"We played good, it was an outstanding performance but it's a pity what happened,” said Pep Guardiola, drawing long, deep breaths, trying best to not lose his composure at the post-match press conference with his nostrils visibly flaring. Poor refereeing and innumerable bad calls somehow contrived the match vs Tottenham Hotspur to end level on 2-2, when it could have, and probably should have been a convincing and a much-needed win for Manchester City as the Premier League heads deep into the second half.
Comedy of errors
Now, let’s get something out of the way: When commentators glibly declare out or habit or laziness (oftentimes a prosaic concoction of both), that how certain games are ‘adverts for the Premier League’, it’s not necessarily a good thing for the health of the managers or the fans involved, who vicariously age a few years through each error of technique or judgement their players or officials commit. At the end of the day, the results of the Premier League mostly boil down to who makes the most mistakes, and in this occasion, it almost seemed like Tottenham and Manchester City were bent on outdoing each other.
Prior to the break, Tottenham’s rear-guard of Kevin Wimmer and Eric Dier were having a sordid day, giving away possession on the edge of the box, which stoked the embers of Manchester City’s high-press game, resulting in Hugo Lloris parrying 4 shots on target from the home side. Even David ‘let-me-lay-that-off-for-you’ Silva took a long-distance collect call of a shot that the French international did well to prod away from the bottom corner.
With Pep instructing wingbacks Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta to overload and overlap will all the verve and reckless abandon of buccaneers, Dier, usually resilient at the back, found himself having to be at two places at once, and consequently being neither here nor there, making him look like a human origami – folded, inside out and outside in, when attempting to tackle.
An on-looking Jan Vertonghen might have cringed sideways in the stands, taking in at the display of the 24-year-old former Koln centre-back, Wimmer, who was opted ahead of Ben Davies to replace him in the starting line-up, only to be yanked off in the second-half.
After the break, someone must have used a Ouija board behind Lloris’ goal to summon his spirit from 2013, from the occasion when Manuel Pelligrini’s Manchester City plundered six unanswered goals past him. We welcome other explanations as to what possessed the usually cool customer to lunge outside of his box to meet Kevin De Bruyne’s aerial through ball with his head, which was unwittingly nodded on to an on-rushing Leroy Sane, who competently tucked it away into the open goal in the 49th minute.
Things tend to turn worse before they get better, and it did so for Tottenham: Another otherworldly blooper was divined by Lloris in the 54th minute, with a routine cross being allowed to be dunked through the hoop of his arms, only for an alert De Bruyne to oblige and score from two yards out.
Referee Andre Marriner not to be left behind, waved away the penalty appeals of an incandescent Guardiola, who lit up like a tinted bulb. Raheem Sterling was on his way through for a one-on-one with a visibly shaken Lloris, when he was blatantly pushed from behind by his England compatriot Kyle Walker, causing the former Liverpool man to lose his poise on the shot. Manchester City were frustrated even further when Gabriel Jesus’ effort in the dying stages was ruled off side. All that this game was missing was appropriately placed sound effects from Looney Tunes.
Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, Victor Valdes and the rest of Guardiola’s cohorts were left lurched with their collective hands on their hips by Ivan de la Pena’s magic wand of a right-foot striking twice to defeat Barcelona 1-2. Yaya Toure, a begrudging participant of an historic event that saw Real Sociedad, under the guidance of manager Mauricio Pochettino, win for the first-time in 27 years at the Camp Nou in 2009, might have felt a bit of déjà vu in a Manchester City shirt on Saturday night.
While it has been around seven years since Guardiola first shook hands with Pochettino on the touchline, the disparity of resources remains somewhat similar when they faced off against each other for the first time in the Premier League, with Manchester City having a net expenditure of £400 million compared to Tottenham’s 1 million.
A point-blank Dele Alli header against the run of play, swung in from the boots of Walker in the 58th minute, and a back-heel assist for Son Heung-min’s carefully placed goal just 13 minutes away from full-time whistle, meant Guardiola experienced another bile-churning evening. Back in 2009, Pochettino left Guardiola venting when they ended Barcelona’s six-month unbeaten streak. This time around, the latter’s team was resigned to stay fifth in the league table, nine points off leaders Chelsea, who have a game in hand on Sunday vs Hull. The Spaniard who has a tendency of winning league titles wherever he lands up, may look to this match at the end of the season, as the one which broke the streak.
Updated Date: Jan 22, 2017 15:00:25 IST