MANCHESTER (Reuters) – Pep Guardiola once labelled Tottenham Hotspur ‘the Harry Kane side’ and the Spaniard was left marvelling at the striker as his two goals loosened Manchester City’s grip on the Premier League title race on Saturday.
England skipper Kane, whose hoped-for move to City last summer fell through, gave Tottenham a 59th minute lead and then struck deep into stoppage time to earn his side a 3-2 win.
It was only City’s third league defeat of the season but their second to Tottenham who won the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season when Kane played no part.
The champions now have only a six-point lead over Liverpool, who have a game in hand. Juergen Klopp’s men visit the Etihad in April.
City had 72% possession against Tottenham and Guardiola praised his side’s display, but they could not contain Kane and Son Heung-min who combined superbly throughout the contest.
“Well it was a good game. We tried through many sides, especially down the left. It is very difficult, they defend so narrow,” Guardiola said.
“Tottenham have a lot of quality, they give the ball to Harry Kane. They are really good up front. In the first half they have the goal and no more.
“In the second half they have one attack with Harry Kane at the start and they score. They are clinical. They have Kane and Son and (Dejan) Kulusevski. Their crosses we could not defend.”
On another day City may have won by a handsome margin, but once again Tottenham proved a tricky obstacle for City — reviving memories of their Champions League quarter-final aggregate win in 2019.
Guardiola has steadfastly refused to get drawn into talk of City having the title race in the bag even when they opened up a 12-point lead at the top over Liverpool.
And he was not panicking on Saturday as his side suffered their first defeat in the league since October when they were stunned by Crystal Palace at the Etihad, after which they picked up 43 points from a possible 45.
“I said a few weeks ago we need to win many games,” Guardiola said. “Every game will be a big, big battle.
“We knew it, and it will be good to understand how difficult it is. Since October we didn’t lose one game in the Premier League. We knew after three defeats (Tottenham) would be back.
“There was practically no space in the area. After that, they could keep the ball and with Kane, it gave time to Son who could run. In general we were there all the time. We were there but we couldn’t win.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)