Manchester City win pitch battle as Riyad Mahrez sinks Tottenham

Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (2L) celebrates scoring the winning goal during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in London. (AFP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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Manchester City win pitch battle as Riyad Mahrez sinks Tottenham

  • City’s peerless quality and a predatory finish from Mahrez helped them ignore the pitch problems
  • City were rock-solid at the back as they equalled the club record of six consecutive league clean-sheets

LONDON: Riyad Mahrez fired Manchester City back to the top of the Premier League as the champions won 1-0 in their pitch battle with Tottenham on Monday.
Playing on the scarred Wembley turf just 24 hours after it was damaged by an NFL fixture, City’s peerless quality and a predatory finish from Mahrez helped them ignore the pitch problems.
It was an emotional moment for former Leicester star Mahrez just 48 hours after the death of Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash outside the club’s King Power Stadium on Saturday.
A sixth win from their last seven league games lifted Pep Guardiola’s unbeaten side back above Liverpool on goal difference.
Guardiola hailed City’s Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk last week as the finest display of his reign in Manchester.
This was a far more prosaic performance, but it must have been just as encouraging for Guardiola, given the way City subdued a Tottenham side who had lost only two of their previous 21 league games at Wembley.
City were rock-solid at the back as they equalled the club record of six consecutive league clean-sheets.
It was a dispiriting evening for fifth placed Tottenham, who now trail City by five points after their first league defeat in five games.
Mauricio Pochettino this week admitted he is enduring his “worst feeling” as Tottenham boss this season, despite guiding them to their best Premier League start, and this sloppy display will have done nothing to improve his mood.
His cause wasn’t helped by the presence of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Philadelphia Eagles at Tottenham’s temporary home a day earlier.
There were large areas of worn brown turf down the middle and both flanks, while the NFL logo in the center circle and yard-line markers the length of the pitch were all still visible.
But City were unfazed as they raced into the lead after just six minutes.
Tottenham defender Kieran Trippier misjudged a long kick from City goalkeeper Ederson, his errant header allowing Raheem Sterling to steal possession and cut past him into the penalty area.
Sterling showed tremendous composure as he picked out Mahrez’s run and the Algerian finished the raid with a clinical close-range finish.
Mahrez pointed his fingers to the sky in what appeared to be a tribute to Vichai.
Following the tragic accident, Mahrez had posted two images of himself with Vichai on Instagram, with the caption: “One of the best person I’ve ever met. I will never forget you. Rest In Peace Vichai.”
There were plenty of anguished glances at the pitch from both teams when passes went astray, but the surface couldn’t be blamed for some of the miscues.
City seemed less troubled by the surface and they scythed through the Tottenham defense with a flowing move that ended with Hugo Lloris pushing Mahrez’s drive onto a post.
Sent clean through on goal by Erik Lamela’s pass, Harry Kane had a golden chance to equalize but his poor first touch, which couldn’t be blamed on the turf, allowed Ederson to block with his legs.
City had lost just two of their last 101 Premier League games in which they led at half-time and Sterling should have doubled their lead soon after the restart.
Bernardo Silva’s pass gave David Silva a clear sight of goal, but he couldn’t get a shot away and instead found Sterling, whose close-range effort was blocked on the line.
Sergio Aguero fared no better, the City forward shot tamely at Lloris from just 10 yards out and then saw a more potent long-range strike repelled by the Tottenham keeper.
Dele Alli, back after a four-match absence with a hamstring injury, came on for the last 15 minutes and the Tottenham midfielder almost set up an immediate equalizer.
Alli’s run and pass picked out Lamela, but the Argentine somehow blazed over with only Ederson to beat.
In a fractious finale, Lamela and City’s Benjamin Mendy escaped punishment despite coming to blows.


Jordan ready to unleash more shocks in Asian Cup second round

Updated 59 min 8 sec ago
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Jordan ready to unleash more shocks in Asian Cup second round

  • Borkelmans' boys not finished with the giant-killing in the UAE.
  • Jordan beat both Australia and Syria in the group stage and are confident they can go far.

LONDON: They may have surprised a few fans and rivals, but Jordan insist they have not stopped with the shocks in the UAE.
Australia and Syria were the two teams widely expected to coast through to the knockout stages from Group B. But Vital Borkelmans’ team ignored the form book and beat both the Socceroos and Syrians, before the final game 0-0 draw with Palestine, to top the pool.
And having got a taste of giantkilling Jordan are after more.
“We tried to get a maximum nine points from the group stage, but we couldn’t. We are, though, grateful we got a point from the game against Palestine and that we have qualified as group leaders,” Jordan midfielder Abdel Rahman said.
“This is the fourth Asian Cup for (us) and we have managed to advance and keep a clean sheet in all three of our group stage games.
“The Jordanian team doesn’t fear any other team. We are a humble side and we respect any team that we play. We will strive to do our best in the next round.”
Borkelmens’ boys are yet to concede a goal in the UAE and that dogged defense will be key as to whether they can continue their run at a first Asian Cup title. They are yet to learn who they will face in the second-round clash in Dubai on Sunday but it is clear that along with the defense, the side’s passionate fans will also be key to their chances of making the quarterfinals.
“The fans (have been) great. I really hope they keep supporting us in the upcoming stages,” Rahman said.

The message of confidence is clearly permeating through the camp with Borkelmans saying his team fear no one. 

“I am happy, we got seven points and three clean sheets, something I would have taken before the tournament,” the coach said.

“We do not know our Round of 16 opponents yet, but I know that we have already started working. My players have a lot of confidence and they are positive.

“I hope we can do something in the next round. Indeed, every round we progress to, we will have the confidence to go even further.”