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.


Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019
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Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”