Spurs snatch late winner, City closes gap
Harry Winks's first goal since 2016 handed Tottenham a last gasp 2-1 victory at Fulham on Sunday, but at a cost with Dele Alli joining a lengthy injury list for Mauricio Pochettino's men.
Already shorn of Harry Kane until March with ankle ligament damage and Son Heung-min away at the Asian Cup with South Korea, Alli's absence for a packed few weeks ahead is another huge blow to Tottenham's challenge in four competitions.
However, Spurs remain in third in the Premier League and can at least can now count on a seven-point cushion over fifth-placed Arsenal and Manchester United in the race for a top-four finish.
Tottenham travel to Chelsea for the second leg of their League Cup semi-final on Thursday holding a slender 1-0 lead, and face Crystal Palace in the fourth round of the FA Cup next weekend.
Kane and Alli are also unlikely to be fit in time to face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on February 13.
"It's not a worry, it's a massive opportunity for other players to play," insisted the ever-optimistic Pochettino.
"Of course without Kane and now Alli it's not going to be easy. But we have to go there (to Chelsea), try to win and get to the final."
Fulham on the other hand are now seven points off safety and look set to return to the Championship after just one season back in the top flight.
But boss Claudio Ranieri still believes a great escape is possible if his side can match the levels they reached in a first-half display that should have yielded more than a 1-0 lead at the break.
"We are alive, we continue to fight," said Ranieri.
"The team showed a fantastic performance. I can say only 'well done', but stay smart until the end.
"I'm positive because when you play this kind of football, this kind of performance you must believe."
After splashing over £100 million in transfer fees to little success in the summer, Fulham added Dutch international Ryan Babel till to the end of the season from Besiktas on Tuesday.
The former Liverpool winger's pace and strength made an instant impact against an unsettled Spurs defence as Pochettino switched to a back three.
Babel brushed aside Davinson Sanchez for the first big chance, but Hugo Lloris made the first of a series of fine saves to bail out the visitors.
Fulham's bright start was rewarded 17 minutes in, courtesy of a stray Tottenham leg, as Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, starting for the first time in the league this season in Kane's absence, miscued a Jean Michael Serri corner into his own net.
Babel then headed over from close range before Lloris produced an incredible stop to parry Andre Schurrle's volley.
Aleksandar Mitrovic headed home the rebound, but the offside flag was raised against the Serbian striker.
As so often this season, those wasted opportunities allied to some slack defending cost Ranieri's men.
Spurs were level soon after the break as Christian Eriksen's dinked cross to the back post picked out Alli to power home a header.
The visitors were dealt a body blow when Alli limped off four minutes from time and Georges-Kevin N'Koudou handed just his second appearance of the season given Spurs' stretched resources.
However, the French substitute was to have a telling impact when his wicked swinging cross was met by perfectly Winks's burst into the box and bullet header at the back post.
"It has been too long [since I last scored]," said Winks.
"The manager told us to believing, keep playing, he changed a couple of things tactically to get us higher up the pitch and it worked out for us in the end."
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was far from satisfied despite a 3-0 win away to Huddersfield Town on Sunday that saw his side cut Liverpool's lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
Liverpool's compelling 4-3 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday heaped huge pressure back onto reigning champions City but they were rarely troubled by a Town side that look a certain bet for relegation this season.
City's first goal, a deflected strike for Danilo in the 18th minute, brought up their 100th goal of the season in all competitions before Raheem Sterling scored a diving header from Leroy Sane's cross in the 54th minute and Sane himself made it 3-0 with a calm finish just two minutes later.
For Guardiola, it should have been an afternoon of enjoyment as his side again proved their willingness to push Liverpool all the way this season.
The City manager, however, has forged a footballing reputation based on sublime performances as well as ruthless goalscoring and, on that basis, his team's showing in West Yorkshire was not a success as the visitors never really clicked into gear on a day against a Huddersfield side who had parted company with manager David Wagner on Monday.
"During the season you have these kind of games," Guardiola said.
"It is important to win. We have scored many goals in all competitions.
"(But) the way we played, we didn't deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future.
"We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it's difficult.
"Today we are happy we have won but after immediately we have to analyse. During the season you have games when maybe you are not in the top level and it is important to win these games."
Although City's fans were happier than their manager following this result, Guardiola could at least take some heart from the fact his side again refused to blink first in the race for the title.
For the second consecutive week, City kicked off knowing Liverpool had already won their weekend fixture and that, consequently, the onus was back on his players to secure three points as well.
Once again, Guardiola's side managed to do that following up the 3-0 victory over Wolves with this showing and the City manager was more than happy to remind everybody that silverware is not handed out for another four months.
"One team has been better but we're in January and there's many more games to play," he added.
"You don't win or lose the Premier League in January. We have to focus on what we have to do. If Liverpool win, we have to win. And if Liverpool lose then we also have to win."
This match was a baptism of fire for Huddersfield's caretaker boss Mark Hudson and while the Terriers showed impressive fight to inspire some hope this season, this defeat still left them 10 points adrift of safety.
If, as expected, the Borussia Dortmund Under-23 coach Jan Siewert is appointed as Wagner's permanent replacement, nobody would blame him if he spent his first day in the job preparing for a return to the second-tier Championship next season.
"It's been a long week," admitted Hudson.