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Manchester City v Spurs, 18.12.07
Carling Cup Rd 5

CARLING CUP ROUND 5
TUESDAY 18TH DECEMBER, 2007
MANCHESTER CITY 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1)

Scorers:-
Defoe, 5
Malbranque, 82

Referee: - Steve Bennett

Attendance: - 38,564

Teams:-
Manchester City (4-2-3-1):- Hart; Corluka, Dunne (Capt.), Richards, Garrido (sub Ball, 76); Johnson, Hamann (sub Geovanni, 58); Vassell (sub Mpenza, 68), Elano, Petrov; Bianchi

Subs not used: - Isaksson; Gelson Fernandes

Booked: - Dunne, Johnson, Elano

Spurs (4-4-2/4-4-1):- Robinson (Capt.); Chimbonda, Kaboul, Zokora, Lee; Lennon (sub OíHara, 71), Jenas, Boateng, Malbranque (sub Huddlestone, 87); Berbatov, Defoe (sub Tainio, 22)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Taarabt

Booked: - Malbranque, Jenas, Chimbonda

Sent off: - Zokora (alleged violent conduct Ė foul)

Heroic triumph by Spurs!

Before and after referee Steve Bennett so harshly sent off Didier Zokora in the 20th minute, Juande Ramosís side played like heroes, and for 70 minutes with just ten men. Jermain Defoe Ė who had put Spurs in the lead after a great team goal in the fifth minute Ė became the unhappy sacrificial lamb, as Ramos simply adjusted to a 4-4-1 formation, with Dimitar Berbatov simply magnificent at the head of the other 9 heroes. Spurs enjoyed 65% of the possession over the game, and when Steed Malbranque rounded Richard Dunne to fire past Joe Hart in the 81st minute, there were hugs and kisses in the Spurs section, followed by end of match celebrations, as Spurs marched into their second successive Carling Cup semi-final.

This was Spurs third consecutive win, second consecutive away win (both with clean sheets), and second win over City in those three games, in which Defoe scored in both games against City. It was also Spurs fourth consecutive victory at the Eastlands Stadium, where Spurs have yet to be beaten in 6 meetings. Spurs became the team to end Cityís 100% home record this season. This was a triumph out of adversity to be remembered for a long time.

Jermain Defoe got a deserved start in place of Darren Bent, who is nursing a hip injury, and were otherwise unchanged from Saturday, which meant that Michael Dawson was still not available, and Zokora and Kaboul were required to continue their patched up defensive work. City welcomed back Elano, who played behind Bianchi, and between attacking wide men Darius Vassell and the impressive Martin Petrov. Michael Johnson and Dietmar Hamann sought to protect the City defence.

Petrov had provided early danger for Spurs with a cross which Zokora headed clear efficiently, but then Spurs took an early lead as a result of team work from their own half. Ramos has drilled his team well, and they move well, in unison, for each other and within range of tight passes. This move started from right to left and featured the midfield plus Berbatov. Then Jenas threaded a great pass inside the full back, well weighted for Lennon to run around and cross low into the 6 yard box, where Defoe was on hand for the finishing touch. It was a dream start!

Five minutes later, Berbatov was at the heart of a lovely move, where he found Lennon, who passed inside to Malbranque who just took a little too long about the shooting opportunity, and had the ball taken off his feet.

Mr Bennett had already drawn the ire of Spurs fans with what appeared to be some perverse decisions, but lost their faith entirely, when he over-reacted to Zokoraís ball winning low tackle on Elano. Replays show that Zokoraís feet were on the floor and that the red card which astounded us all was not warranted. Whether Spurs succeed in an appeal on that decision remains to be seen, but defenders, or even make-shift defenders are becoming harder and harder to find for our injury-decimated defensive squad.

Ramosís adjustment worked well, with Tainio coming on for Defoe. Berbatov held the line magnificently throughout, with consistent and skilful hold-up play and excellent passing. Tainio took the right back slot, where he played very well, as he had done against Blackpool in the last round of this competition which was Ramosís first game in charge. Chimbonda now partnered Kaboul. Mr Bennett had arguably ruined the game by his decision, and it wasnít long before he gave Steed Malbranque a yellow card for what was clearly a worse challenge upon Corluka.

Spurs not only defended well, but still managed effective attacks. Berbatov and Lennon exchanged passes before Berbatovís shot was deflected wide for a corner. City had their first real chance after 33 minutes, when Elano hit a shot across Robinsonís bows, which passed wide in front of the far post. Then Johnson got the better of Kaboul, and got in a cross which passed between Lee and Robinson with both players looking uncertain. City had a further chance before the break, when Bianchi headed Petrovís cross back down for the left winger, and Petrov fired over the bar. Jenas seemed to get a knock, giving us more concern, but recovered well.

After the break Michael Johnson got a yellow for simulation, and then after 53 minutes, Paul Robinson made a fantastic flying save to tip over Vassellís close range header with his left hand. The ball had been sent over from the right hand side, and Robbo had to adjust direction to make the save too. Petrov hit a shot just over the bar on the hour, but on the whole, Spurs defended magnificently, keeping the wave of Sky Blue shirts at bay.

It wasnít all City though, as Lennon broke down the right wing, passing to Malbranque who won a corner from which a Chimbonda header was held. Lennon was replaced after 71 minutes by Jamie OíHara who had done so well on Saturday at Portsmouth, and once again took up position on the left wing. Malbranque moved inside, and Boateng moved towards the right side, presumably to keep Petrov at bay.

Paul Robinson made his second brilliant save of the night after 78 minutes when Bianchi headed Richards long ball to his right. Robbo stretched back and got enough of a touch on the ball to make it loop up safely, allowing Kaboul to make the final clearance. Robbo is back to his best!

Once again OíHara featured in a Spurs goal, as contrary to expectations after that early loss of Zokora, Spurs secured the tie with ten minutes to go. Berbatov was at the head of the move, feeding the ball to OíHara from the half way line. OíHara hit a good ball to Malbranque who burst through the City defence, around skipper Richard Dunne to fire home past Hart in front of the exuberant and much-elated Spurs crowd! It was well and truly game over, and rather than City it was Spurs who came closest to adding to the scoreline, when Berbatov beat Dunne, and hit a low shot, which Hart managed to save.

Several Spurs fans in the lower tier were lucky enough to catch a yellow Spurs shirt, including that of OíHara who must be in dreamland after two fine substitute appearances. Spurs wore an all-yellow strip, but showed heart and courage aplenty to make it a memorable night for us all!

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