Erik Lamela

Four things learned: Man City v. Spurs

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Manchester City and Tottenham played out a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as Kevin De Bruyne impressed but Spurs pegged the reigning champions back and late VAR drama stole the show as Gabriel Jesus‘ strike was ruled out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Just like their clashes in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League last season, this was appointment viewing as Sergio Aguero and Pep Guardiola went at it on the sidelines and Spurs rode their luck with Jesus’ goal in stoppage time ruled out for handball.

Here’s what we learned from a heavyweight battle between two title contenders.


JUST LIKE UCL CLASH, VAR DECISION BURNS CITY

Gabriel Jesus thought he had won it in stoppage time as he curled home a beauty to make it 3-2, but VAR was used correctly and it was another dagger deep into the heart of Guardiola and City.

Aymeric Laporte flicked the ball off his arm towards Jesus and VAR quickly cleared up that it was a handball in the box. Incredible drama for the second time in three games for Spurs at Man City, and Guardiola, one of the biggest advocates for VAR, has been burned by it twice in damaging fashion.

Man City fans will point to Fernando Llorente’s handball in their UCL quarterfinal victory last season and why that wasn’t ruled out and that is a valid point. But under the PL’s laws with handballs in the box, Laporte handling the ball pushed it into the path of Jesus and without that knock off his arm, City don’t score. It is as simple as that.


CITY’S SHAKY DEFENSE WILL HOLD THEM BACK

There is a Vincent Kompany sized hole at the heart of Man City’s defense and Spurs made the most of it. Tottenham had two shots on target and scored with both, as Man City looked shaky with both Otamendi and Zinchenko caught out of position. Fernandinho‘s absence was also felt as Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri failed to stop Spurs’ counter attacks, especially in the second half.

City tried to sign Harry Maguire this summer and Virgil Van Dijk in the past and it is clear that Guardiola isn’t happy with John Stones, Otamendi and Laporte as his three first-choice center backs. City made live to regret not paying a little extra for Maguire this summer. It was an area they clearly needed to upgrade and they didn’t.


KEVIN DE BRUYNE RAN THE SHOW

Kevin de Bruyne’s return to full fitness is a massive boost for Man City this season. He grabbed two assists in the first half and absolutely ran the show with two moments of real quality.

The Belgian wizard had last season interrupted with two serious knee injuries, but he’s eager to make up for lost time after grabbing two assists last weekend and another two in Matchweek 2. De Bruyne’s pass to Sterling for the opener was brilliant but his cross for Aguero to double the lead was a thing of beauty.

De Bruyne’s precision was spot on, as usual, and he is coolness personified. The way he strokes the ball around is majestic.

It is absurd that Man City won three domestic trophies and racked up 98 points last season with De Bruyne only playing 19 PL games. Imagine what they can do, alongside David Silva, Bernando Silva, Raheem Sterling and Aguero, if he’s fit for the entire campaign.


SPURS FAIL TO FEED Harry Kane, AS AGUERO, GUARDIOLA FALL OUT

Christian Eriksen, Tanguy Ndombele and Erik Lamela failed to feed Harry Kane and their entire attacking unit faltered because in central midfield they were completely overrun. Harry Winks did his best to put out fires, but not having a true holding midfielder in the engine room hurts Spurs badly. Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier and even Moussa Sissoko aren’t the flashiest of players, but the balance of Spurs’ midfield was off and Kane was isolated for most of the game.

As for Man City’s top goalscorer and star striker, he may not be around for much longer. Aguero clashed with Guardiola as he was subbed off in the second half and there was a heated exchange between the two as they had to be separated.

You love to see the passion from both the manager and star striker, but with tension bubbling under the surface for years over Aguero’s playing style in a Pep side, this looked a lot more personal. In the coming weeks we will find out just how damaging this public spat will be for both Guardiola and Aguero.

Opportunistic Spurs, VAR produce draw at Man City

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Tottenham Hotspur flummoxed controlling Manchester City, twice answering goals in a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday and then getting a shocking reprieve from VAR in stoppage time.

The draw snaps a 15-match league winning streak for City.

Gabriel Jesus‘ well-crafted would-be winner was taken off the board when VAR found the ball to glance off Aymeric Laporte‘s arm.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

On a day when Harry Kane was largely invisible, Erik Lamela was dynamite in producing a goal before assisting Lucas Moura.

Kevin De Bruyne had two assists for City, setting up Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero. But Aguero will be remembered more for his angry run-in with Pep Guardiola after a second half substitution.

Man City out shot Spurs 13-1 in the first half, but Spurs scored with its only shot on target.

For the match, the shots margin was 30-3.


Four stars 

4. Davinson Sanchez – Couldn’t reach De Bruyne’s second assist of the day, but was otherwise impenetrable.

3. Raheem Sterling – A menace down the flank with a pretty headed goal to boot (or head).

2. Erik Lamela – Subbed off with a goal and an assist in the 85th.

  1. Kevin De Bruyne – On fire from Moment No. 1.

Three things we learned (from JPW)


The game began with monstrous spells of possession from the hosts, and Spurs had trouble getting any touches on the ball over the first quarter hour.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Sterling broke through in the 20th minute when De Bruyne swept a gorgeous cross to the back post. The English striker was at an acute angle and Hugo Lloris will have wanted to do better with a well-placed header.

That seemed to have snapped Spurs out of their funk, if only for a minute, as Tanguy Ndombele spotted Lamela on a counter and the Argentine used two Spurs to craft a clever shot around Ederson.

The stalemate lasted a dozen minutes, as De Bruyne moved toward the touch line and cut an invitation outside the six. Aguero RSVP’d with the outside of his boot.

De Bruyne looked ready to single-handedly will a third goal past Lloris, but it was Spurs who claimed the next marker when Moura — on for less than a half-minute — headed Lamela’s corner home.

Rodri then pasted a shot that Lloris tipped over the bar, and the French goalkeeper had to react quickly after charging out to misplay the corner.

Giovani Lo Celso subbed into the match for the final few minutes to make his much anticipated Premier League debut.

HIGHLIGHTS, STREAM LINK: Man City leads Spurs off KDB brilliance

Photo by Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images
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It’s been sloppy at times on the whole, but a few moments of beautiful football have Manchester City leading Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad Stadium.

[ WATCH LIVE: Man City v. Spurs ]

It’s 2-1 after 45 minutes, with Spurs countering tactically and literally after the hosts took a deserved lead.

Kevin De Bruyne has provided both of Man City’s assists, the first for Raheem Sterling‘s acute header — maybe this one’s on Hugo Lloris — and the second to Sergio Aguero in his office.

Spurs countered when Tanguy Ndombele played Erik Lamela into the final third.

The Argentine’s finish was deceptive and exquisite, using two men to curl a ball around the screened

What we learned from opening PL Saturday

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LONDON — The new Premier League campaign is off and running and we learned so much from the opening Saturday of the season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Hot takes: Aston Villa are probably going to finish in the top 10. Man City may well score 150 Premier League goals this season. Harry Kane will win the Golden Boot. And maybe we were all a little too hasty to write off the likes of Sheffield United, Brighton and Burnley before a ball was kicked…

What did we learn from the opening Saturday of the season?


VAR WORKED VERY, VERY WELL

This was the first weekend VAR was used across the Premier League and, all in all, it went very smoothly. In what was probably the most high-profile use of the new system, it was used to order a retake of a penalty kick which Sergio Aguero missed at West Ham. After two Hammers defenders encroached into the box, and were then able to get to the ball first after Fabianski’s save, they became active and VAR was used correctly.

From offside decisions to possible red cards, VAR was used quickly and efficiently and if you want a primer about how it’s going to work this season, click here. If the first week of VAR is anything to go by, the PL’s decision to wait to use this system has been proved correct.


MAN CITY OUTDO LIVERPOOL

Liverpool scored four, so Man City had to score five, didn’t they? After Liverpool’s first half blitz against Norwich led to a 4-1 win at Anfield on Friday, Man City destroyed West Ham 5-0 at the London Stadium on Saturday. Pep Guardiola‘s men stepped on the accelerator in the second half and with Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan on the bench, plus Joao Cancelo, their strength in-depth is ridiculous. Raheem Sterling‘s hat trick was a thing of clinical beauty and Man City are in midseason form.

There are plenty of twists and turns ahead in the Premier League title race and it is clear, especially after the opening weekend, that Liverpool and Man City can beat most teams without getting out of second gear. City looked fresh and with Alisson going down injured against Norwich, you’d have to say it is advantage Man City after the opening weekend. One down, 37 to go…


NEW SEASON, SAME HARRY KANE

Harry Kane looked fit, sharp and hungry as Tottenham fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-1. Spurs didn’t start well but when they equalized through debutant Tanguy Ndombele, there was only one winner. Christian Eriksen‘s arrival off the bench made a massive difference and Kane pounced twice to finish clinically.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

He missed two chances in the first half he would usually have scored, and even though he rarely scores in August, he grabbed two crucial late goals to send Spurs’ fans wild. Without Jan Vertonghen, Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli, Kane stood tall to lead Spurs to victory. Now he has had an entire summer to relax and recover, England’s star striker and everyone connected with Spurs will be hoping he can shake off his ankle injuries to lead them on a title push with Liverpool and Man City. Spurs have so many attacking options with the arrival of Giovani Lo Celso, plus Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela around, but Kane remains their biggest hope of silverware.


ASTON VILLA WILL BE DANGEROUS

As we are about to discuss below, the opening weekend usually springs a few surprises. Aston Villa looked like they would spring one of those at Tottenham. With 12 summer signings, it was difficult to know how Villa would line up but Dean Smith’s side put in a near-perfect away display. The last five minutes saw Harry Kane score twice and they lost 3-1. They scored early, sat back and soaked up pressure and looked dangerous on the counter as they built off Wesley‘s knockdowns. Jack Grealish was a beast in midfield, Tyrone Mings held things together at the back and Tom Heaton made a string of fine saves in the second half.

The team from England’s second city have a huge fanbase and the former European champions are a Premier League club. It is as a simple as that. With John Terry‘s influence on their defense obvious, the flair of Smith’s side is led by Grealish and there was a decent balance to Villa in the first 60 minutes before they ran out of steam. I’m not saying they’re going to be better than Wolves were last season, but a top 10 finish isn’t out of the question in 2019-20.


OPENING WEEKEND STAYS WEIRD

Burnley beating Southampton 3-0? Brighton winning 3-0 away at Watford? Yeah, I told you in this Matchweek 1 preview video to beware of upsets during the opening weekend and it didn’t disappoint. Burnley battered Saints in the second half as Ashley Barnes morphed into a clinical battering ram, and the Clarets were back to their gritty best in defense.

Brighton’s new boss Graham Potter caught everyone by surprise as the Seagulls grabbed their first win in 10 PL games, with that run stretching back to March. Everyone questioning the dismissal of Chris Hughton will now be served up a plate of humble pie as Brighton’s attacking masterclass (with pretty much exactly the same lineup Hughton was using last season) was hammered home by subs Florin Andone and club-record signing Neal Maupay who both scored.

3 things we learned: Spurs-Aston Villa

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LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-1 in north London on Saturday, with John McGinn‘s early goal cancelled out by Tanguy Ndombele‘s debut goal and then Harry Kane popped up twice late on to seal the victory for Spurs.

[ MORE: Match recap | Kane reacts ]

Mauricio Pochettino will not be content with the general performance from his team, while Dean Smith and Villa will be happy enough with the display but disappointed they couldn’t grind out a point.

Here’s what we learned from an intriguing, dramatic clash in north London on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


HARRY KANE TO THE RESCUE, AGAIN

Normal service is resumed. Harry Kane is fit, sharp and scored twice late on to play the hero, once again. Kane has had a full preseason and has shaken off the ankle issues which plagued him last season. The England captain just does it season after season, game after game. He is ruthless and kept plugging away when his teammates were struggling to get the ball to him.

Kane missed two chances in the first half, dragging a shot wide and putting a header over the bar and he should have had a hat trick. He will probably be disappointed he didn’t score more on Saturday and that is exactly the Harry Kane Spurs’ fans know and love. His second goal was a typical Kane finish, curling home from the edge of the box into the far corner to send his adoring fans wild in the South Stand. New season, same Kane.


SPURS MISSED DELE, ERIKSEN

Tanguy Ndombele scored and showed flashes of brilliance in the final third on his Tottenham debut. His clever flicked pass to Harry Kane in the first half was majestic and he curled home a beautiful equalizer. But too often Spurs’ new club-record signing wasn’t given the ball around the box. With Christian Eriksen on the bench and Dele Alli out with an injured hamstring, they were badly missed. Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela are very similar players. They are speedsters who prefer to operate out wide and as soon as they tried to cut inside, Villa’s defensive unit got settled back in very quickly.

The creativity and genius of Dele and Eriksen was badly missed and as the game wore on Harry Kane found himself out on the wings 50 yards from goal. Eriksen’s arrival off the bench made a huge difference and proved he still has a huge part to play, if he signs a new deal and stays at Tottenham. Ndombele has all the skills to succeed, but Spurs shouldn’t move away from Dele and Eriksen as their main men. Eriksen was superb in the final 20 minutes which was Spurs the game.


EXCELLENT GREALISH PUNISHED RUTHLESSLY

“Super, Super Jack, Super Jacky Grealish!” sang the Aston Villa fans in the away end during the game. They may not be singing that after the game. Jack Grealish oozed class in Aston Villa’s midfield with the club captain and local hero showing Tottenham what they could have had if he had signed for them last summer. But then he made his only mistake of the game at a pivotal moment, dallying on the ball as Lamela robbed him of possession and Kane made it 2-1.

The 24-year-old is at the heart of Villa’s new-look team in the Premier League, as six new permanent signings started on Saturday. Along with with John McGinn and Conor Hourihane in midfield, Greliash showed them what it means to be a Villa player. He launched counters, put his foot on the ball when he was able to and launched into tackles and truly led by example. That one mistake cost his team but Grealish will dig Villa out of plenty of holes this season.