BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 14TH AUGUST, 2010
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) MANCHESTER CITY 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr. A. Marriner
Assistants:- Mr. P. Sharp & Mr. S. Newbold
Fourth Official:- Mr. P. Walton
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon (sub Giovani, 77), Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Defoe (sub Pavlyuchenko, 68), Crouch (sub Keane, 68)
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Kaboul, Bassong; Palacios
Man City (4-3-2-1):- Hart; Richards, K. Toure, Kompany, Kolarov (sub Zabaleta, 46); Y. Toure, De Jong, Barry; Wright-Phillips (sub A. Johnson, 67) , Silva; Tevez (Capt.) (sub Adebayor, 83)
(Armband to K. Toure)
Subs not used:- Given; Lescott; Vieira; Jo
Booked:- Kompany, Zabaleta
Where’s your dream team City?
The man of the match award to City goalkeeper Joe Hart says it all really. First of all it confirms that Spurs did dominate this game, with the vast bulk of chances which would have brought the reward of three or four goals if not for Hart’s great saves. Secondly, it illustrates the ongoing problems that City manage Roberto Mancini will have in trying to mollify those disenchanted former darlings such as Shay Given, being dislodged by the new arrivals and new selections of the manager. Whilst Spurs fans have a right to be disappointed at the return of one point and not three, the performance of Harry Redknapp’s squad does augur well not only for the new season, but for the forthcoming champions League play-off in Switzerland on Tuesday.
The only change to the Spurs team which started at the crucial Eastlands win in May was Vedran Corluka returning for Kaboul at right back. City however featured 6 changes to the starting line-up, although Balotelli signed too late for inclusion and the transfer of James Milner (who played for Villa today). One of City’s marquee signings – Jerome Boateng – was apparently injured, so Mancini has to wait a week or two at least before his dream team arrives, and then gels.
For a team aspiring to the very heights this season, City’s opening strategy was somewhat cautious, and perhaps surprising, with Tevez nominally leading the line, and also wearing the Captain’s armband. I thought their best and most inspirational outfield player was former Arsenal defender Kolo Toure, to whom Tevez did hand the armband when he was replaced by another hate figure for Spurs fans – Emmanuel Adebayor. City had Shaun Wright-Phillips and David Silva supporting Tevez, with Yaya Toure, De Jong and Barry playing deeper in midfield. Yaya Toure is allegedly getting paid some £230,000 per week. Eventually he did start to produce some telling passes, but there were plenty of times when Spurs players harried away at him and simply stole the ball off his feet.
For Spurs there were many great individual performances, such as those from Ekotto, Ledley King, Gareth Bale on the left of midfield, and the ever-industrious Luka Modric. Jermain Defoe too offered plenty of physical application to his game, chasing and tackling back, holding up the ball, and linking with his team-mates. Tom Huddlestone had a couple of rasping shots saved in the first half, but sometimes the game did seem too fast for him in the second half. Peter Crouch was having one of his “struggling to control the ball” days in my view.
Spurs tried and succeeded for the most part in playing the game at a high tempo, whilst Mancini’s City tried to slow the game down when possible and to go for controlled possession football. That worked for them in spells, but Spurs’ strategy was the more dominant and successful. From the start Ledley King played a super ball from his half to Gareth Bale, who fed Modric, whose ball inside offered Crouch a chance which was blocked. City’s first attack of note came down the left flank with a ball to Gareth Barry, who crossed to Wright-Phillips, who had a decent effort go high.
Bale crossed again for Crouch after 8 minutes, and the header was blocked with Spurs fans appealing that the ball may have gone over the line. Lennon provided another good ball to Crouch who headed back across the goal. Hart made his first great save from a Jermain Defoe shot, in the ensuing goalmouth scramble. Huddlestone’s two shots came at the quarter-hour mark, when Hart saved the first effort for a corner from which Huddlestone got another pop, heading for Hart’s top right corner. The keeper saved again quite spectacularly to enforce his credentials as the new City number one and also the new England number one. Hart’s performance was recognised by the Spurs fans who welcomed him warmly at the start of the second half.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto forced another notable save after a Bale corner reached him just outside the area. Ekotto sent a great dipping shot to the left of Hart, but it was once again kept out. Vincent Kompany (wearing 4 and not Onuoha as per the programme) got booked for a cynical foul, and might have got a second yellow just before the break for another cynical foul on Defoe. He was fortunate to receive words of warning from referee Andre Marriner, who officiated at last week’s Community Shield game, and who today did have a good game, allowing plenty to go on both sides. After the booking, Bale’s free kick went straight into Hart’s arms. Ekotto gave Bale a good run on the break down the left flank, and Kolo Toure did well to cover and win his side a goal-kick.
Michael Dawson nearly had his second moment of madness in a week, when Tevez got the better of him in the middle of the area after a City counter-attack down the right flank. Ledley King came to the rescue and won the ball, then cleared with aplomb. Defoe had a low shot saved well by Hart after Bale’s cross, and then Bale seemed to be brought down as he entered the box, to no avail. There was more excitement and goalmouth action as Modric fed Bale, whose shot rebounded off the post, Lennon returned the ball and a corner followed.
Tevez led a City charge on Spurs’ goal and gave the ball to Yaya Toure, whose shot was well wide of the mark. Hart was alert to the one on one threat of Defoe, and managed to make the save before his defence caught up and cleared the ball. Modric, Ekotto and Bale were working ever so hard and effectively down the left of the pitch, and Modric made a great run for an Ekotto ball winning corner, which he and Bale took short, resulting in Bale hitting a low cross/shot across the goalmouth. Gomes had his first meaningful save to make when a Yaya Toure shot was deflected, but the keeper got down to it well.
City’s new Serbian left back Kolarov was replaced by Zabaleta at half-time, and from the re-start, somehow Shaun Wright-Phillips was behind the Spurs defence with the ball at his feet and seemingly with time to pick his spot. Most of the Spurs defence were stood still in shock, but it was Ekotto who was most alive to the danger and made a great saving tackle. City were now exposing gaps in the midfield and playing slower passing and controlling football. Spurs sometimes allowed City to come onto them without attacking the ball enough. Lennon was having some success against Zabaleta who needed and got re-inforcements. The Argentinean left back got a yellow card for a blatant foul on Lennon as he was going to break clear just inside the City half. Corluka supported Lennon after 61 minutes, whose cross was met by crouch with a poor header that did not trouble Hart.
Harry Redknapp swapped both his strikers after 67 minutes, and young English star Adam Johnson replaced Wright-Phillips. It was a bit of a surprise that Johnson had not started, but perhaps Mancini judged that he was in need of a rest after his mid-week exertions. After Johnson’s run down the right flank and a cross, a Tevez shot took a wicked deflection but went out for a corner. At the other end Robbie Keane led a great break for Spurs , which ended in Pavlyuchenko getting in two really testing shots both saved by that man Hart. Ekotto and Modric combined superbly to bring the ball out of defence and send the ball to Robbie Keane, who pulled the ball back for Lennon, who cut inside then hit a left foot shot on target. Lennon was then replaced by Giovani, who showed what a great impact player he can be for Spurs this season with great speed, energy and skill. Great approach football from Spurs led to a chance for Keane but Hart was ever-alert.
Gareth Bale had the best chance of the game and really should have scored after Giovani and Pavlyuchenko got the ball to the middle, Keane challenged and the ball ran for Bale who had the goal beckoning, but put his right foot effort wide. Gomes made a clever clearance to Bale down the left wing, and he crossed for Pavlyuchenko, whose effort was well blocked by Kolo Toure. After a quickly taken short corner between Pavlyuchenko and Huddlestone, Pavlyuchenko hit his left foot shot over. There were 4 minutes of added time, despite a lack of injuries, but the only chance was when Huddlestone chipped to Bale on the left of the area, but Bale gave Hart an easy header to hold.
It was one of those games where everyone went home with a smile on their face, I feel. Spurs deserved a win, but Spurs fans know that too often in such situations their team has fallen to a sucker punch. There was no such punch, and to be honest very little threat by this headline-dominating City outfit, who surely have a long way to go in their quest for glory.
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