When Ilkay Gundogan scored his second and Manchester City’s third of this dominant 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur, Pep Guardiola threw his arms in the air and then immediately turned and pointed to his goalkeeper Ederson, overjoyed with the 70-yard pass which had provided the assist.
This was the least City-like goal imaginable but that made it all the more special. It was lump it, route one stuff with its own Guardiola spin – not meat and potatoes but meat and patatas bravas – and demonstrated that this brilliant side which is surging towards a third Premier League title in four years can score in any way they want.
Along with Liverpool, Tottenham have been City’s tormenters-in-chief during Guardiola’s four-and-a-half years in English football. Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp have been his greatest rivals over the course of his managerial career. And yet, both have been comfortably dispatched in the space of six days by an aggregate score of 7-1.
Not even those who once knew how to beat City know how to beat this City. In their last two meetings, Mourinho had successful survived 41 attempts on Tottenham’s goal and come away with a pair of 2-0 wins. Tottenham would not be so lucky this time. City were predictably dominant and – through Rodri’s first-half penalty and Gundogan’s second-half brace – deserved winners.
This fifth defeat in six games piled misery on Mourinho, who may now conclude that Tottenham’s likeliest route into next season’s Champions League is by winning the Europa League. Though only four points off fourth spot, the race for those places is becoming crowded and Spurs’ form is in such a rut that it is difficult to be confident about where the next win is coming from.
For City though, this was the 16th consecutive victory in all competitions of a remarkable, record-breaking run that could last for a while yet. Their lead of seven points at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand could be cut down by Manchester United on Sunday, but whatever happens at the Hawthorns make no mistake, City are the ones in command.
It did not take long for the familiar pattern of Guardiola and Mourinho’s meetings to emerge: plenty of possession soaked up by a low block. Ederson spent much of the early stages closer to the halfway line than his own goal but he was sent scrambling a quarter-of-an-hour in. Harry Kane’s free kick was struck sweetly, bending out of the City goalkeeper’s reach and towards the top corner, yet smacked against the junction of the crossbar and post.
It would have been typical of Tottenham’s recent history in this fixture for them to take the lead with their first genuine attempt at goal and the first half largely went according to plan for Mourinho, save for one key moment: the all-important penalty. Pierre-Emile Hiojbjerg’s contact with Gundogan was not much of a challenge – he did not tackle City’s in-form midfielder as much as fall into him – but it was clumsy enough to warrant punishment.
After Gundogan’s miss at Anfield last week, and without either Kevin De Bruyne or Sergio Aguero involved, the penalty itself was up for grabs. Despite an apparent request from Ederson, Rodri quickly took the ball into his hands. He scored, but hardly provided a convincing case to stay on spot-kick duties long-term. Lloris got a strong hand to his low, tame strike, only to divert into up and into the top corner.
Lloris’ day would not get any better. Parity was still within Tottenham’s grasp at the start of the second half but City were about to run away with things through a player in the form of his life. Gundogan’s first was a simple shot to save, without much pace on the strike and close to the near post, but Lloris got down slowly and allowed it to pass underneath his right arm.
It was Gundogan’s tenth goal in his last eleven games, and he did not have to wait long for the eleventh. Ederson’s 70-yard pass sailed over all but one of Tottenham’s defenders, leaving Davinson Sanchez to deal with Gundogan. The City midfielder’s immaculate touch left Sanchez’s head spinning. He was soon flat on his face, sent to the turf by a Gundogan drop of the shoulder. A simple finish past Lloris followed to crown yet another imperious City display.