Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Phil Foden's maiden Premier League goal sees Citizens hang on to unleash revenge on Spurs
(Getty Images - Oli Scarff)

Manchester City 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Phil Foden's maiden Premier League goal sees Citizens hang on to unleash revenge on Spurs

Phil Foden got the all-important strike as Manchester City prevailed in a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.

Joshua Kerr
Manchester CityEderson, Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko, Gundogan, Foden, De Bruyne (Fernandinho 38), B.Silva, Sterling, Aguero (Sane 65).
Tottenham Hotspur FCGazzaniga, Foyth, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Llorente 78) , Davies, Dier (Wanyama 61), Alli (Rose 68), Eriksen, Moura, Son.
SCORE1-0, Min.5, Foden

Questions, questions and even more questions. In a match of fine margins and even greater misjudgements, Manchester City hobbled themselves over the line to return to the Premier League summit and put their European demons temporarily to bed. 

This was not vintage City, in any capacity as Tottenham Hotspur once again pushed the hosts to their physical limits in another potentially defining match at the Etihad Stadium. 

It was rather refreshing for City and Pep Guardiola that it was the new guard who would serve Mauricio Pochettino a revenge dish from Wednesday night following the hosts midweek quarter-final exit to the Lilywhites as 18-year-old Phil Foden took the limelight with the defining goal and even more defining performance. 

This was perhaps the first real glimpse of the teenage prodigy against an elite side in an high-stakes game, and, considering the intensity of the hardest fought Premier League title race in recent memory his manager certainly took a gamble in throwing the youngster only his second league start. 

The Catalan typically was vindicated with such a big call nonetheless, seventeen days after his inaugural league start at home to Cardiff City, and three days following the Champions League classic on the same turf it was the teenage mutant who had the definitive say on proceedings. "Now I am a genius," Guardiola joked in his post-match press conference. "He scored a goal. How good is the manager?

It was Foden's first ever Premier League goal, heading home from a tight angle close range after seven minutes to decide the fourth instalment of this momentous Manchester City vs Spurs saga. 

Like many cherished and savoured blockbusters the fourth more often than not is notoriously recognised for its flaws and inability to match the action-packed epic that drew in so many viewers in the first place.

Similarly to Jaws, Indiana Jones and the Bourne series, Manchester City vs Spurs IV was a subdued sequel to the spell-binding midweek epic, although the consequences can be considerable to City retaining their title.

However, victory did come at a cost for the league leaders after they lost Kevin de Bruyne to yet another injury after only 36 minutes. Guardiola confirmed that the Belgian is unlikely to feature in their all-or-nothing derby at Old Trafford on Wednesday, which could dictate the fate of the title.

As they say though, one man's misfortune is another man's gain and when life handed Guardiola lemons he made lemonade with the fascinating decision to start Foden ahead of David Silva. The FIFA U20 Golden Ball winner now has significantly bright prospects in being involved in the game against Manchester United that City simply have to win.

Despite a display that raised more questions than answers, this was a significant hurdle cleared for the Citizens in their pursuit of retaining their Premier League crown. 

It was City’s 10th consecutive league win to see them temporarily leapfrog Liverpool and match their 2014 league winning points tally of 86 still with four matches to play.  

The 1-0 win was also confirmation of the Citizens Champions League status for another season with the club once again amongst Europe's elite for a seventh consecutive season.

For Spurs, despite the bedlam of Wednesday night, it was the club's fifth consecutive away league defeat could see the Lilywhites drop out of the top-four on Monday night for the first time since August. There is certainly still work to be done in the league for Pochettino and co.

The story of the match

Four days on from that unforgettable Champions League quarter-final at the Etihad these two familiar foes came to blows again. It wasn’t quite the spectacle where the hosts quadruple (now treble) was all but on the line, but for City, the task was just as steep. 

Heartbreak couldn’t unfold into collapse. The last time City were dumped out of the last eight of Europe's elite competition their title coronation was halted after letting a two-goal slip to neighbourhood rivals United. There was no room for reoccurring hick-ups, not with the double-chasing Liverpool sitting right on the champions heels. 

Meanwhile, the test for Spurs was not to allow the typical comedown that can follow and hinder performances following the euphoria of such an historic night in the club’s history. Despite a semi-final bout with Ajax just 10 days away, the focus had to immediately turn to their ambiguous current top-four prospects. 

There were three changes to the City side that was dumped out of Europe in midweek with Phil Foden making only his second Premier League start whilst John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko were deployed back into the back-four replacing Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy

The visitors began proceedings with almost a completely different side that progressed into the club’s first European semi-final since 1964 as Pochettino opted for a more conservative approach against the champions. 

Playing for only his third league game since the new year, Foyth excelled in the right wing-back role subduing the devastating Raheem Sterling who had one of his quietest matches of the season. It was worth noting that Spurs had as many shots on targets as the victors - four for both - but couldn't find a way past the impenetrable Ederson who delivered a fine display to perhaps atone for a couple of goals the Brazilian conceded during the Champions League quarter-final legs.

Pochettino made five changes to the side that prevailed on away goals three days ago, including the absence of club-captain and injured goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. There were also four centre-backs deployed into a back-five with the conservative Eric Dier operating in the holding role. Spurs in comparison to Wednesday opted for pragmatism and solidity to frustrate the hosts whilst preying on the gaps that initiated counter-attacks meaning once again, Spurs were excruciatingly difficult to beat.

Unsurprisingly, it proved to be another excruciatingly close encounter between the two teams with the first half similarly to mid-week dramatically poised with little separating each side. Five minutes in and already it seemed a match reminiscent of the Wednesday night European blockbuster.

Manchester City's notoriously slick and guile style of play was immediately unleashed to the fore. The outstanding Bernardo Silva capped a PFA Player of the Year nomination with another fine piece of play.

The 24-year-old midfielder toyed with Ben Davies on the right flank meticulously cutting in on his right, then chopping back onto his left foot before bending an exquisite cross to the back post that found Sergio Aguero patiently lurking, unmarked, to nod the ball towards the back post spotting the run of Foden who headed in from close-range to score his first ever Premier League goal.

The English youngster became the first player born in the 2000s to score a Premier League goal for Man City, and also became the third youngest scorer in the competition overall (18y 327d). 

It was a monumental response from the hosts who delivered the opening blow to swiftly put their midweek nightmares to bed. 

However, this wasn’t the introduction to a commonly frequent City mauling. Instead, the goal was followed with a sense of caution and recklessness with the hosts their own worse enemy in gifting Spurs the best chances of the first half. 

Stones was guilty of some early naivety with the ball gifting the ball to Moura only two minutes in before giving Son Heung-Min his first sniff on the game who fired a shot straight at Ederson.

City despite leading were erratically open on the counter-attack. Christian Eriksen was granted to much space to run into and appeared through on goal only to be denied by the feet of City’s No.1.

The same outcome occurred again for Spurs striker Son who had already gone past Kyle Walker and then forced a save out of Ederson. A rarity for the Korean international who took both his chances so emphatically in the Champions League in midweek.

The injury to De Bruyne came just after the 35-minute mark when he appeared to drag his left leg awkwardly underneath him. He continued play for a few minutes then sliced the ball out of play before falling to the ground in serious frustration and despair. Guardiola indicated it was his hamstring that was the problem which could be the final coup de grace in a season that has been utterly plagued by injury for undoubtedly the club's best player. 

The hosts had a penalty shout of their own when B.Silva hit the deck after tangling with Jan Vertonghen but Michael Oliver deemed there wasn’t enough contact to grant a spot-kick. There was no irony lost for City supporters that knew full that VAR would have corrected the referee's mistake.

Dele Alli was offering plenty of exuberance in the middle of the park looking to exploit pockets of space in-between City lines. The most notable gap, however, the midfielder spotted was between the legs of Silva leaving the Portuguese ace red-faced by such a flamboyant piece of skill.

Spurs had a penalty shout of their own when Toby Alderweireld’s lofted pass to Alli was controlled with a deft touch but appeared to brush the arm of Kyle Walker before going out for a corner. Once again, Oliver indicated it was not intentional.

Leroy Sane was introduced for Aguero forcing Raheem Sterling into the central attacking role. Meanwhile, for Spurs, Victor Wanyama and Danny Rose were brought on for Dier and Alli with Rose surprisingly playing in an unprecedented midfield role. 

Spurs could smell the visitors flesh wounds from Wednesday night and Pochettino - to his credit - went for it in the final 20 minutes in one final attempt to throw the kitchen sink at the hosts.

Fernando Llorente was thrown on in an attempt to once again throw a spanner in the City work. It was to no surprise the Spaniard was welcomed to an outpour of boos and jeers in what they felt was an intentional handball on Wednesday night that changed the complexion of the Champions League tie. 

Foden continued to torment in the press with a matured and assured performance. It was quite something to see the response the 18-year-old merited from the home support. The midfielder played astonishingly ahead of his years to get City over the line and it was vindication that there is room for the youngster in this star-studded team.

It was, to say the least, an intriguing verdict that could be definitive for both teams in their own individual pursuits of glory. As for Spurs, they host Brighton on Tuesday and have their top-four destiny in their own hands providing they win their four remaining games.

For Guardiola, the derby match on Wednesday will surely give serious examination as to whether City can become the first English team to ever win the domestic treble. Guardiola stated he hadn't even given thought to the midweek showdown with their oldest and fiercest rivals and it could prove great merit to the argument should United emerge victorious and alter the title destination from Manchester to Merseyside.