Tottenham stellar across the board in victory at Manchester City
Tottenham launched themselves into the heart of the title fight after triumphing 2-1 away at Manchester City, moving just two points behind leaders Leicester.
While Mauricio Pochettino's side looked solid in the first half, they lacked ambition and a bit of quality in the final third, underlining the question: did they really believe they could win the domestic crown? The answer came in the second period.
Admittedly they got some luck with a controversial penalty decision, enabling Harry Kane to break the deadlock, but when City levelled with 16 minutes left, the home crowd came to life and the pressure was on.
Spurs' response showed they must now be taken very seriously as they not only weathered the storm but grabbed the winner, with substitute Erik Lamela setting up birthday boy Christian Eriksen for an invaluable 83rd-minute strike.
Tottenham have now won their last seven games in all competitions and, while they are understandably looking up the table rather than behind them, they are 10 points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United. Champions League qualification is looking increasingly likely, but that is the least of Spurs' ambitions now. They are on course for their best ever Premier League season and, on this evidence, their challenge for the top spot looks genuine.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Hugo Lloris, 7 -- Had a quiet first half behind the meanest defence in the league, but became busier as the game went on and made a key contribution in the dying seconds, touching Sergio Aguero's cross away from Nicolas Otamendi's head.
DF Kyle Walker, 7 -- Helped to keep City at bay, although he allowed Gael Clichy to accelerate outside him and deliver the low cross for City's equaliser.
DF Toby Alderweireld, 8 -- Another imperious display, both in the air and on the ground. City danger man Aguero had a few sights of goal but was far less effective than he has been in previous games against Tottenham.
DF Kevin Wimmer, 8 -- Passed a big test, even if he did concede his first goal in the Premier League. The Austrian reads the game well and blocked a number of crosses while passing the ball forward confidently at every opportunity. He committed a few fouls again but that is understandable and his £4.3m fee looks better value with every passing game.
DF Danny Rose, 8 -- Defended well, heroically throwing himself into the path of a thunderous Raheem Sterling volley in the first half, while getting forward and causing City problems. His crossing was below par and he hit the first man too often but, ironically, that produced Spurs' opening goal as Sterling was (harshly) adjudged to have blocked one of Rose's deliveries with his arm in the penalty area.
MF Eric Dier, 8 -- Dependably solid as ever, he positioned himself well in and around his own penalty box, making a number of key interceptions and cutting out City's attempts to pass their way into dangerous areas.
MF Mousa Dembele, 8 -- Adopted a "safety first" policy, which meant he wasn't as positive on the ball as he can be, but the Belgian was nonetheless a key figure with and without the ball and is enjoying a long run of consistent and important performances.
MF Heung-Min Son, 7 -- Got on the ball as often as possible in the first half and worked hard, while seeing a goal from a narrow disallowed for offside.
MF Dele Alli, 7 -- Epitomised Tottenham's work-rate, even running 40 yards to put pressure on City goalkeeper Joe Hart, but had few opportunities to show his class in the final third.
MF Christian Eriksen, 8 -- Scored the winning goal with a good run, a fine first touch and a cool finish past Hart on his 24th birthday. The Dane has now scored three goals and set up another two in his last five Premier League games and looks set to be a key man in the run-in.
FW Harry Kane, 8 -- Like Alli, he put the hard yards in without a great deal of reward in terms of goal-scoring opportunities. However, he shrugged off the pressure and Hart's mind games to score his penalty, registering for the 18th time in 22 games for his club, and went close with a long-range volley near the end.
MF Tom Carroll, NR -- Replaced Son after 72 minutes, giving the visitors some fresh legs in midfield.
MF Erik Lamela, NR -- Came on in place of Alli with nine minutes left and promptly set up Eriksen's winner with a driving run and a neat through ball between Otamendi's legs.
MF Nacer Chadli, NR -- Replaced Kane for the final moments as Spurs sought to run down the clock.
Ben covers Spurs for Ham & High, the local weekly newspaper for Hampstead and Highgate, and the Hackney Gazette. Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.