Pochettino refuses to blame pitch as Spurs lose to Man City
Premier League fixture played at Wembley just 48 hours after American football teams left a bumpy surface
30 October, 2018 — By Dan Carrier at Wembley
MANCHESTER CITY 1 (Mahrez, 5)
HOW Spurs must be looking forward to the new year, when they can leave this soulless stadium, get back to N17 and play home games on a pitch that is solely theirs to use.
For while it would be doing Manchester City a disservice to blame Spurs’ defeat squarely on the terrible state of the Wembley surface, used for this clash just 48 hours after a Gridiron showdown had taken place, it was a war of attrition.
The lack of finesse throughout was surely down to ruts and bobbles caused by heavyweight athletes – though Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino would not allow such excuses.
He said: “The pitch was the same for both sides, and it was very competitive game. We conceded a goal early. It was cheap, and you cannot concede like that in these types of games. It lets them play with more security.”
But he also praised his players for how they fought to get level.
He added: “I am so proud of the effort. It was fantastic. We created a lot. I am disappointed with the result, but happy with the performance. We had the mentality to go forward and fight. The quality was good, and the team was competitive in a game that was not easy to play.”
While Pochettino’s men did not lack effort, at times their interplay was slippery rather than sleek. They missed the quality of the benched Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen for such a high-octane match, and so it was when City took an early lead, leaving Spurs to chase the game.
Tottenham’s City curse of recent times got underway with a howler of an error by Kieran Trippier in the opening five minutes. He looked in little danger as a long ball flew towards him, but he got caught in two minds and his header backwards only set up a chase between him and Raheem Sterling. The City winger got to the ball, pulled it back for Riyad Mahrez and he slotted home with Hugo Lloris caught out of position.
But, unlike the 1-4 battering City had inflicted on Spurs last term, which started with a similar early goal, the shaky opening was not the harbinger of things to come.
Spurs began to feel their way into it as Harry Kane thumped a chance narrowly over, Toby Alderweireld nearly steered a header home from a corner, and Erik Lamela always looked dangerous from his central berth. City found they had a game on their hands as Spurs upped their work rate, but the best chances Spurs created in each half saw the awful pitch play a part.
On 33 minutes, Lamela found Kane in space, but his first touch saw the ball run away from him. It gave City keeper Ederson Moraes the chance to zip off his line and block.
In the second period, Spurs had to survive a scare on 55 minutes when Mahrez and Sterling contrived not to finish from two yards out with the goal at their mercy.
Spurs pushed to find an equaliser but found City resolute. Then, late on, they broke through the hustle of Moura and substitute Alli. Alli’s cute ball inside found Lamela free and with the goal at his mercy – but the rough Wembley surface made the ball sit up. His effort flew high and wide. The Argentine lay flat on the turf, his exasperation echoing the disappointment rolling out of the stands.
Spurs: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Kane, Lamela, Dier (Winks, 66) Sissoko, Dembele (Alli, 74) Moura (Eriksen, 80), Davies.
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Son, Walker-Peter, Aurier.
Man City: Moraes, Walker, Stones, Sterling, Aguero (De Bruyne, 70) Laporte, Silva (Kompany, 88), Silva, Mendy, Fernandinho, Mahrez (Jesus, 90).
Subs not used: Muric, Sane, Otamendi, Foden.