Man City 3-3 Tottenham: Dejan Kulusevski’s 90th-minute header earns Spurs a point in Etihad thriller after Jack Grealish looked to have won it… but late referee call leaves champions FUMING

Six goals was not unexpected. In fact, it might even have been considered a modest return from two of the great entertainers of the Premier League. The distribution of the spoils, however, was a surprise. We had come expecting a football massacre. What we got was thrilling parity.

What we got was a Spurs team that had lost three games in succession and who were without ten injured players and yet showed a resilience and a determination that many thought was not in their armoury. They came back twice to stop the bleeding and secured a 3-3 draw that left them in fifth place.

But for the third league game in succession, City drew a match they should have won. Yes, it was a classic. Yes, it was brilliant to watch. But they have tossed away six points in the last three weeks and, after leading the league at a canter, they now sit third behind Arsenal and Liverpool.

Several of their players left in a fury, partly at their own failure to secure victory and partly because of their dismay at referee Simon Hooper, who pulled play back for a foul on Erling Haaland in the dying minutes even though Jack Grealish was clean through on goal.

The referee had waved play on initially, playing the advantage, before blowing his whistle as Grealish burst forward and the linesman appeared to wave his flag for offside. Replays showed Grealish was not offside. It was a contentious end to another magnificent Premier League match.

Tottenham secured a point against Man City on Sunday evening with the game ending 3-3

Tottenham secured a point against Man City on Sunday evening with the game ending 3-3

Son Heung-min opened the scoring the sixth minute of the game to shock Manchester City

Son Heung-min opened the scoring the sixth minute of the game to shock Manchester City

Son and his Tottenham team-mates were delighted to go 1-0 up but their lead didn't last long

Son and his Tottenham team-mates were delighted to go 1-0 up but their lead didn’t last long

Few had expected Spurs to salvage anything from this encounter before kick-off. Since their chaotic 4-1 home defeat to Chelsea on November 6, when they had two men sent off and lost two more to significant injuries, Ange Postecoglou’s side had lost twice more to Wolves and Aston Villa.

With Postecoglou vowing to persist with his attacking style, many envisaged a glut of City goals. Instead, the home fans got a nasty surprise. Spurs did stay true to Postecoglou’s principles but they played smart, too, and they got their rewards.

In a time before Big Ange, with a more counter-attacking style, Spurs had become masters at soaking up pressure at City and hitting them on the break, usually involving a combination of Son Heung-min and Harry Kane.

Kane has gone but Son has not lost the knack. Six minutes in, with City already dominating, Guglielmo Vicario punched a City corner out from under his crossbar and when it fell to Bryan Gil on the edge of his own box, he found Dejan Kulusevski.

Kulusevski spun and hoisted a long ball in the direction of Son. Son was on it in a flash, nodding it past Jeremy Doku on half way and then setting off for goal. He advanced on Ederson and even though his shot was not cleanly struck, the City goalkeeper allowed it to squirm under his body. Against all expectation, Spurs were ahead.

They did not keep their lead for long. Julian Alvarez swung over a free kick from the City right, Haaland got a faint touch to it as he glanced it on and the ball cannoned off Son’s outstretched knee and flew past the flat-footed Vicario.

Manchester City equalised just three minutes later thanks to a Son own goal (pictured above)

Manchester City equalised just three minutes later thanks to a Son own goal (pictured above)

Phil Foden gave City the lead in the 31st minute to head into the break 2-1 up against Spurs

Phil Foden gave City the lead in the 31st minute to head into the break 2-1 up against Spurs

Tottenham started well after the break and Giovani Lo Celso scored a brilliant goal

Tottenham started well after the break and Giovani Lo Celso scored a brilliant goal 

Jack Grealish fired back in the 81st minute after being subbed on for injured Jeremy Doku

Jack Grealish fired back in the 81st minute after being subbed on for injured Jeremy Doku

MATCH FACTS:

Man City starting XI: Ederson, Walker (C), Akanji, Dias, Gvardiol, Rodrigo, Bernardo, Foden, Doku, Alvarez, Haaland. 

Substitutes: Kalvin Phillips, John Stones, Nathan Ake (87′), Mateo Kovacic (87′), Jack Grealish (52′), Stefan Ortega, Sergio Gomez, Oscar Bobb, Rico Lewis (73′)

Tottenham starting XI: Vicario, Udogie, Porro, Royal, Davies, Bissouma, Lo Celso, Johnson, Kulusevski, Gil, Son. 

Substitutes: Oliver Skipp (79′), Pierre Hojbjerg (s 46′), Richarlison (87′), Fraser Forster, Alejo Veliz, Brandon Austin, Jamie Donley (90′), Alfie Dorrington, Yago Alonso

It already felt as if the game might end in a cricket score. Emerson Royal gave the ball away in the Spurs box and when Bernardo Silva crossed for Erling Haaland, he had the goal at his mercy. Mortgages would have been staked on Haaland scoring. He sidefooted wide.

Spurs managed occasional forays forward. Brennan Johnson powered past Josko Gvardiol on the Spurs right, got to the goal line and tried to slide a pass into the path of Son. Ruben Dias got to it first but it seemed for an instant as if he had added a second own goal to the afternoon’s entertainment. To his relief, the ball flew just wide.

Doku hammered a right foot shot against the underside of the bar, Alvarez hit the foot of the post and in between, a blur of City passes inside the Spurs box freed Foden six yard out. He took a touch and sidefooted it nonchalantly past Vicario to put City ahead.

City nearly went further ahead seconds after the interval when Vicario gave the ball away to Bernardo. Vicario redeemed himself when Bernardo curled his shot, with the outside of his left boot, towards the top corner and the goalkeeper flung himself to his left to push it round the post.

For the next 20 minutes, City probed and pressed and pinned Spurs in their own half but then Ben Davies beat Haaland to a header on half way, Son picked up the loose ball and fed it to Giovani Lo Celso. Lo Celso moved forwards, stepped to his left and curled his shot goalwards. Ederson got a hand to it but could not keep it out.

Rico Lewis came on to replace Foden and nearly gave City a way back into the lead when he burst forward and Rodri played a one-two with him. Rodri took the return but hooked his shot just wide.

Manchester City thought they had done enough to win the game but Tottenham's Dejan Kulusevski flattened Nathan Ake to provide the final goal of the game in stoppage time

Manchester City thought they had done enough to win the game but Tottenham’s Dejan Kulusevski flattened Nathan Ake to provide the final goal of the game in stoppage time

The game ended in controversy after the referee blew his whistle for a foul on Erling Haaland when Jack Grealish was through on goal, after seeming initially to play advantage for the hosts

The game ended in controversy after the referee blew his whistle for a foul on Erling Haaland when Jack Grealish was through on goal, after seeming initially to play advantage for the hosts

Kyle Walker and Grealish furiously made their feelings known to the referee after the game

Kyle Walker and Grealish furiously made their feelings known to the referee after the game 

It was only a brief reprieve for Spurs. Ten minutes from time, Rodri dispossessed Yves Bissouma on the edge of the Spurs box and laid the ball out to Haaland. Haaland is not just a scorer. He is clever, too, and he saw Grealish in the middle and squared the ball into his path. Grealish forced it over the line.

Two minutes from time, Johnson escaped down the Spurs left and crossed deep to the back post. Nathan Ake was waiting to clear it but Kulusevski outjumped him and his header bounced down off the underside of the crossbar and over the line. On the touchline, Guardiola fell to the turf in despair.

Even though there only a few minutes of added time, it was the kind of game where everyone assumed there would probably be a winner. It seemed City might be about to score it when Grealish raced on to a through ball from Haaland only for Mr Hooper to blow for an earlier foul.

City were furious. They surrounded the referee and protested but the decision had been made. At the final whistle, Haaland shook hands in an exaggerated fashion with the officials and stormed off the pitch, looking as if he wanted to hit someone or something. He will have to wait until City’s next game and make goals his revenge.

IT’S ALL KICKING OFF! 

It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify.

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