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Manchester City edge towards Premier League title after Haaland sinks Spurs

Manchester City edge towards Premier League title after Haaland sinks Spurs...Continue The Full Reading.

Is there a surer bet in football than Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City doing what they need to do – in other words, win and keep winning – when they have the Premier League title within their grasp?

On the three previous occasions that they have been involved in neck-and-neck races for the line under Guardiola – the margin for error slim to non-existent – they have never slipped. Their winning sequences have been long and devastating. Here we are again, City closing on yet another title, a sixth in total under Guardiola, this victory an eighth in a row when the pressure is at its most acute.

For one night only, everybody connected to Arsenal had turned into Spurs fans. They were desperate for their hated rivals to do something neighbourly. Any kind of result for Spurs would have put Arsenal in charge of the race before the final day on Sunday.

It did not happen because this is not how it goes with City, however close it was in the final stages, however excruciating it must have been for Arsenal to watch. Because with City leading through an Erling Haaland goal, Spurs had the chances to equalise.

Stefan Ortega was the unexpected City hero. On as a substitute for the injured Ederson, the goalkeeper made a massive block to deny the Spurs replacement, Dejan Kulusevski. But that was trumped in the 86th minute when Brennan Johnson robbed Manuel Akanji and sent Son Heung-min clean through. Again, with north London holding its breath for so many reasons, Ortega saved. Guardiola toppled over on to the ground in his technical area.

City had survived and they would enjoy a calm finale when Haaland made it 2-0 from the penalty spot after Pedro Porro had fouled another substitute, Jérémy Doku. City will be crowned again if or surely when they beat West Ham on Sunday.

Erling Haaland celebrates scoring his second goal of the match
Erling Haaland celebrates his second goal of the match and help City close in on another title. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

There had only been one pre-match topic in north London, one question for the Spurs fans. Who were they supporting? Which was incredibly strange, given that they were shooting for a Champions League finish, and entirely logical because, well, it’s Arsenal.

How would any non-Spurs support from the Spurs support show itself? And is it even possible to have a consensus among a group of 60,000? If you look for any point of view within a fanbase, you will probably find it. There was one sentiment that everybody in the home seats could get behind. “Stand up if you hate Arsenal,” went the chant. They stood.

Guardiola needed time to work things out because Ange Postecoglou sprang surprises with his tactics, even if the emphasis on attack endured, on leaving gaps at the back; taking risks.

Postecoglou, missing eight injured players, including three left-backs, had asked Micky van de Ven to shuffle over from central defence to fill the problem position. He also started with a new-look box midfield, with his attackers, Johnson and Son, high and wide. Who said he did not have a plan B?

It was interesting, Pape Sarr and James Maddison leading the press in central areas, plenty of rotation, too, with Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur behind them. Porro got up and across, as usual, from right-back.

The atmosphere in the first half was best described as subdued. Perhaps the home fans were simply trying to process what Postecoglou was doing. It was impossible to say that it did not work up to the interval.

It felt as though City would be able to find the spaces, especially up the right wing; into the areas Van de Ven had been asked to cover. Kyle Walker had cantered up there a few times in the early running. The eyes of other City players lit up when they looked over.

City had their moments in the first half, even if some of them were nearly but not quite in terms of finding the killer pass. Phil Foden unloaded a volley after a Højbjerg slice that Guglielmo Vicario saved brilliantly; Josko Gvardiol volleyed off target from a difficult angle.

On the stroke of half-time, Radu Dragusin celebrated wildly after heading clear a goalbound Bernardo Silva shot after Van de Ven had blocked from Haaland. The flag went up for offside against Foden in the buildup. It was in VAR territory.

City made errors on the ball, uncharacteristic ones that added to the weird vibe and Spurs had a few flickers, the biggest one coming early on when Johnson fed Bentancur after a lovely Højbjerg diagonal. Bentancur’s shot was touched over by Ederson. There were times when Spurs had men over but could not connect the dots.

It looked as though City lingered a little longer in their on-field huddle before the start of the second half and it was not difficult to imagine what was said. The season was on the line. They needed to play with greater intensity.

It was evident from the restart, Kevin De Bruyne fully extending Vicario after Spurs had lost the ball trying to build from the back. The home team almost went in front when Son got onto a low Johnson cross, trying to dink Ederson, only for the goalkeeper to close the space. Then City did.

Foden made it happen, winning the ball and getting away up the left before crossing. The ball went all the way to the other side where Silva got on it and ushered in De Bruyne. Spurs were stretched. De Bruyne crossed low, Haaland made his move and tapped home. “Are you watching Arsenal?” chanted the Spurs fans. The TV cameras picked out two of them doing the Poznan, City-style.

The tension simmered. Bentancur was incandescant when he was replaced by Kulusevski, taking out his frustration on the seats in the technical area. Ditto Ederson when he was forced off with a head injury after Cristian Romero banged into him. On came Ortega and how he would make the difference....Continue The Full Reading.>’.

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