Fix backline or forget about title, City
Forget offsides, awful City are off course as Spurs run riot
(Eric Dier 45, Toby Alderweireld 50, Harry Kane 61, Erik Lamela 79)
MAN CITY 1
(Kevin de Bruyne 25)
Manchester City would be unwise to focus on the referee's incompetence.
They were the architects of their own downfall last night.
Three of the five goals could've been chalked off for offside. From a defensive standpoint, all four of Tottenham's goals could have been prevented.
The home side's jubilant 4-1 victory was well merited, but Manuel Pellegrini's battered backline must be fixed or he can kiss his title dream goodbye.
Back-to-back defeats provide a worrying indictment of too many flaws in City's make-up.
West Ham hinted at the defensive ineptitude. Tottenham rubber-stamped the confirmation four times over.
Pellegrini's emphasis on the front four made for an explosive start against Spurs but, with Yaya Toure played further forward, Fernandinho and Fernando were gradually overrun in central midfield.
Tottenham, like West Ham before them, soon discovered that City's backline are susceptible to pace.
The initial effervescence that epitomised City's game has turned flatter than their back four.
And with Sergio Aguero fading faster than his side's initial promise, the odds of City out-scoring opponents are slim to none.
Their second-half was little short of shambolic. They were lucky it was only four, which was an extraordinary outcome after their lively opening.
City's goal was not only a flawless exhibition of counter-attacking football, but the move also highlighted Tottenham's initial tactical flaw.
Kyle Walker had already been exposed at right back before he lost possession in the 25th minute.
Toure galloped away like a gazelle across the Serengeti and found Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian found the net, his third goal in three games.
Replays showed de Bruyne was marginally offside. It proved to be a recurring theme, particularly when City's lopsided line-up revealed itself on the stroke of half-time.
Joe Hart was deemed a risk not worth taking after recovering from a minor injury and Vincent Kompany ruled himself out in the warm-up.
But the Achilles' heel wasn't the goalkeeper. It was a criminal lack of concentration.
In fact, Willy Caballero displayed a feline-like agility to beat out Son Heung Min's strike from point-blank range, but his defenders turned to statues.
De Bruyne fluffed the clearance and his teammates froze as Eric Dier was somehow allowed to drive into the bottom corner from 20 metres.
But the goal was also offside. In the build-up, Walker was at least a metre offside before he crossed for Son.
Two offside goals in one half will raise concerns over the competency of officials running the line, but Pellegrini must be running out of patience with his back four.
If the officiating was poor, City's slow-motion defending was dreadful, a persistent failing magnified by Tottenham's second goal.
Christian Eriksen curled an innocuous free-kick towards Caballero in the 50th minute, only the goalkeeper wasn't there. He went walkabout.
Toby Alderweireld showed springy feet to nod the ball into an empty net.
City had been undone by the simplest of set-pieces.
When Harry Kane ended his drought in the 61st minute, steering a tricky bouncer into an open goal after Eriksen's free-kick rattled the crossbar, City looked a pale shadow of the side who made such a swashbuckling start to the season.
Unbelievably, Kane was standing in an offside position when Eriksen struck the free-kick. But City's inability to react to the rebound was the greater fault.
Even Erik Lamela's dogged late goal resulted from Aleksandar Kolarov's failure to challenge and prevent the cross.
Tottenham's outstanding performance deserved nothing less.
But four sloppy goals, compounded by schoolboy errors and an alarming lethargy, will haunt Pellegrini more than the myopic officials.
The offsides were unfortunate, but the abject defending was unforgivable.
BY THE NUMBERS
1962: This was the first time Tottenham had scored four or more goals in a league game against Manchester City since September, 1962. The loss was also City's heaviest Premier League defeat since a 3-0 loss to Liverpool in April 2011.
- Leicester 2 Arsenal 5
- Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 2
- Man United 3 Sunderland 0
- Southampton 3 Swansea 1
- Stoke 2 Bournemouth 1
- West Ham 2 Norwich 2
Pellegrini will not blame officials
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini refused to blame the match officials after the Premier League's early-season pace-setters crashed to a 4-1 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur yesterday.
Spurs came from behind to inflict a third defeat on City in four matches, with Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, Harry Kane and Erik Lamela finding the net after Kevin de Bruyne had put the visitors in front.
Kyle Walker was clearly offside in the build-up to Dier's equaliser and Kane also appeared to have strayed offside when he struck, but Pellegrini (right) said his side's defending had also been at fault.
"My mentality is not to have excuses," said the Chilean.
"Important goals, maybe the two goals were very important. One was the draw, the other was for 3-1, and it is more difficult to be 3-1 than it is to be 2-1.
"But it's part of the game and, when you have lost 4-1, it's easy to say it is just about refereeing mistakes, but there are more things involved."
Dier's goal, in the 45th minute, saw him drill home from 25 metres after City goalkeeper Willy Caballero, deputising for the injured Joe Hart, had blocked from Son Heung Min.
Son was set up by Walker, who had strayed at least two metres offside before crossing from the right, but Pellegrini felt that his side should have made a better job of clearing the ball.
"I think that was a clear offside, it was maybe a matter for the linesman," said Pellegrini, who had seen his side lose 2-1 at home to West Ham United in their previous league outing.
"But, after that, we had the ball and we cleared it bad. So maybe part of the goal is refereeing mistake and another part of the goal is also a mistake of our defence."
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, whose side had lost 2-1 to bitter rivals Arsenal in the League Cup in midweek, was also eager to downplay the significance of the officiating errors.
"You know football, sometimes it goes for you and sometimes against you. We need to keep calm because the decision is for the referee," he told BT Sport.
"My players were brilliant, and I'm very happy for our supporters after Wednesday because I know how they feel about the defeat to Arsenal." - AFP.
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