(With thanks to Ray Lo for covering my enforced absence during the closing stages of the game. I was fortunate enough to be pitch-side for the post match presentations)
FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 13TH MAY, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2) MANCHESTER CITY 1 (1)
Man City scorer:-
Attendance: - 35,426
Referee: - Steve Bennett
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Gardner; Tainio, Jenas, Zokora, Lennon (sub Malbranque, 74); Keane (sub Defoe, 80), Berbatov
Subs not used: - Cerny; Ekotto; Huddlestone
Booked: - Gardner
Man City (4-1-3-2):- Isaksson; Onouha, Dunne (Capt.), Distin (sub Hamann, 28), Jordan; Sun Jihai; Ireland, Johnson, Beasley (sub Samaras, 81); Vassell, Mpenza
Subs not used: - Weaver; Laird; Dickov
Booked: - Vassell
Spurs won their sixth consecutive Premiership game against Manchester City, thus ensuring their qualification for next season’s UEFA Cup by finishing “Best of the Rest”, and securing their highest position of the season in fifth place. For the second successive year, we have finished fifth and also achieved 60 points (or over). Typically, it was goals by top scorers Robbie Keane and Spurs’ player of the season Dimitar Berbatov that gave us a two goal lead. Also typically, Spurs failed to take the game by the throat, allowed City a goal before the break, and made us fans sweat out the remaining 50 minutes before we could be sure that we were once again “Going on a European Tour”!
Whilst Manchester City have been having a dismal time at home, a big reason they have avoided the relegation fight for most of the season is their away form, only bettered by four teams in terms of wins. Missing Joey Barton (through club suspension over an alleged assault of a fellow player) and Michael Ball (through suspension for violent conduct last week), and also Micah Richards through injury, Stuart Pearce was forced to rely upon more of his youngsters, but they acquitted themselves very well.
Sun Jihai was given a marshalling role behind a midfield trio of Ireland, Johnson and Beasley. None of these are household names, but as the game wore on, they gave the Spurs quartet plenty to think about, despite the return of Jermaine Jenas to the middle. Aaron Lennon was given the left flank, and Tainio played inside the right flank, with Chimbonda not getting forward as much as he had in the previous two games. The pace of Vassell, and Mpenza gave the Spurs defence a decent challenge, not helped by Anthony Gardner’s occasional lapses of concentration, after two very good games from him against Charlton and Blackburn.
Lennon had made a promising run down the left channel after just one minute, but sadly, his shot was weak and easily held by Swedish keeper Andreas Isaksson. Lennon was making more headway today than of late, but his final ball lacked power and impact more often than not. Spurs took an early lead with a great goal, started with Berbatov’s skill, control and a pass through Ledley King, which went to Jenas, who chipped a great ball over the defence, where Robbie Keane latched onto the dropping ball, and finished with a great right foot shot low to the right of the keeper.
Spurs fans were of course hoping for a bonanza, but City’s heads did not go down, and Paul Robinson had to make a great diving save getting his outstretched left hand to Vassell’s shot. Spurs were taking too long in their build up, whilst keeping possession and after a run of passes, Tainio got the ball following a challenge by Berbatov. Teemu (whose record of not losing all season when he has played 90 minutes was retained) tried a chip, but hit the ball over the bar. City lost Distin with less than half an hour gone. Hamann took over in the middle, whilst Onouha covered behind him, and Sun Jihai moved to right back.
Spurs went two up in the 32nd minute, following an attack involving Lennon and Keane. The ball was passed inside to Berbatov, who was trying to return it to Lennon on the left inside the box. However, the ball came back to Dimitar, who then saw an opening and was ruthless with a low right footed shot into Isaksson’s bottom right corner. Things were looking good, but Spurs paid the penalty for falling back, as a poor pass backwards by Gardner led to a cross from the right by Hamann, which Mpenza headed past Robbo’s left hand. City nearly scored immediately from the restart as Mpenza’s cross from the left was headed at short range, and saved by Robinson, leaving Johnson a close range chance which he scooped over the bar.
Just after the restart, Dimitar Berbatov was off the field receiving treatment, and skipper Ledley King got forward to lead an attack. A ball fell to Robbie Keane from the right, and Robbie hit a powerful drive which bent round the post and hit the back support of the net. Paul Robinson was in action again after 55 minutes, when Mpenza headed a looping ball towards the top right corner, from Beasley’s cross. England’s number one was sharp enough to make his ground and make the save.
City had not managed to fill their allocation, but those who had travelled saw a far better performance from their team than that at home last week against Manchester United. A Vassell shot was deflected for a corner in front of the away contingent, and then Spurs might have restored their two goal lead, but for hesitation by Tainio outside the edge of the box. Keane and Berbatov had worked the ball from left to right, and Tainio might have had an early shot, but took his time. When he did take action, it was an attempt to lob the ball over the defence to Keane, who was offside. Jenas made a run on a right to left diagonal, and tried to tee up Berbatov, but hit the ball too close to the keeper. Berbatov crossed from the right aiming for Robbie, but City skipper and player of their season Richard Dunne made a good headed clearance.
The round of substitutions followed, including Defoe for Keane. When Berbatov was fouled just outside the box, Defoe stepped up to take, but curled it over the near post. Then Zokora made a run and was adjudged to have been fouled by Dunne as he entered the penalty area. Steve Bennett awarded a penalty, and Defoe was charitable, hitting it straight down the middle at Isaksson, then hitting the rebound over from just 7 yards.
As injury time loomed, we knew the scores around the country, which were in our favour, with all below us drawing. Only then could we relax in the knowledge that Europe was secure, as the team played out time. The only disappointment was to know that whilst Wigan had managed the required win at Sheffield United, Manchester United had failed to fulfil their side of the Spurs fans’ dream, allowing West Ham their seventh win in 9 games and a miraculous survival.
After the game, Tom Huddlestone was presented with the Spurs Trust’s “Breakthrough” award (by yours truly and another Trust member!). Aaron Lennon got the young player of the year trophy, and unsurprisingly, Dimitar Berbatov was voted Player of the Year. As Martin Jol said after the game, Michael Dawson also deserves great credit, having played in all but one of Spurs marathon 59-game season. Thursday’s villain, Hossam Ghaly joined the squad for their end of season parade, which broke with tradition and went clock-wise around the pitch, leaving the vocal Park Lane section to soak up the latter part of the two-way acclaim.
There will be one or two feature articles and reviews before the end of the month, but Spurs Odyssey will be back in the new season, and I’ll take this opportunity to give a special “thank you” to Ray Lo, Declan Mulcahy, and all those who have provided support throughout the season. Have a great summer!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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