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15/05/24 | 10:23 am

Haaland’s double strike pushes Man City closer to Premier League crown

Erling Haaland‘s double put Manchester City within touching distance of an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title as they beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 away on Tuesday.

The Norwegian tapped home his side’s opener early in the second half and settled City’s nerves in stoppage time when he blasted home a penalty for his 27th league goal of the season.

City had failed to earn a point or score a goal in their first four league visits to Tottenham’s new stadium but ended that jinx in timely fashion to the joy of their supporters.

Pep Guardiola’s City have 88 points to Arsenal’s 86 and will be guaranteed to become the first side to win four English titles in a row if they beat West Ham United at home on Sunday when Arsenal must beat Everton and hope for the best.

It was far from a vintage City performance and they were indebted to a couple of crucial saves by substitute keeper Stefan Ortega in the second half — one to deny Son Heung-min shortly before Haaland‘s penalty made sure his side kept their destiny in their own hands.

“Today was incredible, the character. We know it wasn’t the best game but we must talk about the substitutions,” City midfielder Rodri said. “Stefan Ortega was simply incredible and we have the best goalkeeper in the world.

“We know it’s not done yet. We need the people behind us.”

The loss ended Tottenham’s slim hopes of finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League, although it was a result apparently welcomed by some sections of their fans who were loath to see their team avoid defeat and offer up a huge title gift to arch-rivals Arsenal.

Some Tottenham fans even indulged in the Poznan, which is a trademark of City’s fans, while chants of “Are You Watching Arsenal” echoed around the stadium in the latter stages.

City are now unbeaten in 22 league games and have again showed they are the masters of pacing a title chase — relentlessly hunting down Arsenal who have proved far more resilient than they did in last season’s duel with City.

It was strange, therefore, to witness City’s lethargic first-half display, although the muted atmosphere in the stadium hardly helped the end-of-season feel.

Tottenham began brightly and gave City an early reminder that they would not be handing out any gifts when Ederson, who was later forced off after a blow to the head, had to tip Rodrigo Bentancur’s fierce rising drive over the crossbar.

With City stuck in second gear their best chance before the interval was courtesy of a horrible sliced clearance by Spurs midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg that dropped for Phil Foden but his volley was superbly saved by Guglielmo Vicario.

Such was the tepid nature of the first half that for the first time this season in the Premier League there was no stoppage time added at the end of the opening 45 minutes.

City might have begun to fear that their Tottenham curse was striking again when Kevin De Bruyne’s rasping shot was superbly saved by Vicario just after the interval but they could finally breathe a sigh of relief soon afterwards.

De Bruyne was just onside as he was played in on the right side of the area and his low pass was tapped in by Haaland.

Still City looked edgy and Ortega had to save a close-range effort by Dejan Kulusevski with his legs but his best moment came later as a mistake let in Son Heung-min.

As the South Korean bore down on goal, Arsenal’s title hopes looked about to be resurrected but Ortega made the save and Guardiola fell to the ground in relief.

When substitute Jeremy Doku was fouled in the area by Pedro Porro and Haaland rammed home his penalty, the away fans could finally relax as a sixth title in seven years loomed large.

“We have to win one more game to win the title,” Guardiola said. “Ortega saved us otherwise Arsenal would be champions.”

(Reuters)

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