Jose downplays title credentials

But he hails evolving Spurs as striker Kane drops deep to notch ninth assist this term

Spurs midfielder Giovani lo Celso (far left) celebrating with Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn following his strike 35 seconds after coming off the bench against Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday.
Spurs midfielder Giovani lo Celso (left) celebrating with Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn following his strike 35 seconds after coming off the bench against Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho talked down his team's chances of being title contenders after a 2-0 win over Manchester City provisionally sent them to the top of the Premier League on Saturday.

Goals from Son Heung-min and substitute Giovani lo Celso ensured Spurs not only ended the day top of the table for the first time since August 2014, but also reached the summit for the first time in 35 years after at least nine top-flight games.

But Mourinho, always a manager wary of creating pressure, played down the significance of their two-point advantage over Sunday's opponents Chelsea.

"It feels good (to be top), but maybe tomorrow, we are second again and honestly, that would not be a problem for me, I am just happy with the evolution," he said.

"People cannot expect us to come here and after one season, we are fighting for the title. We are not fighting for the title, we are just fighting to win every match. But we are going to lose matches, we are going to draw matches.

"Dinner tonight will be nice and relaxed, and I will... sleep like an angel. But no problem if Leicester wins (against Liverpool) and we are second again."

The Portuguese, however, could not hide his pride at an accomplished performance from his side.

"Big team, big hearts, big solidarity, a proper team, a team that I believe makes Tottenham fans proud," he said.

"Players going to the limits of their energy, sacrifice for the game plan, coping well with let's say a new pressure of, 'If you win the match, you go top of the league for 24 hours.'"

Toby Alderweireld's injury was the only downside to the impressive victory that saw two-time Golden Boot winner Harry Kane notch his ninth assist of the league campaign - more than any other player and bettering his total in the past three terms combined by one.

The Belgium defender limped off late on, leaving Mourinho fearful of a long spell on the sidelines.

Kane, who dropped deep to draw out City's defenders for Son's opener, slipped through the final pass for lo Celso to score 35 seconds after coming off the bench.

City manager Pep Guardiola was frustrated after a tepid start to the season.

His side, who are 10th, have a negative goal difference after only 10 strikes in nine games, 17 fewer than at this stage last season.

Many had expected City to be strong contenders for the title but that has not yet materialised and their goals tally at this stage of the campaign is the lowest it has been since the 2010-11 season (nine).

"The stats speak for themselves," said Guardiola. "We were better in many departments but we didn't score. The team defended so deep and were waiting for a mistake.

"It was the perfect scenario for them. We knew Kane drops and Son runs in behind. We have to defend better.

"We found some moments but the reality is we are struggling to score goals this season. That can happen. They shot two times (on target), two goals and we cannot score with 22 shots (five on target)."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2020, with the headline 'Jose downplays title credentials'. Print Edition | Subscribe