BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 16TH MAY, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) MANCHESTER CITY 1 (0)
Keane (pen), 86
Attendance: - 36,000
Referee: - Mark Halsey
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate (sub Hutton, 46), King, Ekotto; Modric, Jenas (sub Zokora, 65), Huddlestone, Keane (Capt.); Defoe, Pavlyuchenko (sub Campbell, 74)
Subs not used: - Cudicini; Bale, Chimbonda; Bentley
Man City (4-5-1):- Given; Richards, Dunne (Capt.), Onuoha, Bridge; Elano (sub Zabaleta, 31), Kompany, de Jong, Ireland, Petrov (sub Bojinov, 60); Caicedo (sub Benjani, 60)
Subs not used: - Hart; Glauber, Fernandes, Sturridge
Booked: - Zabaleta (foul on Ekotto, 42 mins)
It’s the same old score!
For the seventh consecutive Premier League meeting between these two teams the score finished 2-1, and for the sixth of those seven matches, Spurs were the winners. Spurs have won 9 out of their last 10 league games against City and 10 out of 11 games including last season’s Carling Cup match at Eastlands. City really are one of our favourite opponents, as we have now culled 55 Premier League points from 24 matches.
Spurs ultimately made heavy weather of their tenth home league win of the season, gained through a late penalty put away by Robbie Keane after substitute Fraizer Campbell had been hauled down by Micah Richards. In doing so, despite the lack of a clean sheet, Spurs are confirmed as having the best home defensive record in terms of goals against, with just 10 conceded all season, which beats their record of 1919-20.
With Aaron Lennon once again absent due to a groin injury, the Spurs line-up was awaited keenly, and when announced looked like being an exciting 4-3-3, with Keane, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko all starting. It turned out somewhat differently though with a strange 4-4-2 featuring Luka Modric on the right side in an unfamiliar slot, and Robbie Keane playing down the left side. City started with Caicedo alone up front, but supported by Martin Petrov down the left and nominally Elano on the right. I say nominally, because Elano suffered the apparent indignity of a first half substitution after Spurs took the lead in favour of Zabaleta.
Spurs started very brightly and it was almost one way traffic with the exception of breakaway attacks by the visitors. After a first minute corner, Modric fed Defoe who had the ball in the net but was ruled offside. Corluka and Modric combined quite well in this half, with the full back often taking responsibility for getting to the bye line. An early pass inside to Modric was put in by the little Croatian dynamo but cleared. Then Defoe received a good ball at the back post and had his shot well saved by Shay Given, who was very active in the first half.
After 4 minutes, Jonathan Woodgate headed a corner over the bar. The next Spurs chance of note came after 13 minutes when Jenas played a good ball to Pavlyuchenko who made his best contribution of the day with a hard low shot to the left of Given, which was well saved and cleared. Huddlestone had been picking out some good passes and after one of his corners, Ledley King had a chance to score but fired over the target. After another Huddlestone free kick was cleared Caicedo won a rare battle with Ekotto to race away and feed Petrov who spurned his opportunity. Modric sent Corluka away down the right with a beautiful pass, and the full-back’s cross was cleared.
Spurs’ goal was well deserved and well created in the 29th minute. Jenas (who has been in good form recently) passed to Huddlestone on his right. Huddlestone turned and fired in a strong cross which Defoe turned in from inside the area at the near post for his first goal since coming back from injury. Spurs maintained the pressure and Ekotto’s cross reached Keane who involuntarily hit the ball wide. Huddlestone made a good run down the left side with Keane tracking him inside. Huddlestone chipped the ball to Keane who did not get full strength on his shot which Given saved.
Zabaleta got an early yellow card after replacing Elano, following two quick fouls on Ekotto at either end of the pitch. After 44 minutes a linesman fell down near the Park Lane end and got no sympathy, but a chant of “Are you Drogba in disguise!” In added time Huddlestone received a pass from Modric and hit a good low hard shot which that man Given saved.
After the break, Woodgate was replaced by Hutton. I assume this was tactical, with the pace of Hutton offering Spurs more of an outlet. Corluka moved inside next to Ledley King. Ledley gave his usual competent performance, with no hint of being affected b the recent publicity.
City were allowed to come at Spurs more in this half. After all, they did need the win to keep themselves in the hunt for Europe, and the news that Fulham were ahead at St. James’ Park was not good for either team’s aspirations. Caicedo had a speculative effort held by Gomes, and after another Ekotto error, Caicedo got another shot on goal from 25 yards, hitting it wide across Gomes. Jenas had a chance from distance which Given held, and then Mark Hughes changed his formation with Caicedo and Petrov replaced by Benjani and Bojinov, both of whom played up front.
It was Richard Dunne who had the next chance for City though, following a corner which Gomes could only flap on. Dunne hit a rising shot well over the bar. City soon drew level though, and it came as no surprise when the ball was worked in from the right and Bojinov had space to pick his spot wide of Gomes.
Jenas was replaced by Zokora who made some trademark runs, but got nowhere near goal. Ekotto put in a great cross from the left but Pavlyuchenko fired outside the goal from the back post. Pavlyuchenko then received a ball from Hutton and fired wide, with the offside flag raised against him anyway. The Russian was then replaced by Campbell, making a welcome appearance – his first for Spurs since the UEFA Cup in February.
Gomes could only parry a shot by Bojinov, but the ball was cleared and Spurs had their first corner of the half in the 79th minute. Campbell headed back a long ball by Hutton into Modric’s path. Modric hit a good shot just outside the post. Campbell then won a penalty as he was adjudged to have been fouled by Micah Richards as Defoe crossed from the right. Keane planted the penalty confidently to the left of Given. Three players joined Keane in a “baby cuddling” celebration in front of the lower north-east tier, clearly directed at somebody’s guest.
City had a good chance when a corner from the right was headed on and Benjani headed over with the goal beckoning. Spurs might have extended their lead in added time after sterling work by Modric who got to the bye-line on the left and crossed to Defoe who battled his way to a shooting position, firing just wide.
It was a bad day for City fans, with United securing the title with their 0-0 against Arsenal. City’s failure to qualify for Europe will leave the rich Arab owners wondering what to do in the summer, and any players they approach seriously considering whether they want to play there.
As for Spurs, they do remain in the hunt for Europe, but Fulham are two points ahead, with a home game against Everton next week, while we try and get a result at Anfield. Mind you, I predicted on transfer deadline day that Robbie Keane would score our winner up there, so you never know. Whatever happens it is fantastic to think that we have 51 points at the end of what has been a traumatic season. We can party at Anfield, whereas fans in the north-east have to sweat it out on an exciting last day.
There was the usual parade after the game, preceded by the presentation of the Spurs Trust’s breakthrough award to Jonathan Obika, whilst Aaron Lennon got the player of the year award. More awards are to be presented this morning with Harry Redknapp doing a Q & A session, whilst the under-18s have a crunch play-off final game against Arsenal this afternoon to decide who are the Premier League Academy Champions for 2008-09.
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