Forget Haaland and Foden - this Man City star might just have one them the Premier League title

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The defending champions beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 on Tuesday

‘What a grumpy goose’; the succinct assessment from my girlfriend - in the room but not exactly present - as Ederson, shiner brewing and fuzzy skull elsewhere, skulked from the pitch at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Tuesday evening. You can’t teach analysis like that. Gary Neville, eat your heart out.

For what it’s worth, she wasn’t wrong. The Manchester City goalkeeper cut a disgruntled figure as he saw his number held aloft, boxy and red, for a fourth time this season after having taken the full, clattering force of Cristian Romero’s hip to his eye socket. (In truth, it is absurd that he was allowed to remain on the pitch at all in the aftermath of the nauseating collision, but perhaps that is a conversation for another column.)

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Neither Ederson nor City writ large had anything to worry about, though - except, perhaps, the lingering grogginess of a mild concussion. In the Brazilian’s place, Pep Guardiola introduced Stefan Ortega; half an hour later, the understudy had been awarded Man of the Match, and may well have won City a fourth consecutive Premier League title.

The qualities of a good deputy goalkeeper are wispy and hard to nail down; a number two should be capable when called upon, but not so capable that they disrupt the equilibrium of a dressing room. They exist in a permanent limbo, a grey area incarnate, trusted but not trusted quite enough, stultifyingly inactive until, suddenly, they are not.

It is a measure of Ortega’s pedigree that he was able to step into the breach so seamlessly against Spurs and produce a series of saves that ultimately proved to be instrumental in City securing all three points in the most pivotal game of their season. First, there was the pair of blocks to deny Dejan Kulusevski, then, as Manchester and North London held its breath in perfect unison, there was the towering shut-out of Son Heung-min as he streaked through the heart of defence unopposed and stabbed an effort goalwards. If City do go on to lift the Premier League on Sunday afternoon, it will be a moment that is forever remembered with iconic acclaim.

Of course, from back to front, City are blessed with individuals capable of deftly sculpting football matches however they see fit. The unrelenting cool of Josko Gvardiol, the casual versatility of John Stones, the unnatural pace of Kyle Walker, the monstrous ubiquity of Rodri, the creative omnipotence of Kevin de Bruyne, the whippet-like sorcery of Phil Foden, and the irrepressible predatory streak of Erling Haaland have all played significant parts in bringing Guardiola’s side to the cusp of yet another top flight coronation.

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But title races of this ilk are ultimately decided on gossamer-fine margins; slight deflections, disputable VAR interventions, goal-line clearances. Nobody watching on Tuesday evening would have expected Son to spurn his golden chance in quite the manner that he did as he scampered clear of the last defender, but Ortega, with all of his icy composure, stood firm and called his bluff.

In that instant, the pendulum swung back in City’s favour - perhaps irrecoverably so. Without Ortega, who knows if the defending champions would have won in the capital, and who knows where they would now be heading into their final fixture of the season. He may not have played as frequently as many of his teammates over the past nine months, but the German might well have just won his club the Premier League.

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