Soccer

Tottenham 0-1 Manchester City: Riyad Mahrez’s early opener wins it

Tottenham 0-1 Manchester City: Riyad Mahrez’s early opener maintains visitors unbeaten start to the season as Erik Lamela misses a sitter late on

  • Manchester City maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a 1-0 win over Tottenham 
  • Riyad Mahrez broke the deadlock inside six minutes as Raheem Sterling pounced on a Kieran Trippier mistake
  • Spurs had the chance to level the score in the first half but Harry Kane was stopped by goalkeeper Ederson
  • Erik Lamela missed a sitter with 10 minutes remaining after Dele Alli set it up on a plate for the Argentine 

Ever so quietly, Manchester City have become rather good at defending.

You may not have noticed. Not many have. Everyone is so focussed on their aesthetic qualities, this new resilience is passing under the radar. Yet it is there, alright. This was a sixth consecutive Premier League clean sheet, equalling their previous best run in 2015. 

To achieve it, they had to repel Tottenham chasing an equaliser for 84 minutes, plus injury time. Tottenham are a good team, with good forwards. Protecting a single goal advantage against them, certainly away from home, is not easy.

Riyad Mahrez smiles after scoring the winning goal as Manchester City maintain their unbeaten start to the season

Riyad Mahrez smiles after scoring the winning goal as Manchester City maintain their unbeaten start to the season

Riyad Mahrez taps in a close-range effort after Raheem Sterling pounced on a Kieran Tripper mistake early on

Riyad Mahrez taps in a close-range effort after Raheem Sterling pounced on a Kieran Tripper mistake early on

Mahrez wheels away in celebration after giving Pep Guardiola's men an early lead at Wembley Stadium on Monday night

Mahrez wheels away in celebration after giving Pep Guardiola’s men an early lead at Wembley Stadium on Monday night

The Algerian forward celebrates by pointing to the sky in tribute to the late Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

The Algerian forward celebrates by pointing to the sky in tribute to the late Leicester owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

Guardiola’s men celebrate breaking the deadlock inside six minutes as Spurs gave themselves a mountain to climb

MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE

TOTTENHAM: (4-2-3-1) Lloris 6.5; Trippier 5, Alderweireld 6, Sanchez 6, Davies 5.5; Sissoko 6.5, Dier 6 (Winks 67, 6), Dembele 5.5 (Alli 75, 6.5); Moura 5.5 (Eriksen 82), Lamela 6; Kane 5.5

SUBS NOT USED: Gazzaniga (GK); Son, Walker-Peters, Aurier

GOALS: None

BOOKINGS: Moura (45), Davies (90+5)

COACH: Mauricio Pochettino 6

MAN CITY: (4-3-3) Ederson 7.5; Walker 6, Stones 7, Laporte 7, Mendy 5.5; Fernandinho 6.5, B. Silva 7.5, D. Silva 8 (Kompany 88); Sterling 7, Aguero 6 (De Bruyne 71, 6), Mahrez 7.5

SUBS NOT USED: Muric (GK); Sane, Otamendi, Foden

GOALS: Mahrez (6)

BOOKINGS: Laporte (53), Fernandinho (61)

COACH: Pep Guardiola 7.5

REFEREE: Kevin Friend 6.5

MAN OF THE MATCH: David Silva

VENUE: Wembley Stadium

ATTENDANCE: 56,854

A poor header from Kieran Trippier (No 2) leads to Raheem Sterling (No 7) playing it back for Riyad Mahrez (No 26) to easily score early on. For more of Sportsmail’s fantastic MATCH ZONE feature, click here.

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*Ratings done by Adam Crafton 

Yet City survived. They maintained an unbeaten run that has lasted 16 matches in this competition, with just six goals conceded in that time. Indeed, they have only surrendered one of the last 63 matches in which they have taken the lead – against Manchester United last April. 

That match messed up a great many of City’s consecutive sequences. And they have tightened up since with one player, centre-half Aymeric Laporte yet to finish on a losing side in a league game since making his debut on January 31.

Of course, they needed to ride their luck last night. Erik Lamela missed a fabulous chance after 80 minutes, when set up by the returning Dele Alli. He was in yards at space but blasted offer – although in his defence the ball did bobble on a difficult surface at exactly the wrong time. 

These were tense moments for City as they saw out the game with Alli, in particular, making a huge difference. It would have been very different had City not squandered an excellent chance to go two clear after 64 minutes when Bernardo Silva, fed David Silva in the penalty area. Somehow, he stumbled and missed his kick, the ball falling to Raheem Sterling whose shot was blocked on the line.

Inescapably, though, this is the second game Tottenham have lost at home this season to title rivals, following the defeat against Liverpool in September. The talk of the fastest break from the blocks hides these bumps, which look increasingly significant when considering the league table. City on top – and doing the boring stuff well now, too. That’s a worry. 

Sterling has a shot on goal but his effort is blocked by the several Tottenham players standing in his path to goal

Sterling has a shot on goal but his effort is blocked by the several Tottenham players standing in his path to goal

Kane had a golden opportunity to equalise for the hosts as he was through one-on-one with City goalkeeper Ederson

Kane had a golden opportunity to equalise for the hosts as he was through one-on-one with City goalkeeper Ederson

Ederson made a superb save to deny the England international but picked up a little bit of an injury in the aftermath

Ederson made a superb save to deny the England international but picked up a little bit of an injury in the aftermath

Moussa Dembele and Bernardo Silva tussle for the ball early on in the Premier League encounter as David Silva (R) watches on

Moussa Dembele and Bernardo Silva tussle for the ball early on in the Premier League encounter as David Silva (R) watches on

Much was made of the NFL-battered pitch but it was the empty seats that first caught the eye. Almost the entire top tier empty, and not due to crowd limits, either. It seems the locals are finally tiring of their nomadic existence, or maybe simply the uncertainty that surrounds it. Either way it was unfortunate because this was a decent game played in what were, by modern standards, trying conditions.

The caveat needs to be applied because to any player familiar with pre-Premier League standard surfaces, complaints about this one will have been met with a shrug. It was dreadful compared to what we are used to now, considering that today’s players tour a succession of billiard tables, and would be appalled to be wrong-footed by a divot that has not been seamlessly replaced at half-time. The Baseball Ground circa 1972 it was not. There was grass, mostly. There wasn’t even much sand.

What there was, however, were some very visible pitch markings left over from the NFL on Sunday, giving rise to some hoary gags about Manchester City looking good in the red offense zone, and Harry Kane trying his luck from the 30 metre line. Did it affect the play. 

Well, Manchester City certainly seemed to go a little longer than usual from the start, but not much. It helps that goalkeeper Ederson was famed for the length and precision of his kicking when in Portugal. It was his direct approach that wrong-footed Tottenham early and led to Manchester City taking the lead after six minutes. That, and some woeful defending from Kieran Trippier. 

Kevin De Bruyne came on in the second half as Dembele tries to intercept a pass from his compatriot

Kevin De Bruyne came on in the second half as Dembele tries to intercept a pass from his compatriot

Raheem Sterling caused several of problems for the Spurs defence in the first half as he looked to get in behind

Raheem Sterling caused several of problems for the Spurs defence in the first half as he looked to get in behind

Fernandinho (left) looks to block a Kane pass as Spurs look to counter after several waves of attack from the visitors

Fernandinho (left) looks to block a Kane pass as Spurs look to counter after several waves of attack from the visitors

Dembele looks to retain possession from Bernando Silva (No 20) as Alderweireld helps out his Belgium team-mate

Dembele looks to retain possession from Bernando Silva (No 20) as Alderweireld helps out his Belgium team-mate

He has been exceptional for Tottenham and England these last 12 months but this was an off night – certainly an off minute. To begin with, he won the header from Ederson’s kick, but misdirected it – back towards goal but falling short of his own goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and setting up a problematic foot race with Raheem Sterling. 

Trippier lost that and was then skinned by Sterling again when he took up a recovering position. Now close the byline, Sterling cut the ball back expertly into the path of Riyad Mahrez, whose finish was smart and clinical.

In the light of the tragic news from Leicester, it was perhaps fitting that a player who was part of the success that Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha brought to the city. 

Maybe Mahrez is no longer Leicester’s favourite son after the troublesome manner of his departure, but here was a reminder of that remarkable year in English football history and that it remains, in many ways, the gift that keeps on giving. Certainly, the Premier League is better for the talents of Mahrez.

A minute later and City could have been two clear. Sergio Aguero flicked the ball out to Sterling and moved well for the return pass, which he fired into the side-netting. In the 28th minute, sloppy defending from Tottenham saw them spurn several chances to intervene as Manchester City moved the ball around the box, culminating in a Mahrez shot which Lloris did well to tip round at the near post. 

Mahrez is surrounded by Tottenham players as he looks to get a shot away in the first half at Wembley Stadium

Mahrez is surrounded by Tottenham players as he looks to get a shot away in the first half at Wembley Stadium

Lucas Moura goes down after he was fouled by former Tottenham man Kyle Walker as Pochettino raises his hand (left)

Lucas Moura goes down after he was fouled by former Tottenham man Kyle Walker as Pochettino raises his hand (left)

Aguero looks to trouble the Spurs defence early on as Toby Alderweireld tries to track the City striker at Wembley

Aguero looks to trouble the Spurs defence early on as Toby Alderweireld tries to track the City striker at Wembley

City's Argentinian striker talks with a match official after a foul is given against Tottenham during the opening stages

City’s Argentinian striker talks with a match official after a foul is given against Tottenham during the opening stages

Yet with City failing to take advantage of an obvious superiority, they remained vulnerable to mistakes, and Tottenham should have made better use of that. In the ninth minute, Sterling attempted a careless, blind backheel in the centre circle which set Tottenham up on the counter-attack. 

The ball was played into Kane and instead of taking on John Stones, he tried his luck from range, the ball catching Ederson off his line but dipping slight too late to find its target. 

Soon after Benjamin Mendy let the ball slide under his boot – and stood, amused, by this development rather than trying to recover – meaning Moussa Sissoko sped away down the right. It was another good chance, but the final ball wasted it.

In the 34th minute, Kane met a Lloris goal-kick – City were not the only ones experimenting with route one – sending the ball out to Erik Lamela, who returned it with a smart pass. Kane’s first touch, however, was lousy and Ederson was able to save at his feet. 

To his credit, he chose not to give the pitch a dirty look; or maybe Tottenham’s players are under orders given their recent troubles with accommodation.

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