Belfast Telegraph

Sensational Spurs are looking up after Man City win

Man City 1-2 Tottenham

By Ian Herbert

From Manuel Pellegrini, there came one of those rare, though extraordinary, outbursts on refereeing which we have seen before and which may well see him face a Football Association charge in the days ahead.

He implied that Mark Clattenburg had a bias against Man City, should not have been appointed for his side's 2-1 loss to Tottenham and was intent on giving a penalty when Raheem Sterling was dubiously adjudged to have handled in the second-half.

His evidence for the spurious first claim was the two "offside goals" he claimed had been awarded to Spurs in his team's 4-1 defeat at White Hart Lane in September.

"It was the same referee. We lost against Tottenham twice. I don't think it is a good decision to have the same referee," said the Chilean.

Of the penalty incident, he declared: "It was a penalty that referee Mark Clattenburg wanted to signal and he gave that signal."

The White Hart Lane claim was ridiculous. It was not quite as extreme, perhaps, as Pellegrini's claim, after City's defeat to Barcelona two years ago, that referee Jonas Eriksson was "not impartial to both teams" and that an official from a Scandinavian nation should not have been chosen in the first place.

But to observe the Chilean, who will be replaced by Pep Guardiola next season, talk of injustice, shouting: "I am finished with the referee" when he could not close the conversation down while admitting that his own team were "the problem", revealed the considerable distance between the territories he and Mauricio Pochettino, the Tottenham manager, occupy.

While Pellegrini might command the post-match narrative with his sense of injustice, this story belongs, to Tottenham - a club second on goal difference from Arsenal - whose journey to the brink of an extraordinary accomplishment has been obscured by the leaders, Leicester, two points ahead.

Spurs have been one of the great under-achievers of the Premier League era. Not since 1985 have they been second at this stage of the season

The penalty decision was very poor and a justifiable talking point. Sterling had turned away from the ball when Danny Rose made to drive in a cross and it struck him in the side, on 52 minutes.

Joe Hart's attempts to engage the taker, Harry Kane, in conversation before the kick subsequently failed.

Yes, the goal ignited City and brought out the best we had seen from them - Yaya Toure driving a free-kick against the bar and substitute Kelechi Iheanacho piling an equaliser past Hugo Lloris.

But the small details of the Spurs winner bore out a sense of the winners are the coming team.

Not for the first time Toure was halted by Mousa Dembele and substitute Erik Lamela, who collected from him, shifted a ball through Nicolas Otamendi's legs for Christian Erikson.

He scored, on his 24th birthday, because Vincent Kompany's fractionally slow reactions had played him onside.

The Spurs midfield made Toure, operating behind Sergio Aguero, look like yesterday's man.

He could have been booked twice inside the first 20 minutes.

Pellegrini insisted his side, six off the top, can still win the title.

"Of course," he said. "We have 36 points left. Anything can happen."

At the end, Pochettino celebrated in front of his own supporters and to see him there made you feel that anything is possible. The 'run-in' is by no means formidable.

The North London derby on March 5 is monumental. West Ham and Liverpool are the highest placed clubs Spurs must travel to.

It was a breakthrough in building "the trust, confidence and belief in our possibility," Pochettino said. "It is true our supporters can dream."

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