Monday 16 September 2019

Son rises to big occasion as City pay dearly for penalty miss

Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min shows his delight at putting his team in front against Manchester City last night in their Champions League quarter-final, first leg clash. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Tottenham’s Son Heung-min shows his delight at putting his team in front against Manchester City last night in their Champions League quarter-final, first leg clash. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Sam Wallace

It It is all happening very fast at Tottenham Hotspur who opened their first new stadium in 120 years last week and by next Wednesday could find themselves in the semi-finals of the European Cup for only the second time in a history that has all too rarely been as remarkable as this.

The second leg of this compelling Champions League quarter-final is some cliff-hanger to wait a week for - but given the intensity of the first phase it will be quite a game at the Etihad Stadium. Without Harry Kane, dramatically injured in the second half, a masterful finish from Heung-min Son with 12 minutes of regulation time to play meant that Spurs are the team on top.

As a game it had a lot to take in, including the injury to Spurs' outstanding player, in a collision with Fabian Delph that was largely of Kane's own making. Before that a video assistant referee review that led to a first-half penalty that only Uefa would deems sensible, and Sergio Aguero's subsequent miss.

The two sides played the game like it was a final, with plenty of energy and no little bad-feeling - and the great noise in the new stadium at White Hart Lane was a response to that.

Emotional

For Pep Guardiola, the question remains: will his team bow out again to English opposition in the last eight of this competition? They had more of the ball but in the moments that really decide these emotional, charged occasions - that Aguero penalty especially - their nerve just seemed to fail.

A Spur for the team: Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris saves a penalty from Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero at Wembley last night. Photo: PA
A Spur for the team: Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris saves a penalty from Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero at Wembley last night. Photo: PA

Guardiola left out Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane and then brought them on for the final few minutes, when those in their place had just not managed to dominate the game.

A game worthy of the occasion, or at the very least a real sense from the players that the moment had to be grasped. The first half's major episode was the VAR penalty for City and all that went with a decision that felt wrong, but the game was much more than that.

It was Spurs who controlled it without looking like they would crack City. Kane was magnificent as the centre of their attack, drawing fouls, making passes and - when he got the chance - telling the referee Bjorn Kuiper where he was going wrong.

There were a few others too - Dele Alli busier than recently and at the back the old pairing of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen looked solid.

Tottenham's Harry Kane receives medical attention after sustaining an injury. Photo: Action Images via Reuters
Tottenham's Harry Kane receives medical attention after sustaining an injury. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

City looked like a side who had not played for six days, the full-backs Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier high up the pitch and pressure put on City every time Ederson had his foot on the ball and looked to pass it out.

This was a team without De Bruyne and Leroy Sane, both on the bench, with Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez either side of Aguero. It was Sterling who won the penalty - the penalty no one in the City side appealed for.

Both sets of players had looked satisfied with the award of a corner when the VAR Danny Makkelie told Kuipers he had a decision to make. Rose had thrown himself down to his right to block the ball and the motion of his body meant his left arm had been thrown up into the air. There had been contact with the ball somewhere on his arm, but he was so close when the shot was struck that it had barely registered among the players.

Under the Uefa view, a case could be made for the penalty. The action of Rose's arm had made his body bigger, as the lingua franca has it. As a decision taking into account all the imperfections of the game as we know them, it was rotten.

Hugo Lloris saved Aguero's penalty to his left quite comfortably and the home support roared its approval.

The incident that led to Kane's injury, one which at no point did he try to play on with, was a ball down the line from Delph, the stand-in left-back once more in this City team. It was the kind of incident that more often leads to the full-back being injured when the challenge comes across and the man striking the ball kicks the hard sole of a boot.

This one was different with Kane's left ankle sliding underneath Delph's boot and the joint being forced into an unnatural bend on the turf. In the aftermath there was another challenge before play stopped and Kane, taken off the pitch by his momentum, was examined. Pochettino complained to Delph about his part in it but in reality it was Kane's intent which had taken him into that position.

After the break, Spurs were pushed back by City who had much more of the ball. The visitors created little in the way of chances but they played more like the team that has been such a phenomenon over the last two seasons. When they did concede, it was Spurs who had been struggling to create chances, and then came Son.

Played in by Christian Eriksen down the right channel, he delayed his run to stay onside. When his first touch did not take him towards goal, he retrieved the ball on the touchline, doubled back past Ederson and then Delph and unleashed a shot with his left foot that beat the City goalkeeper on his line.

Telegraph.co.uk

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