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Man City v Spurs, 23.12.02

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
MONDAY 23RD DECEMBER, 2002
MANCHESTER CITY 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1)

Man City scorers:-
Howey, 29
Benarbia, 90

Spurs scorers:-
Perry, 38
Davies, 48
Poyet, 84

Attendance:- 35,563

Referee:- Jeff Winter

Teams:-
Man City (3-5-2):- Schmeichel; Dunne, Howey (Capt), Distin; Jihai Sun (sub Benarbia, 57), Foe, Berkovic, Horlock, Tiatto; Anelka, Goater (sub Huckerby, 84)

Subs not used:- Nash; Jensen, Wiekens

Booked:- Tiatto, Foe

Spurs (3-5-2):- Keller; Perry, Richards (Capt), King; Carr, Davies, Anderton, Freund, Ziege; Iversen (sub Poyet, 70), Keane

Subs not used:- Sullivan; Bunjevcevic, Thatcher; Clemence

Booked:- Freund, Ziege, Perry

Sent off:- Ziege (second bookable offence)

It was the game we all expected, with goals and action galore, and there was the bonus of Christmas cheer for Spurs, who have reached 31 points at the half-way stage, with a precious third away win of the season. Although recently, Keegan has sacrificed a little flair in the middle for grit in the shape of Horlock for Benarbia, his side came out of the stalls fastest, and it looked quite possible that Spurs would succumb to the tidal wave of attacks led by Berkovic and Anelka. After the first 20 minutes though, Spurs settled down, and until a frantic finish, Keller's goal was not seriously threatened in the second half.

Teddy Sheringham had to miss out, due to a knee injury, and Dean Richards was Captain for the night. Chris Perry returned alongside him, and had a terrific game, particularly in the second half. Iversen played instead of Teddy, and whilst his presence was received with groans from the away support, Glenn Hoddle was later full of praise for Iversen's tireless efforts, although I have to say I belong in the same camp as the fans! Simon Davies started and Poyet was on the bench. Not knowing about Teddy's injury, I do admit that I was questioning Hoddle's "use of the squad" for this game, when we had to expect an onslaught from Keegan's army.

In the early stages Ledley made one or two uncharacteristic mistakes, and Richards struggled against Anelka's pace and ability to turn the defence. Iversen did nothing but get caught offside, and it was a long time before Spurs threatened Schmeichel. Berkovic had already made one great run down the right wing, before after one minute, Ledley missed a long ball, and the ex-West Ham player chipped Keller but the ball drifted across the goalmouth. Five minutes later, Keller made a good save from a Horlock header, and the follow-up shot was blocked.

Freund was booked as early as the eighth minute, and Spurs were under pressure. Anelka had already had one shot on target before beating three defenders and curling a shot to Kasey's left, which he flew to save. Mid-way through the half, Spurs at last had a meaningful attack, as Iversen made Schmeichel work to reach a decent cross from the right. Iversen was again out on the right, with time to pick his spot for a cross. He hit it too hard beating everyone.

City took the lead in the 29th minute, after Freund had been penalised on the left. The City fans were baying for him to be sent off for a second bookable, but Winter just let Horlock get on with taking the kick. Howey rose and flicked the ball across the goal, beating Keller to his right. Hoddle switched his formation, to a traditional four at the back, but Ledley King started to get forward more as well. He found Ziege , whose ball managed to reach Robbie Keane in the middle, but Robbie could not get a shot on goal, with two or three defenders giving him close attention.

Another good movement by Anderton and Ziege led to a corner as Ziege's shot was deflected. Ziege took the corner from the right hand side, it reached the back post, where Chris Perry stooped to score his first goal since September 30th 2000. That goal was at Leeds, and that was another goal feast (4-3) - although not in Spurs' favour. Berkovic wanted a penalty for Richards' close attention in the box, but all he got was a chant of "One Johnny Hartson" from the Spurs fans! (Not often we chant for an ex-gooner!). As the half drew to a close it was action all the way, as Foe had a couple of efforts matched by Keller, Ziege had another drive saved, and a powerful Anderton shot was parried by Schmeichel. Anelka also got another shot in, with three defenders around him, but the ball was over.

After the break, Spurs took an early lead. A great three-handed move from Ziege, Davies and Keane, led to Robbie going on a typical run all the way to the bye line on the left, before sending a great cross to the back post, where Simon was on hand to head home. Great goal! Winter upset the Spurs fans - not for the first time - when he brought play back for a free kick against Tiatto, when Spurs had broken the City defence and had three-on-one in their half. Tiatto got booked for his sins.

Spurs were starting to create all the chances. Ziege hit a cross to the far side which Iversen crossed low, just in front of Davies. Schmeichel nearly had an embarrassing moment when Iversen blocked his clearance and the ball ran across the goal. Ziege had a fine run, but his shot was saved, and he then got away with a body check, whilst Foe got booked for a foul on Freund. Ziege took the kick and Richards headed over, when another player behind might have done better. We should have put the game beyond City by now, as Iversen sent Keane away, but he fired over, then Ziege shot wide from a Carr cross.

Gus Poyet replaced Iversen with 20 minutes left, and the strategy seemed to be to try and stifle the midfield, as Keane was left alone up front. Ziege got booked for kicking the ball away after a close offside, and did not help when he got sent off for a similar offence in the closing stages. He will only miss one game though. Huckerby had a headed chance at the back post, which he headed into the ground and harmlessly wide, but City threatened as time ticked away. Carr went down midway in his own half, Horlock was away, and his cross reached Berkovic who hit a curling shot that curved too wide of the post.

Then, with 7 minutes left, Poyet met a Ziege corner for a great header to Schmeichel's left corner. The corner had been won out of nothing really, with Keane collecting a long clearance and cleverly winning the corner near the left flag.The ineffective Goater was replaced by Huckerby, and Spurs had to defend stoutly. Two minutes into injury time, City got what was to prove to be a consolation, as Anelka and Berkovic fed Benarbia in space on the left, and he hit a great 25 yarder to Keller's left corner. Somehow, Jeff Winter found an extra minute and a half on top of the three minutes that had been announced, but Spurs held out for a fine winning start to Christmas.

Merry Christmas Spurs fans, everywhere!

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