Tottenham Hotspur demonstrated their Premier League title-winning credentials with a sensational 2-1 victory over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Harry Kane sent Spurs on their way after Mark Clattenburg controversially penalised Raheem Sterling for handball in the box, and Christian Eriksen slotted home the winning goal with just seven minutes remaining following Kelechi Iheanacho's stunning equaliser.
The win sends Tottenham second in the Premier League table and level on points with North London rivals Arsenal, just two points behind Leicester City.
Arsenal’s last-gasp victory over Leicester earlier Sunday meant that a victory for either side at the Etihad Stadium would see them close the gap on the league leaders, and the game was understandably cagey in the early exchanges.
Vincent Kompany’s return from a lengthy layoff gave City a level of stability at the back that has evaded them in recent weeks, and the likes of Kane, Eriksen and Dele Alli failed to break their hosts down.
The best chance of the first half fell to City hot shot Sergio Aguero, who met a loose ball in the Tottenham box following a corner, but his drive was always sailing high and wide.
At the other end, Spurs were limited to snap shots from range, yet they almost made the breakthrough when Eriksen let fly from 30 yards. The Denmark international cut inside from the left flank and unleashed a swerving drive that goalkeeper Joe Hart could only parry back into the danger zone.
City’s official Twitter account reflected on a nervy moment:
28. SAVE! Solid work from Joe Hart to palm away Eriksen's drive from 25 yards. Kompany completes the clearance. Nervous moment there! #mcfc— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) February 14, 2016
That was as exciting as it got in the opening period, but the game sprung to action after the interval courtesy of a highly controversial moment after 53 minutes.
Danny Rose’s cross from the left was blocked by Sterling with his back turned, and referee Clattenburg pointed to the penalty spot for handball.
MailOnline Sport revealed the crucial—and seemingly very harsh—moment via Twitter:
And from another angle pic.twitter.com/pswgUyuu6C— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) February 14, 2016
But Clattenburg’s mind was made up, and Kane stepped up to put the ball straight down the middle and beyond a despairing Hart. The Times’ Oliver Kay reflected on the manner in which Spurs took a 1-0 lead:
Not a penalty. Very clearly not a penalty. #THFC impressive, as has been case for months, but it was never a penalty. Still, they lead 1-0— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) February 14, 2016
That seemed to breathe life into City, and the outraged home supporters, as they started to pile the pressure onto Hugo Lloris’ goal.
Yaya Toure came inches away from providing the perfect response from a free-kick, but his effort came crashing off the crossbar.
The hosts’ pressure finally paid off with 15 minutes to go, though, as Iheanacho smashed the ball into the roof of Spurs’ net after a superb cutback from Gael Clichy.
Lloris had absolutely no chance in the Tottenham goal, and Sky Sports’ Jim White was one of many impressed with the substitute’s explosive finish:
Iheanacho! What a finish! #MCITOT— Jim White (@JimWhite) February 14, 2016
It looked for all the world as if City were going to go on and win the match and reignite their title charge, but Mauricio Pochettino’s men had other ideas.
Erik Lamela slipped birthday boy Eriksen in one-on-one with Hart after 83 minutes, and he cooly supplied the finish to send the away fans into raptures, as Sky Sports Football’s photos show:
City pressed and pressed for an equaliser, but Tottenham’s back line held firm and they were able to chalk up another quite remarkable victory against the odds.
Tottenham return to Premier League action against Swansea City on February 28, when they’ll look to continue their assault on the top of the table.
City, who remain six points adrift of table-topping Leicester, will still believe they can lift the Premier League trophy, and their mission to do so begins with a tricky-looking trip to Liverpool on March 2.
The penalty decision was the hot topic after the match, and City boss Manuel Pellegrini told BBC Sport that Clattenburg got it completely wrong and cost his side points:
It was a penalty that referee Mark Clattenburg wanted to sign for and he gave the sign. It was absolutely the wrong decision, it hit the back of Raheem Sterling then his elbow. Sterling was not even seeing the ball. It was the same referee in the first game where they were two clear goals in offside and we lost 4-1. It was the key moment that decided thee game, before that they did not shoot towards our goal and did not have any chances. We took the risks, the spirit of the team was good but it was not enough.
Tottenham manager Pochettino, meanwhile, was full of praise his players for an excellent performance, per BBC Sport:
I think that it was a game that was very important. You could feel it was not a normal game and a real test for us, for that we feel very pleased for the players. The mentality was good and a perfect performance against a team with a lot of quality players who are top class. Full credit to my players.