WHAT did Pep Guardiola say to his team at half time to inspire this sensational comeback?

Maybe it was “lads – it’s Tottenham” as Alex Ferguson once famously said across town at Old Trafford.

Riyad Mahrez provided the magic for Man City to keep their title hopes alive

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Riyad Mahrez provided the magic for Man City to keep their title hopes aliveCredit: Reuters
Erling Haaland got back on the scoresheet after a two game drought

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Erling Haaland got back on the scoresheet after a two game droughtCredit: Getty
Here's how the game played out according to the numbers
Here’s how the game played out according to the numbers

Whatever it was, it breathed new life into Manchester City’s title challenge – just as they looked to be out for the count.

City were two goals down and Guardiola was facing the prospect of losing three games in a row for only the third time in his managerial career.

Yet in 12 crazy minutes, they struck three times with Riyad Mahrez at the heart of all three of them.

Erling Haaland’s 333 minute ‘goal drought’ is over too – after he headed home the equaliser.

All in all it was a clear message to Arsenal that the champions are not giving up their crown without a fight.

As the gleeful Etihad faithful sang at the end – That’s why they’re champions.

Guardiola took a major gamble in his bid to get his team firing again after back-to-back losses to Southampton and Manchester United.

He left out Kevin de Bruyne – for so long the team’s talisman – as the Belgian took his place among a host of star names on the bench.

City had won only one of their last six league meetings with Spurs but began brightly enough.

A trademark move ended with Jack Grealish pulling a ball back for Julian Alvarez – whose shot was well blocked by Eric Dier.

And Cristian Romero – who had already been booked – had to time his last ditch tackle on Grealish perfectly as he chased a ball from Rico Lewis – and fortunately he did.

City had been making most of the running but a warning came when a Ben Davies cross was met by Son Heung-Min but the Korean’s header did not have the pace to beat Ederson.

Most of the action was at the other end as a shot from Lewis clipped the heels of Son and forced a smart save out of Hugo Lloris.

A sweeping pass from Nathan Ake sent Haaland clear but for once he did not look convincing and Lloris did well to narrow the angle.

Then another chance came his way when Rodri clipped a ball into the middle but the former Borussia Dortmund forward could not keep his header down.

It was shaping up to be another below par first half show from Spurs when the game turned in their favour right on half-time and it was all of City’s own making.

Dejan Kulusevski had given Spurs a shock lead at the Etihad

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Dejan Kulusevski had given Spurs a shock lead at the EtihadCredit: EPA
But a superb Mahrez performance ensured Tottenham left with nothing
But a superb Mahrez performance ensured Tottenham left with nothing
Mahrez rounded out the match with a superb chip

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Mahrez rounded out the match with a superb chipCredit: EPA

Ederson rolled out a classic ‘hospital pass’ to Rodri on the edge of his own box and the Spaniard was beaten to it by Rodrigo Bentancur.

He rolled it into the path of Dejan Kulusevski who had time to compose himself and roll the ball home.

The Swede scored here last year too and will not get many easier ones than that.

Guardiola was on his knees in the technical area and could barely believe his eyes – yet somehow it got worse for his team.

Harry Kane somehow wriggled past Rodri on the right hand side and thumped in a cross shot which Ederson could only parry.

It landed perfectly on the head of Emerson Royal who nodded into the empty net with the minimum of fuss.

The Etihad was stunned and City were booed off seconds later when the half-time whistle blew – that’s not happened very often in recent years.

You can only imagine some choice words were said in the dressing room at half-time as City were a different proposition after the break.

Within seven minutes they were back in it as Mahrez stood up a cross in the direction of Grealish and the home side failed to clear.

It dropped nicely for Alvarez who steered the ball home for his first goal since he became a World Cup winner.

Mahrez and Co celebrate during their comeback against Spurs

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Mahrez and Co celebrate during their comeback against SpursCredit: Reuters
Rodri was at the heart of City's engine room throughout
Rodri was at the heart of City’s engine room throughout
Spurs enjoyed flashes of dominance but were ultimately second best
Spurs enjoyed flashes of dominance but were ultimately second best

It was very much game on and two minutes later it was all square.

Rodri lifted a pass into the area and Mahrez headed back across goal for Haaland to nod in number 28 of this remarkable first season in English football.

Spurs could have gone under but credit to them for hanging in there.

They could have gone back in front too as Kulusevski’s low cross found Ivan Perisic at the back post but Lewis got a block in and somehow deflected it onto the post.

What a game the youngster was having.

And what a moment that turned out to be as just after the hour, City had completed the turnaround.

Rodri sprayed a pass out to Mahrez on the right and he turned brilliantly past Perisic.

The Algerian weaved in fired a low shot which took a nick off Davies before beating Lloris at his near post.

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He wasn’t finished there either as he got on the end of a long punt by Ederson and burst clear before clipping deftly over Lloris.

Could this be the moment we all look back on when the trophies are handed out in May?



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