Spurs 1 Man City 0 - Harry Kane dominates with his absence
Even as Tottenham Hotspur put in a performance against the reigning champions on opening day to lay down a marker that they will be a good team even without their talismanic striker, there is very little doubt that Kane was getting free rent inside everyone’s heads.
This was clear with the fans at the stadium. Manchester City fans held up signs telling Kane to move to City and ease his pain and as City dominated proceedings in the early part of the match, they continued to mock Spurs fans with songs about the England captain’s speculative transfer. As the clock wound down with Spurs leading, it was the Spurs fans’ turn to bring Kane into the fold, singing, “Are you watching, Harry Kane?”
Television cameras kept looking for Kane as this went on, but he was nowhere to be found, not even as an audience in the stadium, which in itself, is probably a sign that he’s more likely than not set on leaving.
In the post-match interviews, whether it was Lucas Moura, Son Heung -Min or new boss Nuno Espirito Santo, Kane was inevitably the talking point.
WATCH: Nuno gives Kane update after Man City win
So much of the post-match analysis centred around how City’s loss highlighted their need for Kane, and this match would have only strengthened Daniel Levy’s bargaining power.
Even in the Singapore Spurs Supporters' Club Official Chat group on Facebook, post-match comments were along the lines of, “Harry Kane who?”
The last time someone was so conspicuous with their absence, at least in Singapore, was in the recent Olympic Men’s 100m Butterfly Final.
Even though there were so many other talking points.
For example, very few people, short of Pep Guardiola himself, even talked about how The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is fast becoming a bogey ground for City, who have lost all four of their fixtures there (three in the EPL and one in the Champions League).
WATCH: Guardiola keen to look at the positives in defeat
Or how this Spurs victory was so much better than the last two 2-0 wins that were engineered by Jose Mourinho. When Mourinho beat City twice in 2020, it was clear which team was dominant. In November last year where Mourinho showed his strangleclass, Spurs had two shots on goal out of four chances overall, but scored twice. City created 22 chances in that game. Similarly, in February the same year, Spurs scored twice out of three chances, compared to City’s 19.
Last night, apart from the first 15 minutes, you couldn’t tell that Spurs were playing the best team in Europe that has never won the Champions League. Spurs matched City blow for blow, creating 13 chances to City’s 18. It was Rocky Balboa vs Ivan Drago, with Spurs absorbing all the early blows and coming out hitting, eventually delivering the knock-out punch with a sweet Son left foot.
Spurs were aggressive, rattled City’s possession game with niggling fouls, and kept record signing Jack Grealish so quiet that one could almost hear crickets. They countered over and over, passing out from the back with a precision that we never saw under Mourinho, where it was mostly punt and hope.
This display was almost a reminder of Mauricio Pochettino at his best. Almost.
If there was ever an advertisement for why Nuno is taking the team back to where the fans want them to be, this was it. Of course, we also know that advertising and reality are usually quite different, and whether Spurs can do this week in, week out, remains to be seen.
WATCH: Son proud of Spurs victory over champions Man City
The score was 1-0, but it could easily have been 4-3, had both teams got their shooting boots on, such were the quality of chances created. Though one could argue Spurs had the better chances, with Lucas Moura’s goal bound shot cleared off the line and Steven Bergwijn missing an absolute sitter.
City themselves created three golden chances in the opening 15 minutes, but lacked the world class finishing that only fuelled the narrative that they need a recognised number 9 to put those chances away.
In truth, both teams lacked a certain cutting edge up top, so it’s clear both teams need a Harry Kane. Hence we can expect a tug of war in the coming weeks to see whose need is greater.
Another talking point, which was talked about a bit but not as much as Kane’s absence, was how good it was to see 60,000 fans in the stadium. The return of fans saw seven home victories, as compared to last season’s seven away wins on opening day. There were no matchday 1 upsets (the Brentford result was not an upset, though I might be a bit biased) and surely, this would be a sign of things to come this season.
How I’ve missed fans mocking each other in the stadium, as opposed to the vulgarities of the coaching team from the sidelines and the FIFA 21 artificial crowd noises.
One hopes that as we move into endemic living with COVID-19, that this would be what sports will be like in the coming year, because, say what you will, the quality of football is not the same without the fans. That extra adrenaline that a packed stadium gives you will often make players tackle just that little bit harder and play for the badge just a little bit more.
WATCH: Japhet Tanganga reacts to Spurs' win over Man City
All in all, there were so many good talking points to EPL 21/22’s matchday 1. One just hopes this whole Kane saga can be put to bed one way or another soon so that we can get round to the football on display, rather than the player that is not.