City gains revenge on Spurs

Tottenham Hotspur’s striker Son Heung-min (R) tangles with Manchester City’s defender Kyle Walker (L) during their English Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester Saturday. — AFP

MANCHESTER — Manchester City exacted some measure of revenge on Tottenham for its Champions League exit as Phil Foden’s first Premier League goal earned a 1-0 win to move it back top of the table Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s men edge one point ahead of Liverpool once more with four games of a titanic title race left for both sides.

For all its Champions League heroics to get to the semifinals this season, Tottenham still has much to do to qualify for the competition next season as it could easily end the Easter weekend outside the top four should Arsenal and Chelsea beat Crystal Palace and Burnley at home, respectively.

City’s quest for an unprecedented quadruple of trophies was ended by defeat on away goals to Spurs Wednesday, despite winning a thrilling quarterfinal, second leg 4-3.

However, it remains on course for a first ever treble of domestic trophies in England as it survived a nervy finale thanks to another blistering start.

City has made a habit of firing out of the blocks this season and just like in midweek to kick-start a kamikaze encounter, it struck within five minutes.

Foden was making just his second Premier League start and immediately justified Guardiola’s faith in the 19-year-old by heading home Sergio Aguero’s nodded pass across goal from Bernardo Silva’s cross.

However, history could easily have repeated itself as after four goals were shared in the opening 11 minutes on Wednesday, Spurs had numerous chances to strike back.

Son Heung-min had already forced Ederson in a smart save from a narrow angle before City scored and the Brazilian goalkeeper had to rush from his goal once more to deny Christian Eriksen an equalizer on 15 minutes.

Two minutes later the Dane played provider with a glorious ball to free Son in behind the City defense.

However, the South Korean, who scored twice in midweek to end City’s European dreams for another season, was caught up just in time by Aymeric Laporte, who made a perfectly timed last-ditch tackle.

Despite Tottenham’s chances on the break, it was the hosts who were still dominating territory and possession with Bernardo Silva a constant threat.

The Portuguese’s outstanding season was rewarded as he was named alongside teammates Aguero and Raheem Sterling in the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award and Jan Vertonghen was fortunate to escape without conceding a penalty when he appeared to trip Silva inside the area.

Spurs were without captain Hugo Lloris through injury and his understudy Paulo Gazzaniga looked nervous early on, but the Argentine goalkeeper got down to save Silva’s next effort.

Guardiola’s decision to leave Kevin de Bruyne out for the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal between the sides was doubly questioned after the Belgian bagged a brilliant hat trick of assists in midweek.

However, Guardiola’s reasoning for being cautious with his playmaker after an injury-plagued season was understandable as De Bruyne limped off again just before the break and may well now miss the rest of the campaign.

Both sides suffered from their midweek exertions and the blazing sun as the second-half meandered along at a much more subdued pace.

Spurs had a big penalty appeal of their own turned down when Kyle Walker handled inside the area against his former club.

Sterling briefly thought he had completed a hat trick in stoppage time Wednesday with the goal that would have sent City through to the Champions League last four until VAR ruled the goal out for offside.

And the England international could not believe his misfortune once more when Gazzaniga stuck out an outstretched leg to prevent Sterling sealing a vital three points from Leroy Sane’s cut-back.

Instead, City had to suffer through the closing stages knowing one mistake could cost it the title.

But it held on as Spurs suffered an eighth straight away defeat to English opposition. — AFP