Lucas levels before more VAR drama at Manchester City
Manchester City 2-2 Spurs
Sat 17 August 2019, 19:34|Tottenham Hotspur
Déjà vu. Simple as that. Last season it was Fernando Llorente who scored a crucial second-half goal against the run of play at the Etihad before Manchester City's Raheem Sterling had a potential winner chalked off by the VAR in stoppage time.
Fast forward four months and all the pre-match chatter centred around whether Saturday evening's Premier League encounter on the same ground would live up to that Champions League quarter-final drama. Little did anyone know, history would repeat itself.
This time it was Lucas Moura who was the dictionary definition of 'super sub', glancing in an equaliser from Erik Lamela's corner just 19 seconds after coming on, making it 2-2. Then City, who were dominating in terms of chances, having 30 attempts to our three, once again thought they'd won it in added time, Gabriel Jesus rifling in after Kevin De Bruyne's corner was knocked down to him in the box by Aymeric Laporte. The home fans went wild thinking it was 3-2, but VAR would intervene and rule the goal out, with replays showing Laporte touched the ball on with his arm. An incredible turn of fate, almost identical to that epic European night in April, but in the end, we took an extremely hard-earned point away from the home of the reigning champions, having twice come back from a goal down.
Sterling had headed in City's opener on 20 minutes, only for Lamela to reply three minutes later, with Sergio Aguero turning home for 2-1 later in the first period. Then came Lucas' vital equaliser on 56 minutes and we weathered the City storm thereafter, Giovani Lo Celso also coming on late in the game for his debut as another memorable night in Manchester came to a dramatic conclusion.
Mauricio Pochettino made one change to the team that came back to beat Aston Villa on the opening weekend with Christian Eriksen coming in at the expense of Lucas, but City's right flank and in particular De Bruyne was the source of their first-half goals and opportunities as they fashioned 13 attempts to our one in the opening 45 minutes. Kyle Walker burst down that wing and sent in a low cross that Sterling connected with, his shot looping behind off Kyle Walker-Peters, before De Bruyne conjured up the opener out of nothing, teasing in an impressive cross from our left-back position, inviting Sterling, at the far post, to nod back across Hugo Lloris - on his 300th Spurs appearance - and into the bottom corner with 20 minutes played.
Our character at the Etihad never fails to produce drama, though, and our response was swift and equally impactful. Tanguy Ndombele split the City midfield through the middle with the perfect pass for Lamela to run onto and guide the ball left-footed beyond Ederson from the edge of the box three minutes later.
Parity only lasted until 10 minutes before the break, however, as again De Bruyne proved deadly on City's right. He ghosted in undetected behind Danny Rose - also marking a milestone of 200 games for the Club - and drove low across the six-yard box for Aguero to turn home. Another De Bruyne centre from a similar area yielded a further big chance shortly afterwards but Ilkay Gundogan hammered just past the post as he ran onto the ball inside the area. Oleksandr Zinchenko's sweeping left-footer was then saved fairly routinely by Lloris as City continued on the front foot.
That trend continued in the opening stages of the second half as Lloris made a superb reaction save to keep out Zinchenko's deflected shot from range while De Bruyne and Aguero were off-target. Then came a bolt from the bench! We won a corner, Lucas came on as a substitute and within seconds, leapt to head in Lamela's delivery with his first touch to bring us back level with 56 minutes gone.
City kept coming at us, Lloris tipping Rodrigo's shot over and Bernardo Silva's dipping effort glancing the bar from the resulting corner, Rose clearing Nicolas Otamendi's header out of the six-yard box and Jesus having a couple of near misses before lightning struck twice for the home side in added time, VAR ruling out what would have been a 92nd-minute winner for Jesus when replays showed De Bruyne's corner had hit Laporte's arm on its way through to the substitute.
Speaking afterwards at the Etihad, Mauricio told us: "We need to improve in our performance. You know, the most important thing is that we have the belief and the faith to come here with the mentality, maybe not playing at our best, but trying to fight with all the circumstances and playing the last Premier League winners. Without that mentality, it’s impossible to get the result we got today."
On the team's character, he added: "That talks very highly about the character of the team. I’m so pleased. That point is going to help us to be better."
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Manchester City 2-2 Spurs
Manchester City (4-3-2-1): Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodrigo (David Silva 78), Gundogan, De Bruyne (c), Sterling, Bernardo Silva (Mahrez 80), Aguero (Jesus 65). Substitutes (not used): Bravo, Cancelo, Fernandinho, Foden.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Walker-Peters, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Rose, Winks (Lucas 56), Ndombele, Sissoko, Eriksen (Skipp 90+1), Lamela (Lo Celso 85), Kane. Substitutes (not used): Gazzaniga, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier.
Goals: Manchester City - Sterling 20, Aguero 35; Spurs - Lamela 23, Lucas 56.
Yellow card: Manchester City - Sterling 26.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester.
Weather: Sunny intervals, 19 degrees.