Kane-less Spurs give Nuno debut to remember as powder-puff Man City are seen off
Tottenham (0) 1 Son 55
Manchester City (0) 0
No Harry, no problem.
Nuno Espirito Santo claimed a notable scalp in his first competitive game in charge of Spurs as champions Man City fell to another defeat on a ground that is fast becoming a problem arena for them.
Heung-Min's goal 10 minutes after the break was enough to give Spurs the win their greater urgency and energy deserved. This was a great start for the Portuguese boss.
In the end, the elephant in the room wasn’t even in the building. Harry Kane is still officially recovering from the Euros and the rigours of an exotic holiday.
It seemed wise to keep him out of the picture altogether given the well-documented tales of Man City’s courtship of the want-away England striker. He was not even named among the subs.
“Are you watching, Harry Kane,” the home fans chanted defiantly towards the end.
How those noisy, returning thousands loved it. Home matches mean just that once more. With all the advantages they bring.
What Spurs still had, in the absence of their talisman, was Son and a gameplan based on lightning breakouts from defence which always looked capable of trumping the slower build-ups from the visitors, which lacked penetration. Hugo Lloris had surprisingly little to do.
Spurs had already threatened on a number of occasions with their pace on the break and early in the second half, Lucas Moura’s flick released Steven Bergwijn for another rampage.
A pass out wide found the South Korean, and after a check back inside Nathan Ake, a raking left-foot shot found its way into the bottom corner beyond Ederson’s right hand.
Man City continued to look vulnerable when their often-ponderous attacks broke down and in another sortie, Bergwijn clipped a shot into the side-netting with the goal at his mercy.
Initially, the danger City seemed to pose came from everywhere. First, a typical Jack Grealish dart ended in a trip on the edge of the area with the subsequent ilkay Gundogan free-kick just clearing the bar.
Then we had Fernandinho heading inches wide after getting to a lifted ball ahead of Hugo Lloris, before Joao Cancelo joined the attack to fire just wide.
But Spurs weathered the opening flurry. Lucas had a shot blocked, and in another attack, freed Bergwijn down the right in acres of space but Son was ultimately unable to convert the pass inside to him.
In another of those raids upfield, Lucas fed Son, who was only just off target with a deflected curler from the 18-yard line.
The other source of encouragement for Spurs came in the shape of the barnstorming pressure applied by Japhet Tanganga to deny Raheem Sterling and £100m man Grealish room to manoeuvre down Spurs’ right flank. He was rightly given a great ovation when subbed late on.
“He’s one of our own,” the home fans chanted.
City are likely to come under stiff pressure in their bid to retain their crown this year, with Chelsea, neighbours Man United and Liverpool all looking supremely confident and capable.
Their bench is awesome and their options astonishing. They had Walker, Stones, Laporte, Jesus, Zinchenko, Rodri, De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva waiting in the wings.
But you can only field 11 at once, of course, and the combination they had today looked shot-shy and undercooked. You can understand why they might want a certain Harry Kane.
Spurs: (4-2-3-1) Lloris – Tanganga (Doherty 83), Sanchez, Dier, Reguilon – Skipp, Hojbjerg (Romero 90) – Bergwijn (Lo Celso 77), Alli, Lucas Moura – Son. Subs not used: Gollini, Winks, Gil, Sissoko, Davies, Scarlett
City: (4-3-3) Ederson – Cancelo, Ruben Dias, Ake, Mendy (Zinchenko 79) – Grealish, Fernandinho, Gundogan – Mahrez (De Bruyne 79), Torres, Sterling (Jesus 70). Subs not used: Steffen, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Rodri, Silva