Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur. Premier League.
Match report and highlights as first-half goals from Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal are overhauled by a 12-minute second-half burst from Man City, with Alvarez, Haaland and Mahrez completing the turnaround; Haaland's first goal in four games helps close gap on Arsenal to five points
Friday 20 January 2023 08:24, UK
Erling Haaland ended his mini goal drought and Riyad Mahrez turned in a match-winning performance as Manchester City responded to back-to-back defeats with a 4-2 comeback victory over Tottenham to move five points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Spurs did the double over Pep Guardiola's side last season and looked on course for an incredible fifth win in six games against City when they took a shock 2-0 lead into the break following a quickfire burst from Dejan Kulusevski (44) and Emerson Royal (45+2) just before the interval.
But Julian Alvarez (51) and Erling Haaland (53) came up with a two-goal salvo for City soon after the restart - with the latter scoring for the first time in four games - and Mahrez (63), having played a part in both those goals, produced a moment of individual magic to grab one of his own and put the hosts in front. The Algerian deservedly doubled his tally for the season late on when he rounded off a fantastic second half from City by darting onto a Clement Lenglet error to dink in a late fourth.
"We know they're a great team, but that fight and will to win, never knowing when they're beaten - that's a really special quality to have," said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher afterwards. "That result tonight for Arsenal will be a real blow."
However, while Carragher praised City's second half spirit, Guardiola later lambasted his team for a lack of "fire" in the first half. "We are far away from the team that we were," he said during a passionate post-match interview.
"Not in terms of play, we played good enough, but there are many things like competitiveness."
Mahrez's first strike came just minutes after Ivan Perisic had hit the woodwork at the other end but Spurs couldn't find a response to City's second-half momentum and have now lost seven of their last 13 top-flight fixtures.
They stay fifth, five points off fourth-placed Newcastle who have a game in hand, and their wider issues were illustrated by their supporters chanting against chairman Daniel Levy and in support of head coach Antonio Conte.
City - who have charged to the title from similar deficits they currently have to Arsenal in four of their six Premier League-winning seasons - now have the chance to put the pressure on their rivals for the crown by moving to within two points of Arsenal with a win at home to Wolves on Sunday. The Gunners - who have played a game less - face Man Utd at home later that day, live on Sky Sports.
Tottenham had looked set to do their neighbours a huge favour but City - who suffered a Carabao Cup defeat to Southampton and a Manchester derby loss at Old Trafford last week - avoided a third defeat on the spin for the first time since April 2018 and finally looked like their usual selves again during a statement second half.
Tottenham: Lloris (6); Romero (6), Dier (6), Davies (5); Royal (6), Hojbjerg (6), Bentancur (7), Perisic (5); Kulusevski (7), Son (5), Kane (7).
Subs: Sessegnon (6), Bissouma (6), Richarlison (6), Lenglet (5)
Man City: Ederson (5), Stones (7), Akanji (7), Ake (7), Lewis (8), Rodri (7), Gundogan (7), Mahrez (9), Alvarez (8), Haaland (7), Grealish (7)
Subs: Bernardo Silva (6), Walker (6), Dias (N/A)
Player of the match: Riyad Mahrez
These sides were due to meet in early September but the fixture was postponed due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Tottenham were level on points with City and just one back from Arsenal then. Now there is a chasm between Spurs and the Premier League's frontrunners - they're 14 points off their local rivals, who have played two games less.
That gap to their neighbours has contributed to the frustration among the Spurs supporters - although an incredible end to the opening period had their travelling fans bouncing and believing another win over City was on the way.
City, despite missing the benched Kevin De Bruyne, had controlled proceedings up to that point. With Alvarez partnering Haaland for the first time since August and 18-year-old Rico Lewis impressively stepping inside from right-back, they built up a head of steam towards the end of the half. The youngster tested Hugo Lloris from distance before the goalkeeper saved at the feet of Haaland. But an error from Ederson handed Spurs a rare opening goal.
The keeper's pass out to Rodri was a poor one and the midfielder could only turn the ball to Kulusevski to fire in. It was just the second time in 10 Premier League games Spurs had scored the first goal. They had another within three minutes.
Kane slid in to win the ball in a challenge with Rodri in the box and then blasted through the six-yard area. Ederson could only parry the ball out and Emerson was there to head home - drawing angry boos from the home crowd.
There must have been some angry words exchanged in the City dressing room, too, as they came out determined to turn it around - and they did just that with a two-minute burst of their own.
Mahrez was at the heart of it, with Alvarez eventually keeping his composure after the winger's cross had caused a scramble in the Spurs box.
Mahrez then picked up an assist for Haaland's eagerly-awaited goal, selflessly heading Rodri's chipped pass square for the Norwegian to make it 22 goals in this Premier League season.
Tottenham almost regained the lead when Perisic's deflected shot looped up against the bar on the hour as the game opened up but Mahrez was too good for the Croatian in the other box, bamboozling him with a stepover before blasting in a third for City to complete the turn around.
There was a handball shout against Richarlison waved away as rejuvenated City threw players forwards in search of more and they got another with the help of an error from Lenglet, who allowed Ederson's long ball to bounce off him and run through for Mahrez to convert his second of the night and City's fourth.
It underlined an emphatic second half from City, who after recent criticisms, reminded everyone why they have been and remain a major force. The title race is alive - and City are in pursuit of Arsenal...
Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher at the Etihad:
"The win is massive. Man City have got that thing now that Man Utd had when I was a player. You'd hear they were 2-0 down - but you didn't believe they would get beaten. Man City have got that now.
"Since May, they've gone 2-0 down five times in the Premier League and they've lost none - they've won three and drawn two. So there's something special about them.
"We know they're a great team, but that fight and will to win, never knowing when they're beaten - that's a really special quality to have. That's a massive problem especially for Arsenal and for Liverpool recently.
"But that result tonight for Arsenal will be a real blow."
Man City boss Pep Guardiola: "I cannot deny how happy we are, but we are far away from the team that we were. Not in terms of play, we played good enough, but there are many things like competitiveness, in terms of what we have to do in many things that we are far away.
"Rico Lewis conceded four fouls, but they weren't yellow cards because it's Rico Lewis and we don't react… We play because 'my manager told me to play this and how to do this', but there's nothing from the stomach or the gut.
"Today, we were lucky but it wouldn't change, sooner or later we are again [going] to drop points.
"[City are missing] passion, fire and desire and to win from minute one. It's the same with our fans, they are silent for 45 minutes. They booed because we were losing, not because we played badly. We played good, we had more chances, expected goals from Tottenham is zero. So we were better.
"They booed because we were losing, but maybe it's the same as our team. Maybe we were so comfortable winning four Premier League's in five years and that's why we… you know. After the goal, they react, but that's not the point."
Maybe the fire has gone out of everything? "Definitely. Otherwise we wouldn't concede the goals we concede in every single game. We give them [the goals] and today we were lucky but after, we will not be lucky."
How do you get the fire back? "That is my duty, my job. I want my fans back, I want my fans here. Not my away fans, they are the best, but my fans here. The support for every corner and every action and support it.
"We have to do it, but everyone is relaxed. The Premier League doesn't wait. We have the opening with Arsenal and they have the fire. Two decades, they haven't won the Premier League and every player knows they will make history, like we felt when we won the first Premier League and broke all the records and won back to back.
"We don't have the fire inside and we don't have to ask anything, I just explained the reality that everything is so comfortable. And the opponents don't wait. Of course I'm not [happy with my team]. I don't recognise my team. My team always has passion and desire and run and everything."
Spurs boss Antonio Conte: "If I compare it to the game last season, we played much better today. The performance was good. We played with personality. We created a lot of problems for Man City. Last season we played for a long, long period in our box. Today we were really brave to press high.
"When the result was 2-2 we had a massive chance to score. If you go up again 3-2, the game changes totally. To compare to last season, we've conceded a lot more goals. To me it's no good. To concede four goals in one half, this is the first time in my career.
"We have to continue to work, to improve and try to do our best. We are really disappointed for the final result because we could deserve much more at the end.
"This type of game with more experience you never lose. You don't buy this experience. Well, you could buy this experience! (Laughs). We have just started the process to become competitive - it means we're working on this aspect. A team with more experience never ever concedes four goals."
Man City's next outing is a Premier League clash at home to Wolves on Saturday; kick-off 3pm.
Meanwhile, Tottenham's next game is a Premier League clash on Monday Night Football at Craven Cottage against Fulham, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 8pm.