FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 17TH DECEMBER, 2006
MANCHESTER CITY 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2)
Referee: - Rob Styles
Attendance: - 39,825
Man City (4-4-2):- Weaver; Richards (sub Ireland, 29), Dunne (Capt.), Distin, Jordan; Trabelsi, Reyna (sub Dabo, 68), Barton, Vassell; Dickov, Samaras (sub Onuoha, 46)
Subs not used: - Isaksson; Miller
Booked: - Dunne
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Davenport, King (Capt.), Lee; Ghaly, Tainio, Huddlestone, Malbranque; Berbatov, Defoe (sub Mido, 82)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Stalteri, Gardner; O’Hara
Spurs maintained their unbeaten record in their fifth game at The City of Manchester Stadium, winning their third consecutive Premiership game to climb to seventh in the table. Spurs also gained their first away League win of the season, with their first league goals from open play. Thus, it was quite a ground-breaking day, and it would be nice to report that the overall performance of the team was as magnificent as the result and the associated records. However, Spurs were as submissive and withdrawn in the second half, as they had been imperious and dominant in the first, allowing Joey Barton to reduce the lead to one goal, ensuring that the travelling fans had a nail-biting second half to bear.
The truth really though is that City did not cause us too many problems in the second half, but Spurs just failed to carry on where they left off. The two goal half-time lead was the least they had deserved, and the level of superiority really demanded at least a three goal lead.
I have been trying to work out just what has made Spurs turn on the style so much in their four winning games since the debacle at The Emirates Stadium a couple of weeks ago. Apart from the much needed boot up the backside, I think the answer to my question must be the presence in all those games of Tom Huddlestone, who quite rightly won a lot of praise again today, and capped a fine personal performance with a superb half-volley goal that ended a move he had started. “Thud” has certainly taken full advantage of the enforced absences of Jermaine Jenas and Didier Zokora in the middle, surely making it impossible to drop him as and when either of these players becomes available.
Martin Jol chose to do without Aaron Lennon today. Lennon apparently has a slight inflammation of a previous knee injury, but I am sure he was rested as a precaution, with the busy Christmas period coming up. Ghaly took Lennon’s place on the right, whilst Tainio partnered Huddlestone, and Malbranque played in front of left back Young-Pyo Lee. Lee defended really well, especially in the first half, and Calum Davenport was also on top of Samaras to such an extent that the City striker was substituted at half-time. Spurs were working hard in every quarter, defending from the front, and allowing City little time and space to develop any meaningful play.
City, of course were missing key players such as Thatcher, Mills, Hamann and Sinclair, and Stuart Pearce must have taken a gamble on the fitness of Micah Richards, who lasted no more than half an hour.
Huddlestone started Spurs first meaningful move after 12 minutes, with a short ball to Tainio, who sent Defoe away on a run with a ball threaded through the middle. Defoe was blocked and the ball ran to Berbatov who fired a shot from the left that was cleared in front of goal by Distin. Within minutes, Spurs had the lead, after Malbranque had been fouled on the left side. “Thud” floated in the free kick and it was Davenport (in for the suspended Dawson) who rose and flicked a header beyond Weaver.
It was Davenport’s first goal for the first team, and he was joined 8 minutes later by Tom Huddlestone, who started the move that ended with a chipped cross from Ghaly, which Huddlestone fired home with a beautiful half-volley low to the right of the keeper. Big Tom ran back to the Spurs half to share his joy with the Spurs contingent. It was a well-deserved goal for some excellent performances over the last two weeks in particular.
After a series of passes greeted with the ritual cheers from the away support, Ghaly chipped another cross after 35 minutes, which Malbranque hit low – cleared by Dunne for a corner. Huddlestone had another good long distance effort, and Berbatov’s shot was saved by Weaver after Ledley King had sent the Bulgarian away with a fine ball down the middle of the park.
After Stuart Pearce’s pep talk, Paul Robinson started a move, when he held onto a deflected shot, then sent Defoe away. Jermain battled with two defenders, then hit the side netting with his shot. That might have been Spurs only decent effort of the second half. Whilst Spurs were on the defensive they were generally holding out comfortably until the 64th minute, when Barton was allowed space at the back of the area, to fire home Dickov’s deep cross from the left. Luckily for Spurs, most of the City efforts were off target, or well defended by the Spurs back four, supported by the midfield. 6 minutes before the end, referee Mr Styles for once came to the aid of Spurs, turning down a strong City appeal for a penalty, when Malbranque appeared to impede Barton.
Martin Jol’s team selection for the League Cup quarter final on Wednesday night against Southend will be interesting, as he has to keep plenty of legs fresh for next Saturday’s test at St. James’ Park.
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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