A lacklustre Spurs side were thoroughly out-classed and utterly overwhelmed by a turbulent Manchester City side 3-0 in Tottenham’s third and final International Champions Cup game of the pre-season on Saturday night.
Both City and Spurs had lined up to impress, with Spurs naming Lloris, Trippier, Toby, Jan, Davies, Dembele Dier, Winks, Eriksen, Alli and Kane as the starting 11. Our opponents gave starts to Ederson in goal, a back three of Kompany, Stones and Otamendi, with Walker and Danilo as wing-backs, a midfield of De Bruyne, Fernandinho and Silva, with Jesus and Sterling up front.
It was City who started much the brighter in Nashville, and their early dominance was rewarded in the 10th minute when a deflected free-kick was sent into the path of English centre-back Jon Stones to head home from about 10 yards out. From then on Tottenham were lucky not to be 2-0 down, with De Bruyne, Danilo and Jesus all fluffing goalscoring chances mere minutes after the opening goal.
On the half an hour mark Tottenham saw their best chance saved by new-boy goalkeeper Ederson, who dived to make a smart save from an Eriksen free-kick. It was at this point that things were starting to heat up. Alli and Kompany had a few afters following the Belgian’s initial tackle on the Spurs midfielder which drew out the foul. After a break for some water, Alli and Otamendi then clashed in a similar fashion. By the 40th minute of play, there had already been a fair few shoves going around. Hard to really call this one a ‘friendly’.
There were a flurry of chances late into the first half, but all were eventually spurned. Jesus had not one, but two golden opportunities to double Manchester City’s lead, but on both occasions his finish fell short of requirements. At the other end, Kane was played through on goal in what was at the time Tottenham’s best chance of the game. However, although his shot beat the ‘keeper all ends up the two-time golden boot winner fired clean over the bar.
After 45 minutes of City pressure the half time whistle was blown and Spurs could breathe a sigh of relief. How we were only 1-0 down was quite the mystery, and in all honesty that half of football had been very reminiscent to Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at the Etihad stadium last season. If you remember, Man City bossed the majority of that game, only to throw away their well-earned lead after storming 2-0 ahead early in the second half. After watching this performance, I’d take a draw now for sure.
Spurs made just the one change at the break, swapping Hugo Lloris for Michel Vorm in goal. Manchester City’s dominance carried on from the first half, with Jesus firing wide again from a half-chance outside the box. 9 minutes in, Spurs made another change, bringing young winger Georges-Kevin N’Koudou on for Mousa Dembele. It was a tactical move from Poch, as the Frenchman offered more pace and width to the team, as evidenced by N’Koudou’s impact, quickly drawing a foul in a good area after beating Kompany for speed on the left flank. However the resulting kick from Eriksen was disappointing and failed to beat City’s one-man wall.
By the hour mark, City were totally on top. The sky-blues were unlucky not to be 2-0 up when a brilliant ball through the Spurs defence put Aguero one-on-one with Vorm, only to see his shot saved and the rebound impressively pounced on by the veteran goalkeeper. Soon after, the Argentine struck the post, with Tottenham struggling desperately to clear their lines. After 67 minutes, Aguero did the exact same again when through on goal, striking calmly past the ‘keeper but seeing his shot bounce clear off the post. Manchester City had attempted 16 shots on goal, but were still only in front by the one goal, which is a similar sort of lack of cutting edge that ultimately cost City last season.
With little over 20 minutes left on the clock, I was simply holding out for a miracle, or just one lapse in concentration from the Manchester City defence. But the miracle was not to come and Tottenham’s luck did not hold out. After the umpteenth ball was played straight through our defence, Raheem Sterling of all people was left with more time and space than Doctor Who. Unfortunately, unlike his performances in an England shirt, the young winger was able to keep his cool, steady himself and slot calmly past a scrambling Michel Vorm, who in the end could only watch as the ball rolled into the net at the near post. It was a well-deserved 2-0 lead at last for City, but it still could have been 6 or 7. No kidding.
Janssen, Oakley-Boothe Walker-Peters and Wimmer were eventually subbed on for Spurs, but it made little difference. Manchester City never looked like they’d lose this one, but there was a late scare for City shot-stopper Ederson, when Vincent Janssen showcased a brilliant and unique piece of improvisation to flick the ball over his own head in order to ‘round the on-rushing ‘keeper. However the £35 million signing recover expertly to deny the Dutchman a shot on goal, moments before pulling the trigger. There were very few glimmers of hope for Spurs, and with just minutes left on the clock Manchester City made it 3-0.
It was shutty-in in the Spurs penalty area. Rebound after rebound was either being blocked by a stationary defender or cannoning off Michel Vorm in-between the sticks. Eventually, it fell to Diaz who simply couldn’t miss, and just like he did against Real Madrid (albeit with much less style), the youngster fired the ball into the back of the net in injury time. Thankfully, soon after the referee blew the final whistle and put us out of our misery. This result meant that Tottenham had conceded at least 2 goals in each of their 3 International Champions Cup matches and had only come away with 1 victory.
This was quite the bitter affair. Spurs were feisty and sloppy while Manchester City’s passing was crisp, and they opened up our usually solid defence time and time again. Off the ball they pressed us into mistake after mistake and for most of the 90 minutes, Tottenham were either hemmed into their own half, or forced into giving the ball away further up the field. Pochettino will not be happy at all following this defeat. The performance has been woeful and it’s not the first time Tottenham have been totally outplayed when facing the high press. The manner of this defeat will only ramp up the pressure on Spurs’ Summer business ahead of the coming season at Wembley.
If I can take any positives from this, it’s N’Koudou. The youngster was able to create more than a few openings on his own and he provided a totally different avenue of attack than the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. I’d like to see more appearances for N’Koudou in competitive matches.
Now, let’s get together and prey that we buck up our ideas before Juventus make the trip to Wembley. The last thing we need is another humbling before the start of what’s probably going to be a very tricky season indeed.
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