Manchester City returned to the top of the Premier League with a fifth-minute Phil Foden goal giving them a nervy 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at the Etihad stadium on Saturday.
The victory for Pep Guardiola’s side, three days after Spurs eliminated City from the Champions League, puts the pressure back on title rivals Liverpool who are at Cardiff City on Sunday and trail by a point with both teams having played 34 games.
But City’s 10th Premier League win in a row came at a price with key midfielder Kevin De Bruyne forced off with what looked like another knee injury in the 38th minute.
It will surely put him in doubt for Wednesday’s crucial Manchester derby at Old Trafford -- the last game City face against top-six opponents.
After all the emotion of Wednesday’s extraordinary Champions League quarter-final second leg, which Spurs won on away goals, it was perhaps not surprising that this game was a tighter affair.
With the result in the balance until the end and City desperate to cling on to all three points, the final stages were as nervous as Wednesday’s were thrilling.
“The last two days have been really tough for us. We could have lost the Premier League today,” said City manager Pep Guardiola.
“After Wednesday it was really tough. As a footballer, I could not have done what my players have done today. The title is still in our hands and we gave absolutely everything today,” he added.
His counterpart Mauricio Pochettino felt his team had merited more from the game.
“That’s football. It was an even game and we deserved more, at least a draw. I’m so happy with the performance, in very difficult circumstances. Just because you deserve it, doesn’t mean you always get it,” he said.
Just as on Wednesday, City took an early lead.
Bernardo Silva created the goal, coasting past two Tottenham defenders before floating a delightful cross to Sergio Aguero who headed back across the face of the goal to Foden to nod in from close range.
It was the first goal in the Premier League for the 18-year-old midfielder, making his second start in the competition, and he impressed with a confident display.
And just as occurred on Wednesday, Spurs responded positively. Son Heung-min, who had scored a brace in the opening minutes in the Champions League, twice threatened the City goal but both times City keeper Ederson was out quickly to nullify the danger.
The Brazilian goalkeeper earns much praise for his distribution and skills with his feet but he is also outstanding when it comes to anticipation and closing down strikers.
City were in charge but too often their attacks broke down on the edge of the area, with Spurs quick to get back in numbers.
The visitors felt they should have had a penalty in the 59th minute when the ball appeared to hit Kyle Walker’s arm inside the box but referee Michael Oliver waved away the appeal.
At the other end, Raheem Sterling nearly scored with a close-range shot which Spurs keeper Paulo Gazzaniga, in for the injured Hugo Lloris, did well to keep out with his feet.
The pressure was clear, with Spurs also needing points in their bid for a top-four finish and Champions League football next season.
But City, looking much more solid at the back and offering fewer openings to Pochettino’s side than three days ago, showed the steel and pragmatism lacking in that 4-3 defeat.
Now the ball is back in Liverpool’s court, before City’s game in hand against their old rivals United.
For Spurs, who have a two-legged Champions League semi-final against Ajax to look forward to, the focus now shifts to the battle for the top four, starting with Tuesday’s home game against Brighton.
“It is in our hands to be in the top four, to be in the Champions League next season,” said Pochettino. “The next two games are going to be decisive, against Brighton and West Ham.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Clare Fallon and Tony Lawrence
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