Man City vs Tottenham Player Rating as Tottenham adapt to deliver thrilling drama and frustrate Man City again

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Ange Postecoglou still hasn’t imitated Cristiano Stellini and Nuno Espirito Santo, but he may have expressed himself in a slightly different way. It wasn’t exactly ‘Angeball’ in its purist form, but it was compelling, messy entertainment as Tottenham halted a losing streak, took an unlikely point and gave Arsenal a bigger cushion at the Premier League summit than they probably expected.

Spurs are no strangers to late drama at the Etihad Stadium, whether it was Sergio Aguero’s disallowed goal that sent them into the Champions League final in 2019 or Harry Kane’s 95th-minute winner in 2022. They achieved a hat-trick of sorts, frustrating Manchester City again with a kind by permission of Dejan Kulusevský. The Swede, not exactly known for his pace, rose above Nathan Ake – a defender who wanted to see victory – and headed in Brennan Johnson’s cross. For the second time, Tottenham came from behind. In their own way, they scored four of the six goals, with Son Heung-min – not exactly a prodigal son – proving more prolific than they had hoped, finding the net at both ends.

For City though, it was the road that wasn’t, a game that promised a thrashing and produced a draw. They came inches away from putting Tottenham out of sight, hitting the woodwork twice and missing some good chances, but a lack of ruthlessness meant they dropped points at the Etihad for the second weekend in a row.

Spurs have proven their woes before – apart from the unlikely duo of Nuna and manager Stellini, Mauricio Pochettino, José Mourinho and Antonio Conte have all recorded victories against Pep Guardiola’s City – but perhaps not in such circumstances. Subtracting nine injured players who lacked an available centre-back specialist, that may have been how they both bounced back and stumbled to a draw.

Postecoglou’s motley crew had plenty of spirit, but there was also much to admire in the quality of each of their goals: they troubled City for long with Son’s quick counter-attacks and incisiveness. After Jeremy Doku lost the ball, the South Korean quickly scored his eighth goal against Guardiola’s City – only Mohamed Salah and Jamie Vardy have more – although Ederson should have saved his shot.

Giovani Lo Celso then produced a beautiful clean strike to score for the second week in a row after a pass from his Argentina team-mate Julian Alvarez was intercepted. Kulusevski finally struck and City dropped four points in nine days on home turf.

At the end, but also on the team sheet, there was ambition from Spurs. Yet they were a strange mixture of ambition and realism. This was not the kamikaze high line that Spurs’ nine men used against Chelsea. Tottenham defended deeper, the idealist in Postecoglou took a more pragmatic approach, perhaps borrowing from some of his predecessors. Starved of possession, camped behind the ball at times, it wasn’t meant to be how they played.

Still, they had a threat on the break; Johnson and Son troubled the city throughout. They were spearmen of the foreign party, more by necessity than by choice. When Eric Dier made nine injured players, it was a distinctive look with a defense occupied entirely by full-backs and then five wingers or attacking midfielders in front of Yves Bissouma. If that suggested a lack of balance, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was brought on at the break to add ballast alongside Bissouma.

At times, Spurs threatened to ease City to victory when they gave the ball away third and again. Seconds after the break, there was a symbolic moment when Guglielmo Vicario produced a spectacular save from Bernardo Silva, but only to secure redemption for his own terrible pass. They were certainly lucky when City rattled the frame twice, Doku’s curler hitting the post, Alvarez driving in at the far post.

The six-goal thriller in which Erling Haaland didn’t score was the odd one out, even though he had two assists. This in turn meant that as well as adding to his long list of goals against Guardiola’s City, Son scored for them and canceled out his own lead. When Haaland played in Alvarez’s free-kick, the ball flew off the Tottenham captain’s knee and past Vicario.

Second-placed City hinted at a difference in class that could be painful for Tottenham. There was a slick, quick move involving Haaland and Doku before Alvarez spun to find an unmarked Phil Foden for a simple finish.

Still, the Spurs came back. Doku’s exit, seemingly injured, brought on the introduction of Jack Grealish and he got a late first goal of the season from Haaland’s cut. Surely City would last this time? Kulusevski had other ideas, scoring for the champions for the third consecutive season. And Postecoglou, the manager Guardiola first praised when he joined Japan, has kept him in the Premier League.

Manchester City player ratings

GK: Ederson – 4/10 – Really should have saved Son’s shot which made it 1-0.

CB: Kyle Walker – 6/10 – The best of City’s defenders on the day…although that probably isn’t saying much.

CB: Ruben Dias – 4/10 – The centre-back has been generally very under-par this season, and his so-so performances continued on Sunday.

CB: Josko Gvardiol – 4/10 – Sloppy on and off the ball.

DM: Manuel Akanji – 4/10 – Not at the races in the middle of the park.

DM: Rodri – 6/10 – Played a few very good passes to help City transition from defence to attack.

RM: Phil Foden – 7/10 – Scored a lovely goal in the first half and his movement off the right flank caused Spurs plenty of problems.

AM: Julian Alvarez – 8/10 – Set up two of three goals and was generally fantastic throughout.

AM: Bernardo Silva – 7/10 – Created three chances for his teammates on the day and, had Haaland brought his shooting boots, he would’ve registered an assist.

LM: Jeremy Doku – 7/10 – City’s best player in the first half, he caused Spurs a boatload of problems with his dynamic and direct running.

ST: Erling Haaland – 4/10 – Missed chances you would’ve bet your life on him converting.


Substitutes

SUB: Jack Grealish (52′ for Doku) – 7/10 – Scored City’s third goal of the game to give Pep Guardiola some selection headaches moving forward.

SUB: Rico Lewis (71′ for Foden) – 5/10

SUB: Nathan Ake (87′ for Gvardiol) – 5/10

SUB: Mateo Kovacic (87′ for Alvarez) – 5/10


Manager – Pep Guardiola – 5/10 – There’s a clear need for Guardiola to reinvigorate his team. On Sunday, City once again were incredibly sloppy and lacked enthusiasm at times too.

Tottenham Hotspur player ratings

GK: Guglielmo Vicario – 6/10 – Made a few very good saves and, ultimately, could do nothing about the goals he conceded.

RB: Pedro Porro – 5/10 – A difficult task dealing with Doku on the day.

CB: Emerson Royal – 4/10 – It’s fair to say that Emerson didn’t enjoy being Vicario’s first port of call when in possession.

CB: Ben Davies – 5/10 – Looked out of place at times in the middle of Spurs’ defence.

LB: Destiny Udogie – 6/10 – Struggled to deal with Foden’s movement in the first half, but got to grips with the game in the second.

DM: Yves Bissouma – 4/10 – Worked his socks off in the middle of the park, but so sloppy in possession at times and it cost his team in the final ten minutes.

DM: Giovani Lo Celso – 7/10 – Scored a brilliant goal to make it 2-2, and put in probably his best performance since his loan spell at Real Betis in 2019.

RM: Brennan Johnson – 7/10 – A constant threat with his pace on the break. Set up Kulu’s goal with a great cross to the back post.

AM: Dejan Kulusevski – 8/10 – A very good showing from the Sweden international, who bagged an assist for the opening goal of the game and scored a thumping equaliser late on. He’s really turned a corner since moving into the central attacking midfield role.

LM: Bryan Gil – 3/10 – The Spaniard just doesn’t look up to the task at this level both physicially and technically. Rightfully subbed off at half-time.

ST: Heung-min Son – 7/10 – Scored at both ends of the park inside the opening 15 minutes. The Spurs captain made a lot of good decisions on the ball throughout the game, and was at the heart of everything good that his team did.


Substitutes

SUB: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (45′ for Gil) – 6/10

SUB: Oliver Skipp (79′ for Lo Celsco) – 5/10

SUB: Richarlison (87′ for Bissouma) – 5/10

SUB: Jamie Donley (90′ for Johnson) – N/A


Manager – Ange Postecoglou – 7/10 – Spurs were typically open in the first half, but a small tactical tweak at half-time from the manager really turned the game around for his side.

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