BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 16TH DECEMBER, 2009
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1) MANCHESTER CITY 0 (0)
Kranjcar, 37, 90
Referee:- Alan Wiley
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. M. Mullarkey
Fourth official:- Mr. D. Deadman
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson (Capt.), Bassong, Ekotto (sub Bale, 90); Lennon, Huddlestone, Palacios, Kranjcar; Crouch, Defoe (sub Jenas, 90)
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Hutton; Modric; Keane, Pavlyuchenko
Booked:- Palacios, Kranjcar
Man City (4-4-2):- Given; Richards, Onuoha, Toure (Capt.), Sylvinho; de Jong (sub Petrov, 71), Ireland, Tevez, Barry; Robinho (sub Santa Cruz, 59), Adebayor
Subs not used:- Taylor; Zabaleta; Kompany, Weiss; Benjani Mwaruwari
Booked:- Sylvinho (holding Lennon on break), de Jong (dissent), Tevez (foul on Ekotto)
Spurs “Kranjcar” it up!
Spurs put paid to one of their main rivals for any vacancies in the Champions League department of the Premier League last night with a great team performance which was back to the highest levels seen this season. As expected, City did not come to defend, and it was a fast, open and entertaining game. There were a number of excellent individual performances, and whilst I understand Aaron Lennon got the Sky TV man of the match award, for me it was two-goal Niko Kranjcar who excelled with great work in all areas, not that Lennon was found lacking in tracking back either! Others worthy of honourable mention were skipper Michael Dawson with a dominating effort, and former City man Vedran Corluka, who not only kept City at bay, but also played an important attacking role in union with super Spur Lennon.
In the very early stages, it almost looked like City were going to play 4-2-4, with Stephen Ireland and Carlos Tevez appearing alongside Adebayor and Robinho. Once they settled it looked like Tevez had been given a free role ahead of the midfield of de Jong, Ireland and Barry. Barry was probably the best of those players when it came to trying to hold back the Spurs threat. City were missing Lescott at the back, and with Bridge injured, former gooner and veteran Sylvinho drew the short straw of trying to hold back Lennon. He proved highly unsuccessful and got booked for holding back Lennon as he was about to burst from the Spurs penalty area to lead another attack. City were also missing Shaun Wright-Phillips and his replacement de Jong also showed frustration when the referee awarded a free kick in favour of Peter Crouch.
Crouch was the one Spurs change from Saturday’s line-up, with Robbie Keane remaining one of the unused substitutes. In fact both Spurs subs only appeared deep into added time, with Ekotto limping off after a late challenge by Tevez, who got booked for his trouble.
City had an enthusiastic and vocal following, but most of them had left before Niko Kranjcar put the seal on Spurs’ win in added time. They might be “on their way to Wembley” via the Carling Cup, but this City team needs more balance before succeeding in the Premier League, I think.
City kicked off and played towards the Paxton End, and within two minutes Tevez had a pop at goal, firing wide of Gomes’ left post. Spurs first chance came after a skilful back-heel from Crouch that sent Lennon away. His cross reached Kranjcar, whose shot was deflected and then held by Shay Given. Defoe worked his way into the box chasing a Crouch header, and went down, but there was no serious appeal for a penalty. The ball fell for Kranjcar again, but he hit it well wide of the mark.
Gomes had to tip over a Robinho shot from distance for a corner, but the Brazilian caused very little further threat in the game, with Dawson and Bassong generally in full control at the back. Bassong was less sure of himself at times, but a clean sheet tells its own story. (Only our third in the league so far)
Aaron Lennon picked up a loose ball in the City half and laid up the pass for Huddlestone, whose shot was scooped over from the edge of the box. Kranjcar intercepted an Adebayor ball and led a sharp break by Spurs, which ended in another key pass by Lennon to Defoe, whose shot was so wide it went out for a throw-in. Spurs took a deserved lead, and of course Lennon was the source with a run to the bye-line and a cross which Crouch headed towards goal. Ireland defended, but the ball ran to Kranjcar who was following up to finish from short range. Kranjcar really does turn up anywhere in this Spurs set-up, making key passes, riding many tackles, and making many of his own at the other end. His compatriot Luka Modric was also an unused substitute last night, and that dilemma will rear its head again for Harry Redknapp, when Luka is full match fit. I cannot see it being Kranjcar who makes way on the overall form he has displayed for Spurs.
Spurs should have made it 2-0 very quickly as Defoe fed Crouch, but Peter’s shooting was weak most of the night, and he missed this chance. Bassong headed wide from Kranjcar’s corner, and after a short corner by Kranjcar and Lennon, Kranjcar’s cross beat Given, but Crouch headed wide.
After 5 minutes of the second half, Spurs displayed some neat and fast one touch football, with Lennon (twice), Defoe (twice) and Ekotto involved. Ekotto’s cross was met by a Defoe header at the near post and planted wide. A precious two-goal lead came in the 54th minute, and for once it was route one football that did it for Spurs, as Gomes took a long free kick (after a foul by Adebayor), Crouch headed across the area, and Defoe fired home with a first touch from 8 yards.
Robinho had taken a knock and had also been quite ineffective anyway, so he was replaced by Santa Cruz, who is one of 6 strikers usually at the disposal of manager Mark Hughes. How that man is going to keep all these players happy in the longer term, I don’t know, but that’s his problem – if he can keep the job! City had a go at Spurs with Ireland and Tevez at the helm, and Santa Cruz certainly had more influence than had his predecessor.
Spurs had another great chance after 64 minutes, after a short Crouch ball to Kranjcar, who teed up Lennon. Lennon’s shot was blocked in front of goal, and then Aaron tried to set up Crouch who failed in front of goal. At the other end, Adebayor had a good chance after an Ireland pass, but another former gooner brought jeers from the home crowd with a skied effort. De Jong was replaced by Martin Petrov after his booking, and the Bulgarian gave the Spurs defence more to worry about. It did look more and more like City would get a goal back and put the pressure on, but Spurs held out with some stalwart defending. Gomes had to make a good diving save from a free kick taken by Petrov, and then Petrov fed Tevez, whose shot went over. The Argentinean was offside anyway.
Gomes got down sharply to hold an Ireland shot, but in added time Kranjcar capped his fine individual performance with a great goal. Lennon and Corluka had taken a short corner. The Spurs way was not to simply hold on to the ball at the corner flag, but to mesmerise the City defence, with a Lennon pass inside to Kranjcar who beat the hapless Adebayor of all people, before nonchalantly firing past Shay Given. It was a great moment, and a fine way to end a great Spurs win to take us four points ahead of City, and still three above Liverpool. We are still in fifth place, but watch this space over the festive season!
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