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Man City v Spurs, 10.05.11

(7.45 P.M.)

Crouch, 30 (o.g.)


Referee:- Mike Dean
Assistants:- Mr. P. Kirkup & Mr. M. Mullarkey
Fourth Official:- Mr. M. Jones (not as per programme)

Man City (4-3-2-1):- Hart; Richards, Kompany (Capt.), Lescott, Zabaleta (sub Kolarov, 57); Johnson (sub Vieira, 66), Milner, De Jong; Yaya Toure, Silva (sub Tevez, 83); Dzeko

Subs not used:- Given; Boyata; Wright-Phillips; Balotelli

Booked:- Milner (foul on Rose)

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Cudicini; Corluka, Gallas (sub Kaboul, 88), Dawson (Capt.), Rose; Lennon, Palacios (sub Pienaar, 32), Sandro, Modric; Van der Vaart; Crouch (sub Defoe, 78)

Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Bassong; Kranjcar; Pavlyuchenko

Booked:- Pienaar

The Ultimate Irony

It was the ultimate irony. I said that irony would play a part in this game, but little did I think that it would consist of Peter Crouch putting Manchester City into the Champions League with a close range own goal at the same end where this time last year he had heroically scored the Spurs winner that gave us a run in this year’s Blue Riband European tournament. Spurs are now left in sixth place and will struggle to prevent Liverpool winning at Anfield on Sunday, which will give them, not us, Europa League football next season.

Spurs started with Cudicini in goal in place of the apparently injured Heurelho Gomes. Apart from one great save from Dzeko after 10 minutes, Cudicini was not too exercised, whilst those in front of him did defend well and keep the City threat, such as it was, away. As usual, despite dominating possession and playing some good approach football, Spurs failed to give the opponents’ keeper a hard enough time, and perhaps Hart’s best save was from substitute Steven Pienaar’s chance early in the second half.

Pienaar was on because Wilson Palacios made a surprise start. We had been told yesterday that Palacios was definitely unfit. Well he looked unfit and he lacked co-ordination a lot of the time, so perhaps it was a merciful release, when he had to be replaced after half an hour. Why Harry Redknapp had not started with Pienaar or Kranjcar on the left, I do not know. Pienaar did not let Spurs down when he came on, and Sandro and Modric excelled in the middle. It was up front that we lacked the necessary punch, with Van der Vaart again below par, and Crouch’s touch too often being too dainty and inaccurate.

Man City could not even manage to fill their own seats for this crucial game. The Spurs section also had spaces. Such was the interest by some of the usual travelling fans in the light of Spurs’ poor finish to the season. City of course regard themselves as “The only team in Manchester”, and they have some interesting banners around the stadium. One is from Sierra Leone, where not so long ago they used to cut off peoples’ arms for fun. There must be some of them that can afford the trip to Manchester though. Then there was one that said “On the 6th Day God created Manchester City”. Well, he certainly took some time off in recent years, didn’t he? Then there was a banner that said “We’re not really here”, and of course some City fans were not there at all.

Spurs were on the back foot initially though, with City attacking Spurs’ left flank, where they clearly saw Danny Rose as a weak link. After a difficult start though, Rose emerged strongly though, and City were repelled with more and more ease. Johnson put a clever ball past Rose for Micah Richards to race ahead to, hitting a low cross which was blocked and cleared by the Spurs defence. Three minutes later, Spurs only half cleared and Yaya Toure was given a shot that he hit two yards wide of Cudicini’s right post. Cudicini made a great save after 10 minutes, when Silva set up Dzeko, who fired low and powerfully, but Carlo saved with panache and confidence.

Spurs might have taken the lead after a couple of good moves. First Modric started and finished a move where Rose crossed, Crouch headed to Lennon who teed up Modric, whose shot was deflected for a corner. After 27 minutes, Modric should have scored when Lennon passed low and Luka hit a poor right foot effort wide of the goal. We paid dearly within minutes, when we failed to defend a short corner, from which Milner crossed hard and low to the near post and Crouch diverted the ball into the net from within the 6 yard box. I hate forwards being in deep defensive positions!

Palacios was down and had to go off, so Pienaar made an entrance after just 32 minutes. Despite their lead, City were still playing with caution, and whenever Spurs attacked down the flanks, there seemed to be 3 or 4 defenders out-numbering Spurs’ players. It was typical Italian style football, which of course the City fans love so much they turn their back on the game now and again! (With their bouncing arm-linked celebrations). The only notable chances in the remainder of the first half were a shot fired over by Silva, and a Van der Vaart shot on the turn which Hart held.

In truth, it was a game that rarely excited, and I am sure that Spurs have entertained Europe far more than City will next season. There was genuine excitement shortly after the break though, when Lennon’s chipped cross was met by Pienaar’s effort, which Hart saved well, diving to his left to reach the ball, which was cleared by the defence. After 59 minutes, Pienaar fed the ball to Van der Vaart but his right footed effort was well over. Decent chances were going to the wrong feet – i.e. Modric’s right and Van der Vaart’s right.

Patrick Vieira was given a predictable hostile welcome by the Spurs contingent. After 68 minutes, Danny Rose was in space down the left flank and Spurs advanced across the field through Modric and good determined play by Pienaar, who is under-rated by so many observers. The ball ended with Lennon, whose shot was well over. Gallas looked to be on his last legs, but as so often, managed to recover and carry on, although he was replaced late in the game by Kaboul. Crouch was replaced by Defoe, but Spurs’ powder was still dry. Milner got a yellow card for a foul on Danny Rose who was advancing well towards an arrowed pass down the line by Michael Dawson.

Gallas made a great block and clearance from Vieira’s shot after substitute Tevez had put in the former Arsenal Captain. It was a typically heroic piece of play by Gallas, who has been such an inspiration for Spurs all season. It was also Gallas’s last contribution to this game. Sandro and Modric put decent crosses in late in the game, but City were defending their lines well. Despite 5 minutes of added time, Spurs could do nothing and have had to surrender the prospect of Champions League football in the most painful of circumstances. This year, it was the home fans who were in delirium, and Spurs fans who left with their heads low.

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