Spurs 1-0 Man City: Son Heung-min nudges hosts ahead in feisty encounter as they lose Harry Kane to yet another bad ankle injury
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM, LONDON — Tottenham’s slightly clunky motto — ‘To Dare Is To Do’ — was stretched across their humungous South Stand before kick-off, and the players did exactly what was dared, delivering a tight Champions League first-leg victory against Manchester City to make it two wins out of two in their new home and giving them every chance of reaching the last four.
They lost Harry Kane to what looked yet another bad ankle injury but won what turned out to be a particularly feisty match by a single goal from Son Heung-min. Whether one goal is enough to take to the Etihad Stadium next week, where City have scored five past Chelsea this season, remains in the balance, but if the game is anything like this one it will be rougher than it is beautiful.
Regardless of the method, Tottenham could not have wished for a better start to life in the currently unoriginally named Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (pending a sponsor), after beating Crystal Palace in its unveiling last week.
A theatre for VAR drama
Enough has been written about the new stadium already, you are undoubtedly thinking. Think again: the mosaic in the South Stand — the one based on Borussia Dortmund’s Yellow Wall — shortly before kick-off was particularly impressive from a distance, the fans spelling out ‘To Dare Is To Do’ in navy and white. Slightly less impressive close up, granted, when you realised they were all holding up plastic bags (hopefully they were recyclable).
Also, whoever designed the acoustics of this place was hopefully paid a hefty bonus — the noise is incredible, far better in comparison to other modern(ish) stadiums, such as the London Stadium, the Emirates and Wembley.
It took a brave referee, then, to award a VAR-called penalty in the 11th minute, for a ‘hand ball’ by Danny Rose which none of the players, the referee — Bjorn Kuipers — or the 60,044 in the stands appeared to notice at the time. The Spurs defender leapt in front of Raheem Sterling’s shot and, yes, the ball hit his arm, but he was lying on the floor. Seems strange times that a bloke watching a replay is able to tell the ref that perhaps he should have a look at it. It is supposed to be “clear and obvious” but if nobody within 100 yards of the incident noticed it can’t have been that obvious or clear.
Rose looked gobsmacked. For the sake of sanity, Sergio Aguero’s penalty was saved by Hugo Lloris.
Regardless of the atmosphere, the away day experience was like a visit to a kitten factory for Pep Guardiola and his players compared to their quarter-final travels in the Champions League last season. At this stage last year, City had had their bus attacked so badly as they rolled into Anfield that they had to make alternative plans home. Apart from a slightly awkward tight turn off the Tottenham High Road, their bus had no such issues last night.
They did appear, however, not entirely comfortable there, and it was Spurs who, bar the penalty, had the better chances. Son curled one just wide and Dele Alli volleyed over from Moussa Sissoko’s cut back.
Be that the stadium effect or how Tottenham were set up, the game was more physical than expected. Midway through the first half, Fernandinho smashed into Kane, landed on top of the Spurs striker then — for good measure — pushed his elbow into Kane’s head. Maybe the VAR was sending a WhatsApp at that moment, because even he didn’t flag it up for the ref to take another look and no booking was issued.
In what will be a worry for Spurs, Kane had to leave the match in the 56th minute after turning his ankle badly as he jumped in to block Fabian Delph. Best of friends for England (team-mates, at least), Delph yelled in Kane’s face, perhaps not realising the severity of Kane’s problem, who had to be helped down the tunnel hopping on one leg and supported by two people. Alli also left the field late on holding his left wrist.
Kane had received some rough treatment during the match, but perhaps even he was too fired up for the occasion. He had already leapt in on Nicolas Otamendi earlier on and the way he leapt in on Delph seemed almost unnecessary, considering they were out on the touchline on halfway.
Perhaps Kane took the ‘To Dare Is To Do’ thing slightly too literally, diving in with reckless abandon even from kick-off when he charged down City within six seconds.
Yet as is increasingly often the case, even with Kane on the pitch Tottenham turned to Son and the South Korean scored with 12 minutes remaining. Christian Eriksen clipped a ball inside Delph, Son took the ball wide but just kept it in, then deceived Delph again and shot under Ederson.
The referee checked with VAR to make sure Son was not offside, but after the perceived injustice of the first half, Kuipers daren’t rule it out.