Haaland was on his longest run without a goal for City in this one, just two-and-a-half games – and plenty of attention had been given to whether he had actually made City better, as well as how the Blues can get the better of their 27-goal man. Last year&aposs frequent comparisons with Kane&aposs progress weren&apost far from reoccurring after a break following Haaland&aposs explosive arrival.
Kane&aposs role in Tottenham&aposs first-half lead had the Spurs number ten back in focus at the Etihad, but City soon showed exactly how Pep Guardiola wants them to play with Haaland in their second-half comeback to end his goal drought and remind everyone that there&aposs no need to look elsewhere when their current number nine is always waiting to pounce.
When Ederson passed to Rodri under pressure to gift possession to Dean Kulusevski who gave Tottenham the lead, Pep Guardiola could only sink to his knees on the edge of the technical area. He stayed there for a few seconds, seemingly in disbelief at the mess that had unfolded in front of him, and then slowly walked back to his seat, face like thunder.
When Harry Kane evaded numerous challenges to test Ederson moments later, and Emerson Royal headed in a second, Guardiola will have been equally as furious as City had been growing into the contest but had suddenly thrown away control before half time. He had made a point of taking responsibility for City&aposs attacking woes in the last week, but there was no defending his side&aposs defending for Tottenham&aposs quickfire double – and Guardiola knew it.
Guardiola&aposs blueprint for getting the goals flowing again was simple – put more players in the box and get the ball to them quicker. Julian Alvarez joined Erling Haaland in attack, with Kevin De Bruyne of all people sacrificed, but City were their familiar slow selves whenever the ball got near the Tottenham area in the first half.
At 2-0 down at half time, Guardiola will have given his players some more home truths, and they came out with a point to prove, doing exactly what Guardiola had been asking them to do. A quickfire double in the space of two minutes suddenly drew them level (and also ended Haaland&aposs three-game run without a goal), lifted the crowd, and Riyad Mahrez soon put them in front. Fans booed City off the pitch at the break, but any criticisms were soon forgotten when the comeback came from the definitive Guardiola playbook, exactly as he&aposd asked for.
He was almost chasing the referee moments before Riyad Mahrez made the game safe on the 89th minute when a free kick didn&apost go City&aposs way, and when the ball went in, he again stood on the edge of his area. This time, though, both hands were raised towards the sky, fist-pumping in unison, and Guardiola was blowing kisses to the crowd. A stark contrast from his reaction an hour before.
Every time Rico Lewis starts for City, it seems he is thrown into an even bigger test than the previous big test. Even though he&aposs played brilliantly against Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton, Sevilla and Leeds, there may still have been fears of throwing him in against Heung-min Son and Spurs.
But Guardiola repeated his assertion pre-match that Lewis makes others better, and there&aposs no doubting City look more balanced with him at right-back, drifting into midfield. He stood out again in the face of another world-class opponent – and some extremely heavy challenges – and sent a clear message to Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo on the bench: he&aposs not going away any time soon.
Guardiola raised eyebrows when he admitted City were in a top-four battle after recent results, but he had a point – with one point separating second and fourth, with Spurs able to move two behind City in fifth with a win at the Etihad – a scenario that looked likely at half time.
City&aposs stunning comeback instead saw them close the gap to Arsenal to five points, albeit having played one game more, and open up a three-point gap to third. More importantly, if Guardiola is concerned about City&aposs top four chances, City are now eight clear of Spurs in fifth with a game in and can begin to look forward instead of behind again.
City vs Tottenham as it happened