“I am in love with VAR ,” Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino said jokingly on Saturday after his side escaped with a 2-2 draw at Manchester City thanks to Gabriel Jesus’ late winner for the Premier League champions being ruled out on review.
City might bemoan their lack of luck and uninspired defending that allowed Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura to cancel out goals from Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero — with Spurs’ only two efforts on target — but there was no evidence of slipping standards since winning the first domestic treble of trophies that English soccer had ever seen last season.
“People say: ‘You can do better’ — better than this, I don’t know if it is possible,” City manager Pep Guardiola said. “We played incredible. The best game we have played in our time together, it was so good. We played good, but we could not win. If we continue to play in that way, we won’t have regrets.”
City were pushed all the way last season by a Liverpool side who recorded the third-highest points tally — with 97 — in English soccer history and, yet, still could not topple Guardiola’s side for the title.
The European champions have started the Premier League season with two wins to take an early two-point lead over the champions and are the most likely challengers to prevent City a hat-trick of titles.
However, if anything, Guardiola’s side look stronger than last season, with Kevin de Bruyne restored to full fitness, while Spanish international Rodri was slotted seamlessly into midfield.
“We have to be proud because to play at this level against a team like Tottenham is really good for the rest of the season,” said De Bruyne, who set up both City goals. “It’s always more difficult in a big game, but we almost totally dominated them.”
VAR might have ridden to Spurs’ rescue for now, but they face a long season ahead if they are to keep up with the relentless pace set by City and Liverpool.