Offshore drilling, England: at Manchester City 2, Tottenham Hotspur 1

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After 45 minutes of control that lacked ambition, Manchester City reversed a 1-0 halftime deficit Sunday at Eastlands, getting second half goals from Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko en route to a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

The win came after City went into halftime down one despite controlling the first half, Joe Hart’s error on a Steven Caulker header allowing Spurs to grab a 21st minute lead.

After switching to a 3-5-2 formation near the hour mark, Roberto Mancini’s men got a 65th minute equalizer through Sergio Agüero. The defending league champions continued to press over the match’s final 30 minutes, with David Silva eventually crafting the winning goal for Dzeko.

The win keeps City undefeated and, for the moment, vaults them into second. Spurs stay sixth.

Man of the Match: David Silva, out since Oct. 6 with a hamstring injury, showed what City missed in his absence. Starting on the right, Silva was able to cut in onto his better left foot, frequently testing Tottenham’s high line with a game-high five balls played through the defense. In the 88th minute, Silva went over the line to create the winning score, his adroit chip from 22 yards leaving Dzeko a perfect ball to volley past Brad Friedel.

Threesome of Knowledge: What we learned

Possession is still a better description than indicator.

It took Manchester City over 40 minutes to register their first shot on goal despite possession that stayed between 63 and 65 percent. Part of that number was due to Tottenham’s willingness to absorb their play, but that willingness was permitted by City’s passivity. The Citizens lacked guile in the final third.

In the second half, City’s attitude changed, but their possession number was largely the same. At match’s end, City had 62 percent of the ball despite their drastic change in aggressiveness.

On Sunday, as it is most days, the possession number was a better description of the match’s character than an indicator of one team’s dominance. In the first half, City controlled the match. In the second, they dominated.

Joe Hart is fallible.

This seems as good a time as any to offer that the common English soccer media refrain that Joe Hart is the world’s best goalkeeper may not be true. The world has a lot of great keepers, both renown (Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon) and overlooked (Samir Handanovic, Igor Akinfeev). Mr. Hart has a lot of competition.

Today, we were reminded many of Hart’s accolades may be exaggeration. When Steven Caulker came free of Matija Nastasic on Tom Huddlestone’s 21st minute header, his redirection bounced to an easy height for Hart to handle. For whatever reason, the ball got through his hands and into the lower-right corner, giving Spurs the lead on their first shot.

Mixed day for Mancini’s 3-5-2.

In the second half, the inclusion of Maicon (on at 57′ for Nastasic) allowed City to shift gears. Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta became central defenders, Aleksandr Kolarov dropped to left wing back, and Maicon was handed the right side, where his crossing and (surprisingly) strong defense helped City turn control into dominance. It was a point in the plus column for Mancini’s much-maligned 3-5-2 formation.

But the easy switch to the new setup was only enabled by starting Kolarov at left wing, a decision influenced by the injury absence of Samir Nasri. Having a defender in an attacking position may have contributed to the stall we saw from City over the first hour. It also created a situation where a switch to a 3-5-2 was bound to work, Mancini already switching to a formation that better suited the personnel he started.

Packaged for takeaway

  • On the surface, Emmanuel Adebayor was impressive in his second start of the year, providing Spurs with an outlet from the back as City came into the match. Unfortunately, he failed to put a shot on goal and created only one chance for this teammates. He needs to convert the little things (aerial presences, hold up play) into something dangerous.
  • Clint Dempsey continues to struggle. While he provided a decent defensive presence today, he made no contribution in attack. It’s a description you can apply to most of his Spurs starts. He has yet to find a way to be dangerous for André Villas-Boas.
  • Brad Friedel, on the other hand, had a good day, though he is still tentative coming off his line to claim balls played through (or behind) his defense. Today, apparent miscommunication with Caulker nearly cost Spurs.
  • One explanation for Manchester City’s late match surges continues to be Yaya Touré. Today, we saw City’s habit of releasing their best player to be a more attacking presence when needed. Touré’s probing passing and forays forward wilted Spurs’ defense, his deft touch out to Agüero providing for the first goal. Touré is so consistently effective in this role, it’s a wonder he’s not allowed to fill it from minute one.

Kane “buzzing” after brace secures late win in World Cup debut

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Four years ago, Harry Kane watched the 2014 World Cup, alongside Tottenham Hotspur teammates, friends and family, while on vacation in Dubai and Portugal, and during the club’s preseason tour of the United States.

[ MORE: Kane scores early and late, England top Tunisia ]

Fast-forward 48 months, and Kane made his World Cup debut on Monday, scoring both goals, including the stoppage-time winner (WATCH HERE), in England’s Group G-opening 2-1 victory over Tunisia. It’s an outcome we should have seen coming, considering he’s racked up 105 goals (in the Premier League; 135 in all club competitions; another 13 for England prior to Monday) since the start of the 2014-15 season.

Kane continues to take his superstardom — no matter how unlikely or ill-fitting it looks on him — in stride, using obvious phrases like, “It’s the World Cup,” to which you might think, “Well, yes, Harry, it sure is,” and then you realize he sees himself as nothing more than a giddy child living out a lifelong dream — quotes from the BBC:

“It’s massive. I’m so proud of the lads. It’s tough. We played so well especially in the first half and we could have scored a few more. We kept going. It’s a World Cup, you go to the last second. I’m absolutely buzzing.

“We’ve done it for a while [had good resilience] since the gaffer has been here — he’s instilled it into us. We’ve got a great bond off the pitch so it’s great to see it on the pitch. We’ll get onto the plane happy tonight.

“We could have had a couple of penalties, especially when you look at theirs. A few corners, they were trying to grab, hold and stop us running. Maybe a bit of justice to score at the back post at the end. That’s football, that’s the ref. It showed good character to get on with it.

“We are proud of each other and in a World Cup you are not sure how it is going to go, but we have a great togetherness and are always proud to see it come off in the game. We never panicked, never looked like conceding another one and got what we deserved in the end.

“We got told there would be a lot of flies and when we went out for the match it was a lot more than we thought. We all had bug spray on and it was important as some of them went in your eyes, some in your mouth, but it is about dealing with what comes your way.”

Kane will be the first to tell you that he’s been handed nothing during his career. Early on, before breaking into Tottenham’s first team, he endured four largely unsuccessful loan spells over the course of three seasons, at which point his career path appeared destined for England’s lower leagues. Through his refuse-to-lose attitude, an insatiable appetite to continue improving, and eagerly stepping up to the moment every time a new, grander stage is laid in front of him, he’s now 24 years old and set to captain his national team for the next decade.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

It’s this kind of wide-eyed, relatable approach that endears this young Three Lions side (average age: 25.6 years old) to neutral viewers and made them a popular, if unlikely, feel-good favorite ahead of the tournament in Russia. Following Monday’s performance — no matter how belabored the result itself might have been — the bandwagon will continue to fill up, and Kane is reasons no. 1, 2, 3 and 4 for that fact.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

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England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

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Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news