For almost an hour here at the Etihad, it looked like a good night for Tottenham and an even better one for Arsenal.
Spurs led 2-0 against the flow of play and Manchester City’s hopes of catching the Gunners at the top of the Premier League seemed more desperate than ever.
Five days after losing the Manchester derby, Pep Guardiola was staring at three straight defeats for only the third time in his career.
Riyad Mahrez scored a brace as he inspired Manchester City to come back against Tottenham
Tottenham, meanwhile, had recovered from their comprehensive defeat by Arsenal in the north London derby and were suddenly on course for an unlikely win thanks to goals from Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal.
Heaven knows what Guardiola said – or did – at half-time, still hearing the rants from City fans, but City came out like a madman in the second half.
Julian Alavrez pulled one back and Erling Haaland ended a three-game streak without a goal by heading at City level. Riyad Mahrez then completed an impressive turnaround by scoring his third goal in 13 minutes.
One could almost imagine Arsenal’s celebrations falling flat. The lead at the top is again eight points. They might have a game on their hands, but it’s pretty clear City won’t relinquish their title without one hell of a fight.
Both managers reacted to their derby defeats at the weekend with changes; four for Conte and five for Guardiola, who Haaland and Julian Alvarez only started together in the league for the second time.
“We need more presence in the last third, near Erling,” said the city boss, who resisted questions about Haaland’s role before kick-off.
‘Why? Because United followed man to man in the pockets and refused the space? That won’t happen against Tottenham.’
Just because they were too busy kicking Alvarez. Twice in the first 12 minutes, Ben Davies turned the world champions upside down but Riyad Mahrez missed an opportunity to test Hugo Lloris’ faltering form when he fired a free-kick from the edge of the box straight into Tottenham’s wall.
When Jack Grealish cut the ball back for Alvarez to try his luck through a crowded goal, Eric Dier threw in the way to make a save.
In fact, it was Mahrez who first got into referee Simon Hooper’s book for a foul on Dejan Kulusevski, quickly followed by Cristian Romero and Pierre-Emile Hobjerg, who put a foot on Rico Lewis in retaliation for an earlier clash between the two .
There was no lack of aggression. Jack Grealish ran back to thwart Son Heung-min, only to be stopped by an even better challenge from Romero.
What we lacked was the shot on goal, but that changed dramatically in the last 16 minutes of the first half.
Lewis’ 25-yard effort took a pitch from Son and forced Lloris to make an intelligent save before Haaland squandered two chances in as many minutes from goal.
Up to that point, Tottenham’s only threat had been Son’s header from a Ben Davies cross, but they stunned the champions with two goals late in the period.
Ederson didn’t cover himself in glory on either occasion, it has to be said.
When the ball was returned to the City keeper in the 44th minute, for some reason he decided to play it briefly to Rodri. It was all the Spaniard could do to put a foot forward and tuck the ball away from Rodrigo Bentancur but it only got to Kulusevski, who rolled home a shot from 15 yards out.
City’s defense was no better for the second goal in added time at the end of the half. John Stones passed the ball to Kulusevski on the right and then Harry Kane slipped in to win it from Rodri, who made a halfhearted challenge.
Kane got up to test Ederson with a shot at the near post and the keeper should have done better than throw the ball in the air as Emerson Royal reacted quicker than Grealish to head into an empty net.
GAME FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Ederson 5; Lewis 7 (Walker 83), Stones 6.5, Akanji 6, Ake 6.5; Rodri 6, Gundogan 7 (Silva 81); Mahrez 8, Alvarez 7, Greal 6:5; Halland 6.5.
Subtitle: Ortega, Dias, Phillips, Cancelo, Laporte, De Bruyne, Foden.
Goalscorers: Alvarez 51, Haaland 53, Mahrez 63, 90
Manager: Pep Guardiola 7
Tottenham (5-4-1): Lloris 5; Royale 6.5 (Richarlison 78.6), Romero 6.5, Dier 6, Davies 5.5 (Lenglet 78.6), Perisic 5 (Sessegnon 69.6); Kulusevski 7, Hojbjerg 6,5, Bentancur 6 (Bissouma 75, 6), Heung-min 6; Kane 6.5.
Subtitle: Forster, Doherty, Sanchez, Tanganga, Sarr.
Goalscorers: Kulusevski 44, Royal 45+2
Booked: Romero, Hojbjerg
Manager: Antonio Conte 6.5
Referee: Simon Hopper 7
The half-time whistle was greeted by boos from around the Etihad but the mood changed within eight minutes of the restart when City amazingly found the equalizer again.
At first Spurs struggled to deal with Mahrez’s cross from the right and when Lloris rushed out to challenge Grealish the ball fell for Alvarez to hammer home.
Then, with Conte’s side still faltering, Rodri Mahrez brought in a clever pass to nod across the six-yard box where Halland waited to head home and close his three-game goal drought break up.
Second leg Spurs and Ivan Perisic certainly looked like they might score, but his shot on target hit the inside of Lewis’ leg and deflected off the post
But in the 63rd minute, Mahrez won a 50-50 with Perisic, leapfrogging Davies before firing the ball past Lloris at his near post.
There were question marks again over the Tottenham keeper and substitute Clement Lenglet fared not much better when he mismanaged Ederson’s long ball late on giving Mahrez a second home and the result beyond doubt.
But City won’t care. The title race is in full swing.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-11654387/Manchester-City-4-2-Tottenham-Riyad-Mahrez-runs-riot-Pep-Guardiolas-pull-comeback.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Manchester City 4-2 Tottenham: Riyad Mahrez rages as Pep Guardiola’s side stage comeback