BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 5TH MAY, 2010
MANCHESTER CITY 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Referee:- Steve Bennett
Assistants:- Mr. J. Collin & Mr. M. Yerby
Fourth Official:- Mr. L. Probert
Man City (4-4-2):- Fulop; Zabaleta, Toure (Capt.), Kompany, Bridge; Johnson (sub Wright-Phillips, 71), De Jong, Barry (sub Vieira, 57), Bellamy (sub Santa Cruz, 84); Adebayor, Tevez
Subs not used:- Nielsen; Richards, Onuoha, Sylvinho
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Kaboul, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon (sub Bentley, 71), Huddlestone, Modric (sub Palacios, 88), Bale; Defoe (sub Pavlyuchenko, 81), Crouch
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Bassong; Jenas; Gudjohnsen
Booked:- Kaboul, Huddlestone, Ekotto
Their Finest Hour (and a half)
Spurs finally broke down the doors to The Champions League with a truly accomplished performance and a thoroughly deserved win at the home of the wealthiest club in the league, if not the world. A banner around one of the Eastlands stands read “Manchester thanks Sheik Mansour”. Well you blue mooners, you can have all the money in the world, but I am proud to be the supporter of a club that has a firm business structure and that has grafted its way into the Champions League in front of you! Let me say at the outset God Bless Harry Redknapp, who has done what no other Spurs manager has before. God Bless our team who played out of their skins last night, and in such a high pressure situation also managed to produce some excellent football. And yes, God Bless Daniel Levy the chairman who is entitled to wear that broad smile for a long time yet!
The great news before the game was that about the team, which was a great attacking selection by Redknapp, and which included those key players Heurelho Gomes and Ledley King, both of whom were massive for us. Ledley got the Sky man of the match vote, but there were 14 Spurs men of the match in truth, and I commend them all. So it was to be both Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the wings, with Harry’s favoured strike partnership of Crouch and Defoe, and Huddlestone and Modric in the middle where they would face not so much grit as in some games, but plenty of style and flair in the shape of Gareth Barry and De Jong. It would have been nice for Vedran Corluka to have got a game at his old stomping ground, but there was Younes Kaboul with yet another great performance at right back, and ultimately the assist for Spurs’ winning goal. There is still that lingering doubt in my mind about what we might have achieved at Old Trafford had Harry selected Kaboul there.
City too were fielding a strong line-up. Former gooners Toure and Adebayor were clearly well fired up to put Spurs to the sword, with Toure making many attacking advances, and indeed an attempt or two on Gomes’ goal. Adebayor was lively but mastered by Dawson and King, and City’s men perhaps tired in the second half, when Spurs became more and more commanding, creating plenty of opportunities. Tevez was their main danger man for me, working deeper behind Adebayor, twisting and turning, passing defenders, and threatening the Spurs goal.
The atmosphere at Eastlands was cranked up more than I have ever known. There was a full house, and either a live tenor singing “Nessun Dorma” or a recording being played. It looked as if the singer was in the middle wearing the Mancini scarf. The announcer tried to suggest that the song meant “We will win” (it’s None shall sleep), and I must admit that I was inspired to sing more than ever before and led the singing of “We will win” Manchester City “Legends” (What?) Noel Whelan and Paul Dickov were also introduced to the crowd.
There was adventure by both teams from the outset, and it was always going to be a mouth-watering game. City nearly struck first when Bellamy passed inside from his left flank to Gareth Barry whose near post shot passed wide. Spurs went on the attack, but after 6 minutes, Tevez made an exciting run out of his own half on one of those mazy runs, which Spurs did well to defend. Ekotto did some vital work to make it hard for Tevez, and Gomes made the final clearance on this occasion. Two minutes later Tevez was breaking into the box through two defenders again, but Dawson blocked this time for a corner. The referee had “words” with Ekotto and Johnson minutes later.
Wayne Bridge tripped Kaboul near the right corner flag after 17 minutes, and Bale took the free kick deep to the back post where Peter Crouch’s header rebounded off the post. Then in the follow-up Bale had a shot blocked after Lennon’s low cross. After 20 minutes Lennon won a corner, taken by Bale and headed in by Ledley King. Unfortunately the referee decided Ledley had been climbing on Gareth Barry. Ledley made a vital block at the other end after Bellamy fed Tevez and Modric had been slow to react. After a City corner Gomes was down well to a decent shot by Adam Johnson. City were looking dangerous again, although I thought I spotted a City handball in their build-up, but Toure headed over from a corner.
Gareth Bale had a great chance to score after 38 minutes, when Crouch headed down a Lennon cross, but Gareth fired wide leading to relieved hoots of derision by the City crowd. Gomes made another save from a Toure header after a corner, and then with two minutes to go in the first half, City broke after a Spurs attack. Barry fed Tevez, but Ledley did enough to make the angle difficult enough so that Tevez fired into the back of the side netting. Spurs went into half-time on level terms, and the pressure was only building upon the home team who had to win to take the favourite’s mantle off of Spurs.
Mancini appeared on his own before any of his team, and I wondered who was delivering the team talk. Maybe Mancini’s mastery of the English language is not good enough for these situations, and one of his hench-men does the tub thumping in the dressing room.
City had the first chance of the half after Johnson crossed deep from the right and Barry sent the ball back into the Spurs 6 yard box. Awesome Dawson stuck a leg out and cleared! Emergency loan keeper Marton Fulop can be proud of his performance against his old team, with a number of crucial saves. The first of these came from an excellent left footed shot by Defoe after good play by Ekotto and Bale on the left. Ekotto and Bale’s second half performance was a joy to watch quite honestly. Benoit is clearly our best left back, and I remember one clearance where he made a cocky back-heel to Bale who was waiting to fly away in his cheeky red boots. It’s dangerous at times, but when it works, it’s just fantastic to watch!
Barry got an injury and was replaced by another famous ex-gooner, with whom Harry Redknapp had flirted last summer – Patrick Vieira. Vieira was to have little impact on this game, and to be honest from this point on, I felt that the home side were flagging and Spurs became more and more dominant. City did have a header over the target after a 61st minute corner, and Spurs started to take one or two bookings for their tenacity. Modric got stronger and more effective once again as the game progressed, confirming his stamina and tireless desire for success. He looked unlucky not to get a foul when poised to shoot on the edge of the box. Bale and Ekotto forged a great chance for Spurs after 70 minutes, when Ekotto’s final pass went just in front of both Defoe and Crouch.
Aaron Lennon had tired and was replaced by David Bentley. Lennon clearly has a way to go yet to regain full match fitness, but will surely go to South Africa with England. Bentley played a full part in Spurs continuing domination of possession and control of the game. Mancini slung on Shaun Wright-Phillips in place of Johnson to try and up the ante, but it was Spurs who had the better chances now. Huddlestone and Modric made great passes under pressure in the middle to feed the ball out to Bale on the left flank. Bale crossed and Crouch’s header was straight down to Fulop who made a good save.
Pavlyuchenko replaced Defoe and within minutes Crouch had redeemed himself with a superb winner for Spurs. Ekotto and Bale started the charge down the left flank and Bale’s deep cross was picked up by Kaboul on the opposite flank. Kaboul took the ball past Bridge and hit a cross shot, which Fulop parried but Crouch met with a header into the City net in front of two tiers of joyful Spurs fans!
City couldn’t find a response, and unbelievably their fans started to slope out of the ground when just a goal would have kept their boys in the chase for fourth place. The City seats became more and more vacant as we entered added time and Spurs might have made it two after Pavlyuchenko fed Crouch, who returned the ball for Pav to try a right footed shot across Fulop, who made yet another good save.
The final whistle blew with the ball in City’s half, and Spurs’ joy was unconfined from players, staff and fans alike. We fans have followed our team up and down the country and across Europe in recent years through thick and thin. We’ve witnessed some dismal performances and result in far flung northern places, so this result was thoroughly deserved for US. The result was thoroughly deserved for this team too, and the management. I noticed on TV replays that a certain Craig Bellamy made a point of graciously congratulating Harry Redknapp. Maybe that was an overture for next season!
Spurs fans were held in the ground and the surrounds for a considerable time, but we didn’t mind as we sang, danced and hugged and kissed. It was great to see Graham Roberts amongst the ordinary fans too. Despite the massive police operation, one or two Spurs fans took one on the chin from disgruntled City fans lurking away from the police cordons, but nothing could take away the wondrous feeling of winning, entering the Champions League, and being there!
(Trivia – I noticed that one of the assistant referees was Martin Yerby, who often used to referee our reserve matches at Stevenage, and who was also on the line for another recent Spurs success, against Chelsea at Wembley 2008!)
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