Manchester City sucker punch against Tottenham as EPL title takes twist

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Manchester City has one hand on the Premier League title after a thrilling 2-0 win over Tottenham on Wednesday morning.

Reserve goalkeeper Stefan Ortega was the unlikely hero in the final 30 minutes of madness at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Erling Haaland scored twice to as City took a giant stride towards a historic fourth consecutive English title.

The result leaves Arsenal (86 points) two points behind title rivals City (88 points) heading into Monday morning’s final day.

Norwegian forward Haaland finished off a famous victory with a late penalty to make it 2-0, but the result was nowhere near straightforward.

Haaland’s first goal was a tap-in after a pinpoint Kevin De Bruyne cross early in the second half.

His goals have taken Pep Guardiola’s team well clear of Arsenal at the top of the table and means victory at the Etihad against West Ham on Monday morning will make them champions again, regardless of the Gunners’ result against Everton.

No team in English top-flight history has ever won four titles in a row. Defeat for Spurs also guarantees that Aston Villa will finish in the fourth Champions League spot, joining City, Arsenal and Liverpool in Europe’s top-tier competition next season.

The game opened up after the first goal and there were several moments of high drama.

First De Bruyne was hurt by a Pape Sarr tackle on his ankle before Ederson took a blow to the head in denying Cristian Romero and was replaced minutes later by Ortega.

The German was called into action immediately, keeping out substitute Dejan Kulusevski’s close-range shot with his legs.

The visitors’ hearts were in their mouths when Tottenham’s Son Heung-min burst through with five minutes of normal time remaining, but Ortega saved with his legs when he seemed likely to score.

Guardiola fell to the ground, clutching his head in disbelief.

The brilliant one-on-one save was enough for football greats, including Socceroo Mark Schwarzer to declare Ortega the man of the match, despite only being on the park for 30 minutes.

It was a painful sucker punch moments later when City went up the other end and were awarded a penalty.

Aussie manager Ange Postecoglou was furious when Pedro Porro brought down substitute Jeremy Doku and Haaland smashed home in the 91st minute to spark wild celebrations from the players in front of the City faithful, taking his league tally to 27 goals for the season.

The build-up to the game in north London was dominated by a fierce debate over whether home fans wanted their own team to lose in order to leave City in the driving seat, with Arsenal their nearest challengers.

The Spurs supporters made their feelings towards their bitter local rivals clear in the opening minutes, with chants of “Stand up if you hate Arsenal” ringing around the stadium.

Both sides settled quickly and Spurs had the first sight of goal when a raking ball from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg found Brennan Johnson on the right.

Spurs goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario kept out Phil Foden’s close-range shot after 15 minutes with a strong right hand.

City, who came into the match on an unbeaten run of 21 matches, were short of their fluent best while Spurs struggled to put the finishing touches to their attacking moves.

The game opened up towards the end of the first period, with City defender Josko Gvardiol flashing a shot over the bar from a tight angle but the sides finished the opening 45 minutes with just one shot on target apiece.

Moments after the re-start Vicario was forced to dive full length to keep out a stinging De Bruyne effort while Son Heung-min went close at the other end after being found by Johnson.

But City broke the deadlock in the 51st minute when Bernardo Silva found De Bruyne in the box and the Belgian crossed for Haaland to slot home from point-blank range.

Thousands of Spurs fans chanted “Are you watching Arsenal” as the City fans celebrated in their corner.

— with AFP

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