MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City cut Arsenal’s lead at the top of the Premier League to five points with a come-from-behind 4-2 win against Tottenham on Thursday.
Just when the defending champion’s title defense looked in danger of suffering a latest blow — trailing 2-0 at halftime and being jeered by their own fans — goals from Julian Alvarez, Erling Haaland and two from Riyadh Mahrez settled a thrilling clash at the Etihad Stadium.
After the derby loss to Manchester United last weekend, City watched Arsenal open up an eight-point advantage at the top of the standings and risked losing further ground as Tottenham raced into a commanding first-half lead through goals from Dejan Kulusevski and Emerson Royal.
But a rousing fightback after the break saw City score three times in 12 minutes.
Mahrez had put the home team ahead in the 63rd minute and he killed off any chance of a late twist when breaking away to score again in the 90th.
City plays Wolverhampton on Sunday and can move to within two points of Arsenal before the Londoners host United at Emirates Stadium later that day.
The win ends a concerning run of results that have raised questions over City’s ability to keep pace with Arsenal.
By the exceptionally high standards set by City manager Pep Guardiola, back-to-back losses to Southampton in the League Cup and United in the league represented a slump.
Haaland’s mini-drought of three games without a goal was also noteworthy and even prompted debate over whether the Norwegian should be dropped, despite scoring 27 in 23 appearances going into the game.
If such talk felt like an overreaction, Guardiola was sufficiently concerned about his team’s form that he made a host of changes.
Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo were all dropped to the bench.
Tottenham had its own issues leading up to the match after dropping out of the top four in recent weeks.
Manager Antonio Conte had faced uncomfortable questions about his team’s performances, with angry fans voicing their displeasure on Thursday by chanting for chairman Daniel Levy to leave the club.
They were celebrating, however, when Kulusevski fired Tottenham ahead in the 44th minute.
Rodrigo Bentancur pounced on a weak pass from City goalkeeper Ederson to Rodri on the edge of the box, and the ball broke to Kulusevski to fire home.
It was 2-0 in first-half stoppage time when Harry Kane’s effort was parried into the path of Emerson to head over the line and prompt boos from the home crowd as City headed off the field at the break.
City’s title challenge was looking increasingly vulnerable, but the game was completely turned around in the second half.
Alvarez made it 2-1 in the 51st with a clinical strike – and Haaland evened the score with a close-range header two minutes later to take his season’s overall total to 28.
Spurs’ players were stunned, but could have retaken the lead when Ivan Perisic’s goalbound effort was pushed onto the woodwork by Ederson.
With the game opening up it was City who took the lead in the 63rd.
Perisic was pulled out of position when failing to win the ball in a challenge with Mahrez that gave the winger chance to run toward goal.
Mahrez then unleashed a powerful, low drive that beat Hugo Lloris at his near post.
Tottenham pushed for an equalizer, but it was City who put the result beyond doubt when Mahrez raced away on the break and beat Lloris again.
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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson