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Manchester City v Spurs, 25.01.04

FA CUP 4TH ROUND
SUNDAY 25TH JANUARY, 2004
MANCHESTER CITY 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)

Man City scorer:-
Anelka, 10

Spurs scorer:-
Doherty, 57

Attendance:- 34,000

Referee:- Steve Dunn

Teams:-
Man City (4-4-2):- Ellegard; Jihai Sun, Dunne, Distin (Capt.), Tarnat; Sinclair, Bosvelt, Reyna, Sibierski (sub Wright-Phillips, 68); Fowler (sub Macken, 68), Anelka

Subs not used:- Arason; Sommeil; Mcmanaman

Booked:- Reyna, Bosvelt

Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Doherty, Gardner, Taricco (sub Jackson, 46); Anderton (sub Dalmat, 46), Brown, King, Davies; Postiga, Keane

Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Bunjevcevic; Zamora

Booked:- Anderton, Carr

The man currently affectionately known as "The Ginger Pele" - Gary Doherty - rose at the back post to head home a deserved equaliser for Spurs in the 57th minute, to take City back to White Hart Lane a week on Wednesday for a replay of this 4th Round FA Cup tie, and already, the fourth game between these sides this season. In the first half, Spurs had looked like a side that was not on a 100% run, but that had regressed to their relegation form of 2003. Stephane Dalmat had made way for the return of Ledley King to a more defensive midfield, and for much of that first half, Spurs looked as if they had not played together for weeks. Ledley seemed to struggle to find his form in the middle, and the understanding between him and the defence was absent at times.

So, Spurs did manage to maintain their unbeaten record in 2004, if not their winning run, but one record that has not ended is the fact that City have not won at home since October 18th, when they trounced Bolton 6-2. Maybe that is the main reason behind so many empty seats in the home sections of the City of Manchester Stadium, allegedly filled by 34,000 souls. ( I have even seen a figure of 47,000 quoted, but there is no way that is true)The away support was magnificent, although even Spurs fans were relatively quiet in the first 45 minutes that resembled too closely the poor team performance of the league game here on September 28th.

City had Spurs on the defensive for much of the first half, and very early on, Anelka was deprived of the ball (I believe by King), only for it to be passed along the line to Sibierski who brought an early save from Keller with his shot. Sinclair was playing down the right and being supported well by Jihai Sun. Taricco, as a result, was having quite atorrid time in more ways than one, and had to leave the pitch to be treated for a leg injury. Whilst he was off, Spurs were in some disarray, and Simon Davies could only deflect a Fowler shot that Keller had to save to his left. Taricco returned but City scored from the corner. Doherty half cleared to the edge of the area, Distin headed back, and Fowler's header hit the left post, bouncing back to Anelka unmarked in the middle of goal, with an easy finish for the goal.

Spurs struggled to string any moves or threats together, and high balls for Keane and Postiga were doing no good at all.Reyna was having a midfield battle with Michael Brown in more ways than one, and there was a suspicion of an elbow by the City number 6 on Brown in the middle of the first half. This happened off the ball, off camera, and out of the referee's sight however. City were awarded a free kick on the right, when King caught Jihai Sun. Tarnat floated in the kick, and Richard Dunne rose at the back post, but headed wide. Reyna split the Spurs defence with a good ball down the middle, and the Fowler of old may have gone on to score, but he was robbed of the ball with relative ease by Carr and Gardner.

After 32 minutes, there was panic in the Spurs defence, as King passed backwards, presumably for Gardner. Gardner was rooted, and taken by surprise by the pass, leaving Anelka to race towards goal. Kasey Keller did well to close down Anelka, taking the ball away from him just outside the area, and Taricco performed the clearing up operation. Four minutes later, Spurs at last had a meaningful break, as King sent Keane away on the right. Robbie cut in towards the centre, and his shot was parried by Ellegard. Simon Davies was following up, but his shot was saved too.

Taricco had to go off again - this time for a head injury, and Jihai Sun lifted another ball over the defence. Reyna collected but shot wide of Keller's right post. Sibierski was next to benefit from the City right-back's delivery, but he headed wide at the back post. There were three minutes of injury time, but Spurs seemed to be content to play for 1-0 down, rather than try to get a so important goal before the break.

Spurs were re-energised though, and with Anderton replaced by Dalmat, and John Jackson replacing Taricco, they shaped up in a 3-5-2, with Ledley joining Doherty and Gardner at the back. City could so easily have been overwhelmed in the early passage of play, such was the difference in Spurs play. Dalmat started well, but faded, but Jackson had a great game, with Davies moving to the middle alongside Brown. Postiga won an early corner, and Robbie Keane forced a save from the keeper after a cross from Dalmat.

Postiga had the first of three excellent chances after 54 minutes. Jackson sent a good ball down the line to Keane, who hit a good low cross, but Postiga was caught in two minds. He could have controlled the ball before shooting, but chose to try a first time low shot, simply half-hitting it to the keeper. The equaliser came within another three minutes though, and for the first time I can remember this season, we scored from a corner. Doherty approached the area, and a few voices cheered on "The Ginger Pele". Postiga took the corner on the left, in front of the away stand, and the keeper was caught in no-man's land by the deep kick, which left Doherty with an easy free header at the back post.

Almost from the kick-off, Spurs won another corner, and the goal was so nearly repeated, with "Doc's" header over the bar this time. City had been caught offside on numerous occasions, but it looked to me like the linesman had missed one, when Spurs did well to only concede a corner.At the other end, City failed to clear a Spurs corner, and Gardner was allowed to pick up the ball, before he had even left the City box. He hit a short cross which Postiga managed to head over from close range.

Michael Brown's work is often of the un-spectacular nature, but overall, I would say he kept Reyna quiet in the second half. Brown had a golden opportunity to score against his old team and give himself a great birthday present, with a free kick just outside the box. Ellegard couldn't hold the shot, but the ball was cleared. Fowler was replaced by Macken, and Wright-Phillips took over from Sibierski. It was Wright-Phillips who re-vitalised the home effort, as he exposed the space left between King and Jackson on the left flank. Eventually, Spurs reverted to a 4-4-2, with King more to the left, but the City right-winger still caused plenty of anxiety.

City had a couple of chances, firstly created by Anelka, providing for Sinclair who shot on the stretch, over the bar, and then Bosvelt, making space for himself in the middle, before hitting the ball straight to Keller. Postiga had another good close range chance, this time provided by Robbie Keane, but again the Portuguese striker headed over. Now it was a case of Spurs hanging on to the draw. Doherty was caught in the City half, and over-committed in a tackle on Anelka who sent Reyna away. Reyna fed Macken (who looked offside from my biased position at the other end!), who had a great chance, but shot wide across the goalmouth. Then Anelka sent Wright-Phillips away, but his cross/shot was neither one nor the other.

The replay will be on Wednesday 4th February, when Spurs must fancy themselves to repeat the Carling Cup victory. It does depend which Spurs team will turn up, but it doesn't look like many City fans will bother to travel, as so many of them were not interested in this game.

Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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