Tottenham Hotspur went top of the Premier League after producing a display of clinical efficiency and tactical discipline to beat Manchester City.
In the usual battle of wits between Jose Mourinho and his old adversary Pep Guardiola, the Spurs manager came out on top as his team’s season gathered further momentum.
Son Heung-min put Spurs in front after five minutes, finishing coolly from Tanguy Ndombele’s pass before Manchester City had a first-half goal ruled out by VAR for a handball by Gabriel Jesus after Aymeric Laporte’s finish.
City continued to enjoy greater possession but Spurs, as you would expect from a Mourinho side, were fiercely drilled and resilient, taking their chance when it came to double their advantage and finish the game.
It came in the 65th minute after a dream substitution from Mourinho, Giovani lo Celso beating Ederson with a low finish from another Kane pass 35 seconds after coming on for Tanguy Ndombele – the only cloud for Spurs coming with a late injury to Toby Alderweireld after an outstanding performance.
Mourinho was a bundle of energy in his technical area as Spurs took all Manchester City could throw at them to come out with the win that puts them at the Premier League summit and also made a powerful statement about their ambitions and aspirations.
Mourinho’s voice echoed around this vast, empty arena as he urged on his players, shouting instructions with regular demands of “press the ball”. Guardiola, in contrast, was understandably subdued and downcast.
It is still early days for a club that has struggled to win silverware over so many recent years, but there is a growing sense of strength and optimism around Spurs, fuelled by a serial winner as a manager who looks revitalised after the acrimonious end to his spell at Manchester United.
Spurs have the golden threat of the likes of Son – who has now scored 11 goals in all competitions this season – and Kane, with Gareth Bale on the bench here, but they now have some many of the usual Mourinho traits that have always made his teams so difficult to beat.
It has been a year since he succeeded the hugely popular Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs are starting to resemble Mourinho’s image and likeness, epitomised by the unfussy but highly effective midfield sentry Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, a signing from Southampton that was a managerial priority in the summer.
Spurs are currently a potent mix of solidity and threat, as proved by the way they dug deep to keep Manchester City out before striking to deadly effect. Spurs had two shots on target and scored twice.
In Kane, Spurs also possess the complete forward at the very top of his game, a class act as a provider for the ninth time in as many league games this season – but also the master marksman when his chances come along, as they will with regularity this season.
Spurs and their fans will not get carried away but there can be no denying Mourinho’s tried and trusted methods are having their effect, with the long-time foe Guardiola the victim on this occasion.
Manchester City clearly had a grievance against the decision to rule out Laporte’s goal for handball against Jesus that left them nursing a sense of injustice. However, it would still disappoint Guardiola that his team had so much of the ball but actually did so little with it when it came to seriously testing Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris.
It has become something of pattern with Manchester City and this was another occasion, although Guardiola did not feel able to risk the likes of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero other than on the substitutes’ bench, reducing their level of threat.
City were easily unpicked by Ndombele’s pass for Son’s early strike and there was almost a sense of inevitability that their toothlessness would end with Spurs sweeping up the other end to add a second through Lo Celso.
It is hardly panic stations for City as they stand eight points off the top with a game in hand. This is shaping up as a season with many twists and turns to come – but this was another unsatisfactory result and performance.
Aguero’s now regular fitness issues rob Guardiola and City of their most lethal finisher in and around the box, the 32-year-old Argentine still the most reliable goalscorer at the club but now seemingly troubled too much by injury.
Guardiola will now move into the next phase of his reign at City after signing a two-year contract extension and preparing for the day they have to do without one of their all-time great players will soon be an issue.
This is still a Manchester City side packed with world-class players but this was another of those days that have been happening since the start of last season when they simply lack a ruthless edge and end up being punished.
It is a problem Guardiola needs to resolve – and quickly.