PEP GUARDIOLA insisted there was a long way to go in the Premier League title race but conceded Manchester City had missed an opportunity following their 1-0 defeat at Tottenham while also paying tribute to Harry Kane.
Kane’s record-breaking goal in the 15th minute earned Spurs a third win from their last four matches against the Premier League champions, who could have closed the gap on leaders Arsenal to two points.
It proved to be Kane’s day with his scuffed first-half finish moving him beyond Jimmy Greaves’ tally and putting him alone as Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer with 267 goals to make both sides of north London happy.
Guardiola admitted: “Yes, of course, Arsenal have dropped few, few points so far and of course there was an opportunity.
“It was important to be close and leave the fifth in the table that Tottenham is right now far away, to secure the qualification for the Champions League next season that is important for many reasons.
“The team started really, really well with many, many things, creating one or two set-piece chances, but after a mistake we did two weeks ago, today we did it again and of course you have to minimise it, but sometimes it’s not possible.
“Unfortunately it’s happened. Two weeks ago we were able to come back with a more difficult scoreline than 0-1 (to win 4-2).
“But of course the stadium and everything is completely different. There were a lot of interruptions in the second half and it was more difficult.”
City had failed to score in their previous four trips to Tottenham’s new stadium and Riyad Mahrez went closest in first-half stoppage time when his half-volley struck the crossbar.
Top goalscorer Erling Haaland struggled throughout though and even with Cristian Romero’s late red card for the hosts, Guardiola’s second-placed side failed to make the most of Arsenal losing at Everton on Saturday.
“A lot of games to play, think about Aston Villa,” he insisted when quizzed on the title race.
“Of course, I have a lot of gratitude for these players. Always I try to do my best, I don’t want to drop much but I knew it. I said many times I knew we are not the same after winning a lot. Me included, I am the first to talk about that.
“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past or the success we had. No, we have to try to do it (again). Now we are sad, tomorrow we will reflect and watch the game.
“After we are going to think about Aston Villa, that will be tough, with our people, our fans. It will be a long, long season for everyone and for ourselves and all the teams so we will try to continue.”
There was a certain irony to Kane further derailing City’s title tilt having been close to signing for Guardiola’s side in the summer of 2021.
Meanwhile, the City boss felt the ire of ex-Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino during the 2017-18 campaign when he described Tottenham as the “Harry Kane team”.
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He joked: “I’m not going to say the Harry team otherwise Pochettino will be grumpy and upset with me and I don’t want it.
“On behalf of Manchester City, I can say congratulations for this incredible milestone. He is an exceptional player.”
Spurs assistant Cristian Stellini paid tribute to “amazing” match-winner Kane and revealed boss Antonio Conte phoned his players after the match to congratulate them on the victory.
Conte is currently in Italy recovering from surgery after having his gallbladder removed on Wednesday.
“He is amazing to enjoy and to work with a player like Harry,” Stellini insisted.
“Immediately when we arrived Antonio was on the phone and he said he was really happy.
“He gave compliments to everyone and especially to Harry for the record he achieved. It was amazing, he was really happy and he gave them the day off tomorrow. They enjoy a lot this moment.”