For 75 minutes.
After that, the Sky Blues just stopped playing.
City got an early goal from Samir Nasri, the sort of goal that can mute a raucous crowd and take the onus off the visiting side.
Yes, Nasri blew a later chance (he was not the only Citizen to do that on the day), but in the main, right up to the point when Clint Dempsey leveled for Spurs, City had the game right where they wanted it.
Less than eight minutes later, City's famously impregnable defense had seen its doors kicked in and its possessions ransacked.
Spurs claimed a 3-1 victory that thrilled its patrons, but doubtlessly left City fans asking for the license plate number of the 18-wheeler that ran their club into the ditch.
Players rated on a scale of one (watching Jermain Defoe abuse Vincent Kompany en route to the game-winning goal) to five (watching Nasri score the early goal that portended a much better result).:
The commentators on the Fox Soccer telecast of this game told a story about Hart's coming-out party of sorts at White Hart Lane in 2010 when he faced 21 shots, eight of them on target, and none of them got by him in a scoreless draw. They might as well have thrown a black cat in his six-yard box, though, because after they told that story the mesh behind Hart took an awful beating. 2.
Similarly, the broadcast team threw several verbal bouquets at Kompany in the early going about how his positioning was flawless, etc. But Kompany's fingerprints were all over the first and second goals Spurs scored.
Kompany unwisely chose not to risk clearing Bale's cross which Dempsey tapped in, and DeFoe undressed Kompany en route to beating Hart for the second goal. City cannot win when Kompany is this bad. 1.
It is sort of a shame to have to say that the best thing Zabaleta did in this match was not to overreact to an ugly tackle in the 48th minute from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who probably should have seen a red card anyway. The defense caved in, though, and Zabaleta did little to stop it. 2.
Nothing Nastasic did jumped off the television screen as negligent or wasteful. Then again, nothing Nastasic did inspired his team to greatness, either. 2.
The match felt more or less concluded when DeFoe scored. Clichy, though, apparently wanted to make dead certain that City's hopes would be annihilated when he lost track of Gareth Bale to allow Spurs' best player to score the clinching third goal. Mission accomplished. 2.
Of course, we cannot say that City could have held on if not for Milner coming off at the half. We can say pretty conclusively, though, that without Milner and the injured David Silva, the City midfield was pretty ordinary. His pass to Nasri that set up City's only goal was pure class. 3.
Nasri's goal in the fifth minute was an almost cruel, teasing taste of what he can do when he is focused and committed to play at his best. The next 90 minutes or so, however, were a reminder that cruel, teasing tastes of excellence are all Nasri is good for anymore. 3.
A player like Barry, who does not give you much offensively, is supposed to bring value on a day like today when you are defending first three points, then one point late in the match against a rampaging opponent on their pitch. City left White Hart Lane with no points. Barry did not deliver the value he needed to. 2.
The entire City side slumps when Silva is out, but nobody misses Silva on his off days more than Yaya Toure.
Where Silva ordinarily moves the ball through midfield and lets Yaya freelance, today the big Ivorian got stuck trying to play attacking and holding roles. It did not go well. Seeing Yaya so easily relieved of the ball at midfield was just disturbing. 2.
So you want to be a starter, big guy? You want to be regarded as an elite striker? Then maybe you should stop no-showing every time Roberto Mancini puts you on the pitch to start the game.
This performance from Dzeko was so abject that even the normally sunny Manchester City Twitter feed took a moment to dog him. The excuses for this player's ineffectiveness should end now. 1.
Manchester City @ManCity
54. City continue to graft and scrap for every ball. Couple of half opportunities for @eddzeko but it's not quite coming off for him today4/21/2013, 1:42:47 PM
His spectacular run and pretty lead pass to Milner led to Nasri's goal as much as Milner's pass to Nasri did. A replay on Fox Soccer graphically displayed how Tevez touched the ball 15 times without being dispossessed in that run. Unfortunately, that was the only magic Tevez had on the day. 3.
Aleksandar Kolarov (45th minute for Milner)
It is not a good sign when your reaction to hearing that Milner is coming off is immediately to hope Mancini puts Javi Garcia in, is it? Kolarov was slow and poor, though of course he was not alone in that. 2.
Scott Sinclair (83rd minute for Dzeko) and Joleon Lescott (90th minute for Clichy)
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