Aguero inspires City victory
Published 03/05/2015 | 18:26
Manchester City may no longer be able to call themselves Premier League champions but at least the indignity of missing out on the top-four has almost certainly been avoided after Sergio Aguero inspired them to victory at Tottenham.
A poor 2015 has seen Manuel Pellegrini's side go from title challengers to facing the prospect of potentially missing out on Champions League football.
That disaster has been almost certainly averted, though, after continuing their fine form against Tottenham, with Aguero securing a 1-0 win just hours after City were dethroned as English champions.
Their fight to retain the title had realistically ended several weeks back but Chelsea's rubber-stamping meant a reaction was required at White Hart Lane, especially having lost their last four league games on the road.
It was a run Mauricio Pochettino's men looked like they could extend as Eric Dier and Harry Kane threatened early in an end-to-end first half in which City made the breakthrough as Aguero ended a counter-attack with a 10th goal in seven league games against Spurs.
This was an enjoyable, open affair in which Joe Hart's impressive display helped City secure victory, leaving them on the brink of a top-four finish and almost certainly extinguishing Spurs' hopes of Champions League qualification.
This was an eighth defeat in nine Premier League matches against City and one few could have imagined after Pochettino's side started so well.
Only a timely block from Pablo Zabaleta prevented Nacer Chadli playing in Erik Lamela after 90 seconds, with Dier allowed to head wide from the resulting corner.
Eliaquim Mangala breathed a sigh of relief after the England Under-21s defender failed to capitalise on the space afforded to him, with Kane soon firing wide after more poor play by the defender.
When City belatedly jolted into life, there was an audible gasp inside White Hart Lane as Aguero - so often the scourge of Tottenham - struck a fine, audacious volley over.
Hugo Lloris had to be alert to deny a James Milner cross-shot as City upped the ante, with Frank Lampard hitting a wayward half volley as both sides' defensive frailties were highlighted.
Kane continued to prove a threat, hitting wide of far post, as did Aguero. The Argentina international held his head in his hands after referee Andre Marriner waved away his appeal for a penalty, having claimed to been caught by Federico Fazio after being allowed through by an uncharacteristic slip from Lloris.
Nabil Bentaleb fired wide as the end-to-end theme continued, with Aleksandar Kolarov's challenge denying a fierce Dier strike before City scored a fine goal on the break.
Hart started the move by quickly delivering the ball to David Silva, whose fine, weighted through ball was met by Aguero and rifled past Lloris at his near post.
It was a classy goal and one which Fernandinho attempted to add to soon after, with his low shot denied by Danny Rose's interception.
Lloris could only parry Aguero's strike through a crowd, before the Argentinian linked up with Silva and Fernandinho struck wide.
Pochettino's men rode their luck but would have been level at the break was it not for Hart, who impressively spread himself to stop Ryan Mason converting from close range.
Play resumed after half-time at a far calmer tempo, although Kane came close to livening it up. The striker's strength allowed him to get a close-range shot away, but Hart denied him a 21st league goal of the campaign.
This was fast becoming a tale of two strikers and Aguero could have taken the game away from the hosts shortly afterwards, taking a touch past Lloris only to fire into the side-netting.
Milner saw a powerful effort blocked and Kolarov tested Lloris with a dipping, swerving drive in-between substitute Roberto Soldado's coming close to directing home a cross.
Kolarov produced a timely block when the Spaniard next threatened, before City broke and Zabaleta had appeals for a penalty ignored.
Lloris saved with his feet as Kolarov again threatened as the match entered the final 10 minutes, with Paulinho heading inches wide, unaware the offside flag had been raised.
The substitute soon had another chance, forcing Hart into action, with the England international denying Lamela's acrobatic stoppage-time effort to secure victory.