Jose Mourinho turned to his old enemy Pep Guardiola and smiled at the sound of the last whistle.
Just over 12 months after his arrival, the Portuguese had witnessed his Tottenham side produce one of his trademark performances to secure a 2-0 home win over Manchester City and send a message in the Premier League title race.
Counter-attacking goals in each half from Heung-Min Son and substitute Giovani Lo Celso gave the Spurs a declaration victory despite Pep Guardiola’s men dominating possession in the capital.
Was this then another Mourinho master class?
Harry Kane did not have a single shot, but he won six offenses for his team and put the assistant to Lo Celso’s crucial second to give the hosts breathing space.
“Kane has messed with them. He’s been spectacular,” Gary Neville asked in comments Sky Sports. “Kane has both central defenses where he wants them. He plays with them.”
On his role in Tottenham’s second, Neville added: “This is a classic Jose Mourinho performance. A wonderful touch and turn from Kane. Brilliant for Spurs, a nightmare for City.”
Hojbjerg embodies Tottenham’s bulldog spirit
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was everywhere in the evening for Tottenham. Guardiola played a crucial role in the development of the Danish international after their time together in Bayern Munich – where he became the youngest player to play for Bavaria in the Bundesliga as a 17-year-old.
But Hojbjerg eventually fell out of favor at the Allianz Arena and was loaned to first Augsburg and then Schalke, before being sold to Southampton for £ 12.8m. In July 2016, when Guardiola himself traveled to City.
Now 25, the defensive midfielder emerges as a vital cog in Spurs’ rise under Mourinho, his renaissance mirroring his manager. With 30 of his 32 passes completed, Hojbjerg showed a point for his former boss.
The city is blunt again without Aguero
Here was further evidence of City’s decline in attack production this season. Guardiola’s men have scored just 10 goals in eight Premier League games this season – at the same stage last season they had scored 27.
“I thought City played well in the first half,” Neville told Sky Sports. “In this half, they have not played well. It has become clumsy.”
While the defense has improved since the arrival of Ruben Dias, Sergio Aguero’s return to full fitness may not come fast enough. Gabriel Jesus managed nine touchdowns in Tottenham’s penalty area, but none of his four shots were on target.
“The reality so far is that we did not score much and that is why we are struggling to score goals,” said Guardiola.
“It was last season, last season was last season, so it’s different. Of course we fight without the two strikers through the season, but I think we have the ability and quality to score goals.
“I do not have the feeling that we play badly, we come here, we have more shots on goal, admit fewer shots on goal, we have more possession, but football is about details in the boxes. I always know Mourinho’s team wait, that you are making a mistake to punish yourself. “
A case of deja-vu for City?
Back in February before the lockdown, City were also beaten 2-0 by Tottenham here with 67 per cent possession. This time, Guardiola’s men had 66 percent of the ball and were still at the wrong end of the same result.
But this felt different. This result lifted the Spurs up to fifth, but they have improved a lot since then. Guardiola sounded resigned from the start, so are Tottenham now real title providers?
“I doubted it a few weeks ago,” Neville said. “I do not want to change from that. But they certainly gain trust and this was a really good performance.
“In the first half it was resilient and Mourinho too early. In the second half they were just better than City.”
Tottenham use attacking channels
Oddly enough, 41.3 percent of Tottenham’s first half attacks came down through the right through Serge Aurier’s marbling run.
But Mourinho turned it around in the second period with 40.6 per cent coming down the left through the tireless Sergio Reguilon as Spurs looked to take advantage of the space behind Kyle Walker as he increasingly committed himself ahead with City seeking a route back in the game.
Here was a further indication of Mourinho’s return at the sharp end of the game. By overcoming his old nemesis, this was Mourinho playing on City’s weaknesses and hitting his opponents on the counter-attack.
It’s not the football brand that Spurs fans have come to associate with their club over the years, but will they care if Mourinho can once again earn silverware in his second season?
“The Spurs have had some great teams over the years, seen great footballers, beautiful footballers, but they have not won anything,” Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports.
“If Spurs fans have to look at that style to win trophies, they will take it. Mauricio Pochettino built a great team – what did they win? Zero. I was not sure Jose Mourinho could do it at Spurs, but he “It’s incredible how hard Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min work without the ball. Spurs did so well without the ball – it was a championship from Jose and the team.”
Kane continues to blunt opponents
Can you get an invisible assistant? It was Kane’s move to suck two City defenders out of position for Son to take Tanguy Ndombele’s passport to the castle home after five minutes.
City became the last team to struggle to capture the English captain’s move, with his heatmap indicating his positional play more as a central midfielder than as a striker who fell deep to be bigger than City in midfield.
Kane had as many duels (14) as Hojbjerg, while he even made more tackles than any other player in the first half.
Tottenham will now host Ludogorets in the Europa League on Thursday at 20, before going to Chelsea next Super-Sunday at. 16.30, live on Sky Sports Premier League.
Man City is at Olympiakos in the Champions League at 17.55 on Wednesday before hosting Burnley in the Premier League at. 15 Saturday.