A difficult week for Manchester City and Tottenham, two of the rebel clubs in the suspended Super League project, became even more difficult when they fell behind in their return to the Premier League.
Both teams have recovered to record life victories and leave them in a good mood for their next match – their meeting at Wembley Stadium for the English League Cup final on Sunday.
City responded to the conceded goal in just 20 seconds to beat Aston Villa 2-1 and move 11 points clearly in their march to a third league title in four years. A maximum of eight points are needed from Pep Guardiola’s team from his last five games.
Each side had one man expelled from Villa Park, with City defender John Stones making a straight red card for a reckless strike at the end of the first half and disqualifying him for three games – starting with the cup final.
Tottenham needed a penalty in the 90th minute from Son Heung-min to score 2-1 over Southampton and close to two points from Chelsea’s fourth place in the Champions League qualifiers.
It was a great way for Ryan Mason to begin his interim term as manager as a replacement for the fired Jose Mourinho. At 29, 312 days old, Mason became the youngest man to lead a team in a Premier League match, a proud moment for the former Tottenham midfielder, who was forced to retire in 2018 after failing to fully recover. from a broken skull sustained during the FA Cup Match.
They were the first games for City and Tottenham since they were forced to retire from the breakaway Super League, which they had created with 10 of the other elite clubs in Europe.
A small group of supporters protested in front of Tottenham Stadium before the match against Southampton, calling for the removal of chairman Daniel Levy and the club’s owners, ENIC Group.
After City lost to Leeds in their last league game and second place in Manchester United won their last five games in the league, the difference between local rivals was up to eight points.
“Losing today would be dangerous in the last few games, for sure,” Guardiola said.
“United are in the best shape and I have a feeling that if they have to win, they will win.”
City also lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals, losing their bid for an unprecedented four, so Guardiola knew the importance of Villa’s game and brought out the strongest team available.
Phil Foden, the 20-year-old England striker, stood out, canceling John McGinn’s very early opening for Villa, scoring the equalizer with a volley at the end of a smooth run by the team, including Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva.
Rodry glanced at Bernardo’s deft cross for what turned out to be a winner in the 40’s.
The Stones’ red card, for a late and high shot by Jacob Ramsey, left City vulnerable, but Mattie Cash took two yellow cards in three minutes – both for Foden’s fouls – to become a 10-point game from 57- and.
“He was decisive in the last third and he plays so well,” Guardiola told Foden.
“Right now he’s a really important player for us.”
Guardiola said Kevin De Bruyne’s injury to Chelsea on Sunday was “less than expected” and that the midfielder could make the cup final.
A solid fourth race
Tottenham climbed to sixth place with a win over Southampton and the fight for both places in the Champions League qualifiers behind City and United seems fierce. Only three points separate Leicester in third place from Liverpool in seventh place.
Mason’s decision to recall Gareth Bale for his first start in more than a month was rewarded when the Welsh striker equalized with a twist in the top corner in the 60’s, canceling the opener from Danny Ings in the 30’s.
The goal was banned due to offside against teammate Lucas Moura before he got a chance to win the game from a penalty after Sergio Reguilon was fouled right in the area, thanks to a VAR check.
Son, taking penalties in the absence of the injured Harry Kane, sent the goalkeeper in the wrong direction.