Manchester City suffered a familiar feeling of seeing a late winner against Tottenham ruled out by VAR as the visitors secured a 2-2 draw at the Etihad on Saturday despite being largely outclassed by the Premier League champions.
Spurs won a thrilling Champions League quarter-final tie between the sides on away goals last season when Raheem Sterling had an injury-time strike ruled out by VAR and City were denied once more when Gabriel Jesus saw a stoppage-time winner disallowed on review for a handball by Aymeric Laporte.
City twice led through Sterling and Sergio Aguero, but just like in last season’s European clash between the sides, the hosts were susceptible on the counter-attack and at set-pieces. Erik Lamela’s long range effort briefly brought Spurs level in the first-half and substitute Lucas Moura equalised with his first touch 11 minutes into the second period as Mauricio Pochettino’s men scored with their only two shots on target.
A share of the points sees both sides fall two points behind Liverpool just two games into the new season, but on this evidence another shootout between City and Liverpool for the title looks likely.
Pep Guardiola made four changes to the side that started City’s title defence with a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham last weekend with the introduction of Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Aguero only underlining the incredible strength in depth amassed by the English champions.
However, it was Sterling, who scored a hat-trick on the opening weekend of the season, who posed the biggest threat early on and opened the scoring with a fine header from a delightful cross by Kevin de Bruyne.
City had been utterly dominant for the first quarter of the match, but were hit with a sucker punch just three minutes after going in front. Lamela was afforded acres of space inside the City half and took advantage of poor position by Ederson to curl home an equaliser from well outside the box.
The goal briefly gave Spurs the belief Pochettino had talked of before the game that they can push City and Liverpool for a three-way title race this season. However, that quickly evaporated as the hosts took control again thanks to another sensational De Bruyne assist as this time Aguero converted the Belgian’s low cross.
De Bruyne’s three assists in a 4-3 City win that still was not enough to progress in the Champions League when these sides met in April was his highlight of an injury-ravaged campaign. And he should have had a hat-trick of assists before half-time as Gundogan side-footed wide another inviting low cross into the box.
The one-way traffic continued after half-time as Hugo Lloris saved from Oleksandr Zinchenko and Bernardo Silva to keep Tottenham in the game. Yet, there was another twist as Lucas ran straight on the pitch to flick home Lamela’s corner with his head. Spurs did not manager another effort on goal as City laid seige to their goal in search of a winner.
Gabriel Jesus replaced Aguero, who was embroiled in an argument with Guardiola after leaving the field. The Argentine striker and his manager had reconciled any differences as they hugged each other in celebration when Jesus coolly slotted into the bottom corner in the 94th minute to seemingly win the game. But replays showed the ball broke to the Brazilian via the arm of Laporte and City’s ecstasy turned to agony again.