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Man City 4 Spurs 1

in Sports/Top News

WHEN Mauricio Pochettino was asked before this match for his impressions of Sergio Agüero he compared it to the joys of listening to Mozart and Beethoven. Agüero’s performance here could certainly have been set to music but, for Pochettino, it must have sounded like the blare of sirens whenever the Manchester City striker had the ball. Or the theme from Jaws, considering the fear he put into the Tottenham defence.

Agüero terrorised his opponents, scored four times, missed a penalty and, in the process, caught and overhauled his compatriot Carlos Tevez’s scoring record in City’s colours. Tevez managed 58 Premier League goals in 113 appearances. Agüero’s 61 have come in 95 games and it is difficult to remember the last time one of City’s players tormented the opposition so relentlessly and mercilessly. Manuel Pellegrini described him afterwards as “one of the best three or four strikers in the world”.

By the end, Younès Kaboul’s limitations had been brutally exposed and Federico Fazio, his partner in central defence, had become so flustered that he tugged down Agüero for a red card. Spurs, having conceded three of the game’s four penalties, looked like a side in need of smelling salts and that slightly haunted appearance has become a recurring theme in these fixtures. Over their past seven meetings there have been 35 goals – and City have accounted for 26 of them.

The paradox was that Tottenham could head back south reflecting that Joe Hart had also put in possibly his best performance on this ground since the Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund two years ago. A striker will always get the accolades after a four-goal haul but Hart’s contribution was significant. It started early on when he jutted out a leg to prevent Ryan Mason opening the scoring and his portfolio of saves included one from the penalty spot when Roberto Soldado had the chance to make it 2-2 just after the hour. As Pochettino reflected, that was the key moment of a match filled with drama and incident.

Tottenham certainly carried a threat going forward but defensively they were poor in the extreme and fortunate, perhaps, that Hugo Lloris stopped the score being even more harrowing. Agüero’s first was a typical piece of excellence, taking a touch to elude Kaboul and then firing in a vicious, diagonal shot through a crowded penalty area. His next two came from penalties and the fourth was another classic moment of centre-forward play, turning inside the substitute Jan Vertonghen and delivering a beautifully weighted left-foot finish inside the far post.

Agüero has now scored nine times in six games against Spurs and was so rampant here he might reflect he ought to have had more. Even ignoring the other occasions when he took aim at Lloris’s goal, his hat-trick could have been wrapped up inside 32 minutes after Kaboul’s careless challenge on David Silva. This time, Agüero’s penalty was struck poorly and when the rebound came back off Lloris he rushed his attempt at a bicycle kick and slashed the follow-up effort over the bar.

For a brief passage in the second half, it had looked as though that miss could have costly repercussions for City. Instead, Hart dived full-length to his right to keep out Soldado’s penalty and within five minutes Fazio was trudging off the pitch and Agüero was about to make it 3-1 with his third spot-kick. Pochettino had chosen a strange time to give Fazio, an £8m signing from Sevilla, his league debut and the 27-year-old Argentinian will remember it as an ordeal.

Replays showed Soldado had been marginally outside the area when Martín Demichelis tripped him but, equally, the visitors were aggrieved with the first of City’s penalties, when Frank Lampard went down under the slightest of touches from the accident-prone Erik Lamela. The only absolute certainty was that Spurs were permanently vulnerable in defence and Agüero was not in the mood to be charitable.

The downside for City was that they, too, looked unusually susceptible at the back and Pellegrini was quite restrained when he said it “could easily have been 7-3”. They were indebted to Hart’s goalkeeping and Fernando made a bad mistake to lose the ball in the moments before Christian Eriksen lashed in to make it 1-1 a minute after Agüero’s goal.

City also lost Lampard in the first half because of a thigh injury that required him to leave the pitch on a stretcher. Yet they had put on another awesome demonstration of their firepower despite starting with Yaya Touré and Edin Dzeko on the bench. Jesús Navas had one of his better games and James Milner, who struck the post with a late shot, has flourished with the extra responsibility since Samir Nasri was injured.

Agüero took the match-ball home as a souvenir and when he is playing with this menace City give the impression they could trouble the world’s best defences, never mind one as obliging as Tottenham’s. – The Guardian

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