Sam Polak has a look at how Tottenham Hotspur defeated league leaders Manchester City at White Hart Lane, after having gone a goal down but managing to score four.
With both team’s most recent games resulting in a loss, each looked hungry to get 3 points. But it was Pochettino’s side who emerged on the better side of a match that featured five total goals.
(*Only four goals are featured below: two of Tottenham’s goals came from set-pieces and only one is focused on below. It should be noted that Toby Alderweireld had the third goal of the match to put Spurs up 2 – 1 in the 50th minute with a header off of a tremendous ball from Erik Lamela)
Goal 1 – De Bruyne (25’)
Though the first goal of the match went in favor of City, it began as a more promising development for Tottenham. After good movement near Willy Caballero’s goal and an encouraging build-up of play, a pass from Lamela intended for Heung Min-Son forced Manchester City to concede a corner. Spurs chose to play a short corner using 3 players and then attack the delivery with 5, as visible below. With the initial service blocked, the same 3 players— Erik Lamela, Kyle Walker, and Christian Eriksen tried again to create something out of the corner and the opportunity it still seemed to present. However, unable to connect what appeared to be a simple ball, Walker, who was looking for Eriksen, ended up giving away possession with an errant pass.
Committing 8 players forward, this left only 2 players to handle defensive responsibilities for Spurs should the corner break down— Ben Davies and Dele Ali. City, defending with 8 (with one defender for every attacker), were therefore able to afford two players that did not have to worry too much about defensively responsibilities, and in this case both Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne were in such a role. With the freedom to anticipate how Walker’s pass might give possession away, both Aguero and De Bruyne took off moments before City had retaken full possession.
Yaya Toure then received the ball into space and carried it toward goal joining with both De Bruyne and Aguero, who were now ahead of the play, creating a 3 v 2 opportunity against the two Spurs’ players not committed to the attack during the corner.
Even with Spurs working hard to recover, Toure was ultimately able to lure both players that were acting as the final line of defense for Spurs toward him and slip a ball through for De Bruyne.
De Bruyne, needing only one touch from about ten yards out, took care of the rest and slotted the ball into the far post past Lloris.
Goal 2 – Dier (45’)
In the 45th minute, an interesting sequence of events led to Tottenham leveling the score. Harry Kane ended up with the ball 1 v 1 against Aleksandar Kolarov and chose to drift inward.
Harry Kane then played a square ball to Eriksen. This pass forced Fernando to close down the ball, and Kolarov to drop deeper into a position of cover for Fernando and consequently worry less about Kane.
As Eriksen played the ball back to Kane, Walker made a great overlapping run. Since Raheem Sterling passed the defensive responsibilities of Kyle Walker’s overlapping run to Kolarov, Kolarov was put in a situation where he had to decide between tracking Walker or closing down the space Harry Kane had with the ball.
Hoping Fernando was going to slide over to Kane, Kolarov even took a step to follow Kyle Walker’s off-ball movement, but was quickly forced to come back toward Harry Kane when Fernando was unable to close down Kane’s space fast enough. It was an easy decision for Kane to then look for Walker.
Yes, Harry’s Kane’s pass does indeed then find Kyle Walker in an offside position. But the assistant missed it, and the sluggish response by the City defenders to the missed call required Caballero to make a great save.
The rebound then fell to De Bruyne. Initially, it appeared to be a sloppy giveaway to Dier by De Bruyne, who was likely targeting Fernandinho for a pass. But upon closer inspection, the center official (highlighted in yellow below), although slightly, nevertheless definitively, altered the route Fernandinho had to take to De Bruyne’s pass. And did so enough to allow Dier to be first to the ball and then to Dier’s credit, tucked the ball just inside the goal post.
Should City still have done better with 9 players behind the ball and the build-up to this goal stemming from a Tottenham throw-in? Probably. But a missed offside call and the center official positioning throwing off the movement of Fernandinho definitely impacted the way this goal unfolded.
Goal 4 – Harry Kane (61’)
After Raheem Sterling lost possession in the attacking third, Tottenham was able to counter with 3 players against 3 City defenders. As seen below, with two City defenders occupied by two Spurs’ attackers without the ball, Lamela was able to run into space with pace directly towards Martin Demichelis.
The more space a clever attacker like Lamela is able to run into and the more pace he is able to run with the harder it is to defend, especially 1 v 1. Unsurprisingly, Lamela beat Demichelis near the top of the 18 yard box, and to prevent any further damage, Demichelis made sure to stop the attack with a foul. City setting up to defend the free kick, looked to have the three Spurs players who could possibly get a rebound marked by Kevin De Bruyne, Bacary Sagna, and Fernandinho.
Following Eriksen’s unbelievable free kick, the rebound was up for grabs and none of the City players reacted particularly well to the second ball: Sagna was close enough to his marker to potentially throw him off, De Bruyne might have been able to make his presence felt, but Fernandinho was nowhere near Harry Kane, and Kane accordingly put the ball into the back of the net for the first time this season.
It was close or even possibly again offside, but Fernandinho should have put some pressure on Harry Kane regardless. A player of Kane’s calibur unmarked with an open net, unsurprisingly took advantage of such an opportunity.
Goal 5 – Lamela (79’)
The 5th and final goal of the game really began in the 77th minute when Clinton N’jie came on to replace Son. N’jie, with fresh legs played as the lone striker and Harry Kane then sat behind him, taking over Son’s role as more of a number 10.
Lamela, having worked the whole game, made a great run in from his original position on the right side. Taking the ball with him, he then found Nacer Chadli on the left and drifted centrally hoping for an eventual service.
When possession was given back to Manchester City, Lamela remained high and behind the play. As City moved forward hoping to get within striking distance, N’jie with fresh legs, was left to work back and cover Tottenham’s right side of the field left open from Lamela’s movement.
With a great collective work ethic, Spurs were able to win the ball back and play Njie out on the right. Njie, who had been in the game for no more than 3 minutes, then cleverly received the ball out of the back and creatively turned. Moving past his defender with a bit of skill, he opened up space behind City’s defense to attack.
Lamela didn’t rush back and let the play develop towards him until he was naturally onsides but behind a recovering Demichelis. Then, with great composure took six touches, settled Njie’s initial pass, worked his way around both Demichelis and Caballero, and finally buried his opportunity to net Tottenham’s fourth and final goal.
Written by Sam Polak
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