only he couldn't decide which foot to use. So he clumsily settled on neither, pulling off a surreal Irish jig straight out of Riverdance.
His flailing feet tapped the ball over the line.
Guardiola's glass will remain half full until he finds a couple of fullbacks who do more than half a job.
The same criticism could not be levelled at Pochettino's pushing, pressing, relentless pistons that covered the ground like scattered marbles.
Spurs were everywhere, chasing, harrying and spinning away from markers before embarking on one counter-attacking after another, an approach epitomised by their glorious second goal in the 37th minute.
Dele Alli collected a long pass and slipped the hapless Zabaleta. The impish Englishman nudged the ball to Son Heung Min, the pair playing pinball amongst themselves; a couple of nifty wizards.
Son's return sliced through the training cones of Zabaleta and Kolarov, reaching the galloping Alli, who swept past Claudio Bravo without breaking stride.
Such beautiful, hypnotic interplay and it was all coming from the men in white, a dazzling blur of perfect, pressing football. City's bewildered, battered men staggered off at half-time looking punch drunk.
Somehow, Spurs maintained their aggressive momentum after the break and were caught out only once, when Hugo Lloris deflected Sergio Aguero's close-range effort onto the woodwork.
Tottenham should have ended the exhibition in the 64th minute, when a delightful move involving Alli, Rose and Kyle Walker led to Fernandinho taking out Alli in the box.
But Erik Lamela's subsequent penalty was poorly struck and easily saved.
City, as expected, poured forward in the latter stages, but Tottenham had an overwhelming advantage - a superior defence.
White Hart Lane's fortress held. City no longer look infallible.
The EPL suddenly has an extraordinary title race because Pochettino appears to have Guardiola's number.
It’s massive. It was a big statement for us. We knew what we were capable of and we knew there were going to be chances if we stuck to the game plan and, when they came along, we took them.
— Tottenham goalscorer Dele Alli
@SpursOfficial look really good! I shockingly have them finishing 4th or 5th. I have to rethink that seriously.
— Former Manchester City striker Shaun Goater on Twitter