Man City overcome Spurs, scarred Wembley pitch to go top of the table
LONDON -- Three quick thoughts following Manchester City's 1-0 Premier League win at Tottenham on Monday at Wembley Stadium.
1. Mahrez sends City back to the top
Riyad Mahrez sent Manchester City back to the top of the Premier League with a sixth-minute winner as Pep Guardiola's team overcame Tottenham, and a woeful Wembley pitch, to secure a 1-0 victory.
Mahrez, a £50 million summer signing from Leicester, scored from close range after Raheem Sterling had capitalised on a defensive mistake by Spurs full-back Kieran Trippier to cross for the Algerian. Mahrez then celebrated by pointing to the skies, a gesture he confirmed after the match was a tribute to Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who was killed in a helicopter crash at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
The victory extended City's unbeaten start to the season and moved them back ahead of Liverpool on goal difference at the top of the table.
But it was not straightforward for Pep Guardiola's team, with Spurs enjoying a late second-half rally that almost saw them equalise through Erik Lamela. Having been teed up by Dele Alli, however, the Spurs winger sent his shot high over the crossbar after it appeared to bobble off the surface.
Spurs were forced to host this game just 24 hours after the Philadelphia Eagles played the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL game at Wembley and the pitch was poor, both visually and technically. Both teams struggled to keep the ball on the ground, with large areas looking threadbare following Sunday's action.
But City managed the conditions better than Spurs and they ultimately claimed a deserved three points.
2. Ederson wins the battle of the keepers
Such is the array of attacking talent in the Premier League, the value of a top-class goalkeeper can often be overlooked. But the contrasting performances of Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris and City's Ederson underlined the importance of having a reliable No. 1.
Spurs skipper Lloris has had a poor season since captaining France to World Cup glory this summer, and his indifferent form is now affecting the defenders in front of him. Kieran Trippier was at fault for City's sixth-minute opener, but the Spurs right-back was not helped by Lloris, who was too slow off his line to clean up Trippier's mistake.
Lloris' distribution also gave his team problems. One incident, in the 37th minute, saw him give possession away needlessly with a rash clearance that put his team under pressure. He then sent a goal kick straight to Sergio Aguero early in the second half and was lucky not to be punished by the City forward.
Ederson, on the other hand, was decisive and confident at the back for City, racing off his line and out of area to clear the first hint of trouble. When the Brazilian does this, it gives his defenders the sense of security that enables them to play a higher line.
Ederson's kicking is another crucial asset for City, with his long passing launching countless attacks -- one of which started the move for Mahrez's sixth-minute goal.
Spurs defenders look like they are worried whenever the ball goes near Lloris, but it is the opposite with the City defenders and Ederson.
3. Wembley no longer feels like home for Spurs
The NFL markings on the pitch and vast banks of empty seats gave a clear indication that Tottenham have outstayed their welcome at Wembley.
Due to the ongoing delays in completing the construction of the rebuilt White Hart Lane -- Spurs have now confirmed they will not move back until January 2019 at the earliest -- Wembley no longer feels like home for Mauricio Pochettino's team. There is a sense of malaise about games at the stadium now, with less than 57,000 turning up for one of their biggest matches of the season against the reigning champions, and everybody at Spurs simply wants to get back to White Hart Lane as quickly as possible.
Spurs had expected to be back home by now, which is why this fixture ended up being played on a Wembley surface still bearing the scars of Sunday's NFL encounter between Philadelphia and Jacksonville. The gridiron clash had been pencilled into the Wembley calendar months ago, long before the Spurs' stadium issues became apparent, so the Premier League had no influence over when this game would be played and who would be playing on it before them.
Unsurprisingly, the pitch played poorly. The markings were clearly visible, as were the patches of heavily worn turf, which did little for the two teams' ambitions of playing football on the ground. Spurs will have to juggle football and NFL games at their rebuilt stadium, but the plan to have two removable pitches should ensure that the problems at Wembley will not be repeated.
The novelty of playing at Wembley has now clearly worn off for Spurs and their fans. The sooner they can get into their own stadium, the better.