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  • By Alessandro Schiavone at Etihad Stadium

Tottenham bottle it again to Arsenal's frustration as Man City dismantle them 4-2

Despite leading 2-0 at half-time, Tottenham Hotspur return to London with zero points in their hands and their Champions League dreams, more than hopes, further dented as Man City put four goals past them in the second period.

It looked as though Tottenham Hotspur had undeliberately handed their hated North London Arsenal a big favour in the title race.

Back-to-back late first-half goals by Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal would have enabled table toppers Arsenal to extend their lead to an astounding eleven points over Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions with victory over Man United on Sunday.

Yet even Mikel Arteta probably refused to get his hopes up, knowing full well that Spurs have it in them to bottle it at any moment.

And that’s what happened as World Cup winner Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland and Riyad Mahrez completed a 12-minute comeback.

Both sides had little to no margin of error heading into this game after their recent poor showings.

And it looked as though Man City were desperate to quickly silence some detractors. It was nothing out of the ordinary but Guardola’s men let their creative spirit loose on Tottenham and possessed a mastery of the ball their opponents simply lacked in the opening exchanges.

Yet barring a Mahrez free-kick which was blocked by the wall and little else, Man City were kept at arm’s length by Cristian Romero, Eric Dier and company.

In fairness, the game needed two hard-nosed yet clean tackles, by Jack Grealish and Christian Romero to spark into life.

Almost invigorated by the Argentinian’s challenge, Antonio Conte’s Spurs suddenly grew in confidence and began putting more zest into the game.

Harry Kane, largely quiet up until that stage, was chasing goal no. 266 in a Spurs shirt that would have seen him draw level with record goalscorer Jimmy Greaves.

Everyone knows that It’s only a matter of ‘when’ before he leads the pack. But will it ever make up for a lack of medals and trophies that reflect the real stature of one of England’s greatest strikers? For sure not.

Yet make no mistake, Kane lives to score goals and he’d have fancied equalling his forebear Greaves’ long-standing record against the team he was so desperate to join in summer 2021.

With the game still goalless, he’d have done just that had Dutchman Nathan Ake not intercepted Ivan Perisic’s cross just as the Englishman was about to pull the trigger at the far-post.

Son also had a header saved by Ederson before momentum shifted back in City’s favour. Yet Haaland uncharacteristically missed two chances he’d normally have buried with his eyes closed. First he failed to lift the ball over Lloris despite fabulously running the channels to latch on to a lovely-weighted ball. And even Rodri failed to get a tune out of the Norwegian who headed his cross over despite Lloris finding himself in no man’s land.

And in a perfect repeat of last season and just when Tottenham were under pressure, Kulusevski eased the pressure and unlocked the game following a mix-up between Ederson and Rodri.

Man City’s sudden defensive horror show was completed when Emerson Royal headed the North Londoners into a shock 2-0 lead.

Yet that joy lasted the length of a 15-minute break plus 360 seconds as City meant business in half-two.

It didn’t last long before it was game on as Alvarez well-taken shot rippled the net following a scramble in the box. And Haaland, teed up by a square Mahrez header, made amends for his two first-half misses when he drew the serial Premier League winners level with league goal no. 22 for the campaign.

The game then nearly turned from epic to majestic. Receiving the ball following an outstanding Kulusevski cutback, Perisic had the chance to restore the lead for Spurs but his effort flicked off Lewis’ back-heel and on to crossbar to Conte’s despair.

Yet Man City knew the hard bit was done and that Spurs’ confidence was shot.

And Mahrez gave them the lead for the first time in the game, when afforded all the freedom in the world, he stormed into the box and unleashed a near post missile that beat Lloris with the assistance of a Ben Davies deflection.

Mahrez then chipped Man City into a deserved 4-2 lead by capitalising on a horrendous Clement Lenglet mistake after Ederson’s clearance.

The best news for Spurs is that their defeat didn’t further pave the way for Arsenal running away with the league title.

That’s scraping the barrel but desperate times call for desperate measures.

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