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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Pep Guardiola's improved Manchester City overwhelm 'the Harry Kane team'

Tottenham have made a habit of harrying others to distraction, but they were at the receiving end against the Premier League leaders on Saturday

Manchester City did not look like they were going to be beaten by Tottenham Hotspur. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images
Manchester City did not look like they were going to be beaten by Tottenham Hotspur. Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

It is a sweet 16 straight wins for Manchester City. Perhaps this was one of the sweetest, too.

Tottenham Hotspur inflicted their first defeat under Pep Guardiola last season, highlighting some of the shortcomings of a transitional team.

Now City look an unstoppable side: they boast a 14-point lead, if only for a day, and are fully 21 clear of Tottenham after ending a rout with chants of “easy” coming from the stands.

They illustrated their improvement and showed their strength in depth alike. City were without the catalytic David Silva, but the finest teams find way of capitalising on supposed misfortune.

The Spaniard’s deputy, Ilkay Gundogan, scored the opener, set up the second goal, played a part in the first of Raheem Sterling’s double and produced his best performance of the season.

That second goal came from a typically outstanding Kevin de Bruyne, providing a fitting riposte to a piece of ugly aggression. Dele Alli ought to have been sent off for planting his studs into the Belgian’s ankle. Two minutes later, De Bruyne surged on to Gundogan’s pass and lashed a shot past Hugo Lloris.

It was a goal in keeping with a game played at rare pace. Spurs sought to press City. The league leaders responded in kind. They forced the visitors back, a sign of the way they can now ally physicality with technical prowess.

Apart from a spell at the start of the second half, they overwhelmed Tottenham, whereas Mauricio Pochettino’s team have made a habit of harrying others to distraction.

The Spurs manager played with a diamond in midfield and wide strikers, an original response to the problems City pose. It did not work.

The former City academy player Kieran Trippier was afforded too little protection against a rampant Leroy Sane.

He was a reason why the first goal was made in Germany. Sane delivered a corner and Gundogan stooped to head it in. There was a theory that dead-ball situations could be the undoing of a short City side.

Guardiola’s men now have three goals in as many games from players under six foot at dead-ball situations – Silva and Nicolas Otamendi provided the others – and instead Tottenham continue to concede from corners in the absence of Toby Alderweireld.

His hamstring injury has deprived them of solidity. Their heaviest defeat of the season was sealed when De Bruyne and Gundogan linked up again, Sane sprinted clear and centred unselfishly for Sterling to tap in.

The winger ought to have struck before then. He blazed over the bar after Gabriel Jesus’s penalty came back off the post. Jan Vertonghen had fouled his Belgium teammate De Bruyne, another sign Spurs could not contain the midfielder.

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Sterling still ended the day with two goals and the season with 15, benefiting from an Eric Dier error. Lloris had mounted a damage-limitation campaign, saving well from Sergio Aguero, Gundogan, Sterling, the substitute Bernardo Silva and Sane, but it was in vain.

And while Christian Eriksen scored a late consolation goal, it amounted to a painful day for "the Harry Kane team", as Guardiola had branded Spurs, and Kane himself.

Tottenham’s top scorer was also caught in the face by Otamendi’s high boot. Kane could then have been sent off for a late challenge on Sterling before Alli committed the worst tackle of the match and De Bruyne provided an eloquent response.