What City could have got: Kane shines with late Spurs winner
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — No wonder Pep Guardiola once branded Tottenham the Harry Kane team. No wonder Manchester City pursued four rebuffed bids to sign him.
There he was — still in a Tottenham jersey — in the fifth minute of stoppage time on Saturday, putting the ball in the City net for a second time.
How galling for Guardiola. The striker he was so determined to sign engineered a twist to the title race by inflicting a 3-2 loss on the Premier League leaders that gives more than just a glimmer of hope to chaser Liverpool.
“Let’s just forget,” the City manager said, determined not to revisit the ill-fated pursuit of Kane moments after the defeat. “The quality with the ball ... the whole of the U.K. knows it.”
The country — and far beyond — didn’t only see it with the winning header after Riyad Mahrez’s penalty had looked to have rescued a point for City earlier in added time after Cristian Romero’s handball.
Kane saved his most complete display of an underwhelming season for the visit to the Etihad Stadium .
There had already been a perfectly weighted pass from Kane that released Son Heung-min to square for Dejan Kulusevski to score the opener, four minutes into the Swede’s first start since arriving on loan from Juventus last month.
Then the England captain restored Tottenham’s lead after İlkay Gündoğan’s equalizer in a move he started with a high cross. Son combined with Ryan Sessegnon before the ball was returned to Kane, who arrived unmarked by the six-yard box to lift a shot into the net.
“He is an unbelievable player and an unbelievable guy,” Son said of Kane. “Working alongside him is a big honor.”
There was frustration when Kane put the ball in the net again only for the goal to be scrubbed out by a correct VAR offside decision in the 74th minute.
But in a tenacious performance, with effective pressing beyond his scoring contributions, Kane was pushing to the end. So when Kulusevski whipped a cross into the penalty area with the full time whistle approaching, Kane got himself into space to nod into the net.
“It was a crazy game,” Kane said. “We worked so hard for so long and to concede a penalty in the last minute was heartbreaking. But credit to the boys, we found a chance at the end and I managed to put it away.”
No wonder Tottenham wanted far more than the 100 million pounds ($136 million) City was offering last August, and even that might not have been enough to sell Kane.
City had looked like it was cruising to its title defense. Now the 15-match unbeaten run is over. Liverpool is only six points behind with a game in hand and with a meeting between the front-runners still to come in April.
“Every game will be a big, big battle,” Guardiola said.
Just as the season began in August, Tottenham beat City. Their seasons have gone in opposite directions since then.
Nuno Espirito Santo has been replaced as Tottenham manager by Antonio Conte, who oversaw a brief resurgence. A three-match losing streak had bruised the Champions League qualification push. Even goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has made uncharacteristic mistakes, including being unable to keep hold of Raheem Sterling’s cross before Gündoğan pounced to equalize in the 33rd minute.
After twice regaining the lead, Tottenham is now within four points of the top four with two games in hand on Manchester United.
“Even when defending,” Conte said, “our first thought should be to attack.”
Especially if the goals keep flowing like Saturday from Kane. While the 28-year-old Kane netted a league-high 23 goals last season from 35 games, he has only scored seven times in 23 appearances so far this campaign.
“The performance we put out there today shows we are fighting to the end,” Kane said. “Hopefully we can use this as momentum going forward. What we have to learn is how to be more consistent over a long season.”
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