Christian Eriksen boosts Spurs' title bid with late winner at Man City
Birthday boy Christian Eriksen scored a late winner as Tottenham claimed a controversial 2-1 victory over title rivals Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Eriksen, who turned 24 on Sunday, settled a highly-charged Barclays Premier League contest with seven minutes remaining after City had fought back to cancel out Harry Kane's dubious penalty opener for Spurs.
Kane struck from the spot in the 53rd minute after Raheem Sterling was harshly adjudged to have handled inside the area by referee Mark Clattenburg.
City initially responded well to the setback with Kelechi Iheanacho hitting an excellent equaliser but Eriksen's winner dealt a potentially deadly blow to the hosts' title hopes.
Yet while City can bemoan their luck, Spurs will not dwell long on the issue after a result that truly ignites their bid for a first league title win since 1961. They left the field in the knowledge they had moved within two points of leaders Leicester.
It may have been contentious, but it was a hard-earned win. They dug in during a first half that was fought at a fierce tempo but in which, with so much at stake, chances were few and far between.
With captain Vincent Kompany back in their starting line-up for the first time in three months after finally shaking off his latest calf injury, City were noticeably stronger and more organised at the back.
Nicolas Otamendi also seemed more relaxed alongside Kompany and dangermen Kane and Dele Alli were kept quiet.
Yet City also had little success up against the Spurs back line, with Kyle Walker frustrating Sterling out wide and Toby Alderweireld solid against Sergio Aguero and the often advancing Yaya Toure.
Aguero put City's first clear-cut chance over the bar while Danny Rose bravely blocked a powerful Sterling volley at close range and was badly winded for his trouble, needing time to regain his composure.
Rose later had a chance himself at the other end but this time Pablo Zabaleta got his body in the way. Eriksen connected well with a shot but Joe Hart saved comfortably.
The game burst into life in the second half and City should have taken the lead when Toure's cross took a deflection and looped into the path of Aguero. The Argentinian admonished himself after clipping the chance over the bar.
Moments later City were cursing again, and this time with a sense of injustice, after Clattenburg controversially pointed to the penalty spot.
Sterling seemed to have successfully blocked Rose's cross as he jumped into its path and turned his back mid-air, but Clattenburg deemed it to have touched his arm. There was intense debate over whether it had, and even if it did, whether it could have been deliberate, but the decision stood. Kane took full advantage to fire home from 12 yards.
City were jolted into action and Toure was inches away from equalising as he rattled the crossbar from a free-kick.
City also sent on Iheanacho and it proved a wise move. The exciting teenager had been on the field just eight minutes when he raced into the area with perfect timing to lash home Gael Clichy's cutback into the area for the equaliser.
But Spurs' late change proved equally astute, with Erik Lamela charging forward after Toure lost possession. He slipped in Eriksen and the Dane slid a cool finish past Hart.
City fought to the end but there was to be no way back with Silva putting their final chance over the bar.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Text from Spurs pal: "We're gonna win it! We can't win it can we? Hold on... we can! We're gonna win it!!!" Huge opportunity 4 #THFC" - BBC Sport presenter Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker), like many Spurs fans, believes Tottenham are genuine title contenders after a big away win at the Etihad.
Joe Hart: 6 (out of 10)
Pablo Zabaleta: 6
Vincent Kompany: 6
Nicolas Otamendi: 6
Gael Clichy: 6
David Silva: 5
Yaya Toure: 6
Raheem Sterling: 5
Sergio Aguero: 5
Kelechi Iheanacho: 7
Aleksandar Kolarov: 5
Hugo Lloris: 7
Kyle Walker: 7
Kevin Wimmer: 7
Toby Alderweireld: 7
Danny Rose: 8
Eric Dier: 7
Mousa Dembele: 7
Christian Eriksen: 7
Son Heung-min: 6
Dele Alli: 6
Harry Kane: 7
Tom Carroll: 6
Erik Lamela: 7
Nacer Chadli: 5
Danny Rose. Put his body on the line in a fine defensive showing and offered Spurs a good outlet in attack.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Christian Eriksen. Sent the Spurs supporters into dreamland with his late winner. It was a fine finish after a great run by substitute Erik Lamela. There were obvious controversial elements to this victory but the Spurs fans behind the goal hardly seemed to care and they can now sense the excitement of a genuine title chase.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Both sides were set up well with a determination to attack but not without compromising their defensive solidity. City welcomed back Vincent Kompany and he made a big difference while the whole of the Spurs back line were solid. City boss Manuel Pellegrini may have been quietly fuming about the penalty but his decision to send on Kelechi Iheanacho worked perfectly. Unfortunately for him, Mauricio Pochettino's substitute Erik Lamela also took his chance, setting up the winner.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
It is a shame that the major talking point of a game of such magnitude should be a highly dubious penalty decision. Sterling seemed to have blocked Rose's cross legally but referee Mark Clattenburg felt the arm had been used. Replays suggested this was not the case. Obviously Clattenburg did not have the benefit of a replay, but even if the ball had caught the back of the arm it is absurd to suggest this could have been deliberate.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Chelsea v Manchester City, FA Cup Fifth Round, Sunday 21 February
Fiorentina v Tottenham, UEFA Europa League, Thursday 18 February
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini felt Clattenburg, who was also in charge of City's 4-1 defeat in the reverse fixture, played a role in the result after awarding the penalty which saw the visitors take the lead.
"Well unfortunately for us it is the same referee as the other game at Tottenham, today I believe the penalty decided the game," the Chilean told Sky Sports 1.
"It's a shot that hits the back of Sterling, after that it hit his elbow, and I don't think the referee can decide the game that way.
"After that we were 1-0 down and we have to take a lot of risks. It was a decisive moment. Tottenham didn't have a shot against our goal or a save from Joe Hart (up to then) so I think the decision was absolutely decisive."
Pellegrini was also confident about City's title chances, saying "We will not give up. Of course two (defeats) against teams fighting for the title, Leicester and Tottenham, is too much but we will keep working with the players that we have."
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was pleased with his team's all-round effort, offensively and defensively.
"We are very happy, very pleased. Today the victory is a perfect job," he said. "(It is) difficult to play a big team like Manchester City but I am happy for all of our players.
"We delivered the plan perfectly, to play the way that we played, with a young squad, to play a team that have all of these world-class players, I think our players deserved full credit."
The Argentinian did not have a clear view of the controversial handball which led to Kane's penalty but was coy on their title chances.
"I think it is important to have this kind of experience for the future and I think that before the game, you can feel that it wasn't a normal game," he said.
"I think we need to keep this feeling, keep the right mentality and respect the opposition. We need to carry on, we have an important plan and it's important that we deliver it."