Three things we learned from Tottenham vs. Manchester City

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur beat Manchester City 2-0 at White Hart Lane on Sunday as Mauricio Pochettino‘s side remain the only unbeaten side in the Premier League.

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A first half own goal from Aleksandar Kolarov was added to by a superb team move as Dele Alli slotted home and Man City never got going with Pep Guardiola left scratching his head on the sidelines.

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Spurs are second on 17 points, with City to on 18 points following their first defeat of the Guardiola era.

Here’s what we learned from White Hart Lane in a massive early season win for Spurs who laid down their title credentials.


SON STEPS UP

“Go on Sonny, more of the same son!” yelled a Tottenham fan as the players made their way back into the dressing room before kick off.

With Harry Kane out injured, Tottenham needed someone to step up in his absence, big time. Heung-Min Son has done just that. And then some.

The South Korean forward almost left Tottenham in the summer after not being happy to be a bit-part player at Spurs. Kane’s injury opened the door for somebody to be the new hero at the Lane. Many thought it would be new signing Vincent Janssen but his slow start to life at Spurs continues. Instead it is Son who has moved up to a central strikers role from the wing.

He scored two in the win at Middlesbrough last week, plus the winner at CSKA Moscow in midweek, and from the start he set the tone, skipping past two City players 30 seconds in and drilling just over. Shortly after he got in down the left but saw Claudio Bravo block his shot at the near post and Son then set up Alli wonderfully with a perfectly-weighted pass to make it 2-0. Son is flourishing in a central role and so often he dropped five yards in front of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, turned and was able turn and run at City’s defense.

With Kane likely out until early November, Spurs now have a go-to man up to who knits everything together seamlessly. His clever running, passes and ability to be on the same wavelength as Alli, Christian Eriksen and Spurs’ other attackers means Tottenham can continue their charge without top goalscorer Kane.

If Son would’ve been allowed to take the penalty kick instead of Erik Lamela wrestling it off of him, maybe it would’ve been 3-0. Still, Son is the main man for Spurs and when he was replaced late on, the home fans gave him a standing ovation. That said it all.


BLUEPRINT TO BEAT CITY EMERGES

Before this season began Guardiola spoke about how he’d come to England to see if the way his teams play could work. This was the first major speed bump in his playing philosophy which had, up until now, dominated. We saw it in midweek against Celtic in the 3-3 draw in the UEFA Champions League and it emerged again on Sunday: there’s a distinct way to beat Man City.

High pressure early and often is the model for success and it sounds easy enough but it so, so hard to do properly. Luckily Spurs have it down to a tee. Pochettino’s trademark style worked early and often against City and Guardiola had to admit failure in the way he set his team up.

He played Fernandinho in a more advanced role in the first half and with Fernando in a deeper role, City couldn’t stop the flow of white shirts running towards their central defenders. That in turn led to John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi overplaying at the back with their midfield outlets locked up and that also led to Claudio Bravo, once again, being targeted.

Bravo was almost caught in possession on multiple occasions and City never truly got going despite brief moments of promise from Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas out wide, plus Sergio Aguero largely frustrate by Spurs’ tight defense, a lack of service and a smart stop from Hugo Lloris in the second half. Without the injured Kevin De Bruyne they lacked a cutting edge in the final third. City won’t be too concerned but this display highlights how they can be overwhelmed in the defensive areas by teams who are wiling to be brave and play them at their own game. City lost their first game under Guardiola and it provided a blueprint for how teams can get at them.


TWO TITLE CONTENDERS ON SHOW

The intensity of this game was up there with the best in the Premier League this season. Before the game it was touted as a clash between the only two unbeaten teams and two title challengers but many expected Man City’s six-game unbeaten run to continue and Spurs, at best, to get a draw. As we now know, that wasn’t the case and Spurs can be seen as legitimate title contenders.

Spurs have laid down an early-season marker that their third-place finish last season was not a fluke. Pochettino’s young side beat City twice last season and they’re the first to beat them this season. This victory before the international break will give them great hope that they can challenge for the title once again.

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As for City, the past few days have delivered a reality check. Drawing at Celtic in the UCL and then being comprehensively beaten at Spurs has left everyone with a sense that maybe Guardiola’s team won’t cut down everyone in their path. City are still top on 18 points but Spurs are just behind on 17.

Without the injured Moussa Dembele and Kane, Spurs’ young team proved they can rise to the occasion.

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

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MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

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Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

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  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

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Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

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The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

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Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

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Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.