BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 22ND JANUARY, 2012
MANCHESTER CITY 3 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0)
Man City scorers:-
Balotelli (pen), 90+5
Referee:- Howard Webb
Assistants:- Mr. P. Kirkup & Mr. M. Mullarkey
Fourth Official:- Mr. A. Taylor
Man City (4-4-2):- Hart; Richards (Capt.), Savic, Lescott, Clichy; Silva, Milner, Barry, Nasri; Dzeko (sub Balotelli, 65), Aguero
Subs not used:- Pantilimon; Zabaleta, Kolarov, Onuoha; Johnson, De Jong
Booked:- Clichy (prevented Walker from taking quick throw), Balotelli (foul on Assou-Ekotto)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, King (Capt.), Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (sub Pienaar, 88), Parker, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Livermore, 67); Defoe
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Bassong, Dawson; Kranjcar; Pavlyuchenko
Booked:- Parker (foul on Aguero)
Villainous Balotelli wins it for City
Having come back from a seemingly certain losing position to level the scores at 2-2, in a drama-filled second half at The Etihad, Jermain Defoe missed a “Gazza-like” golden opportunity at the back post after Gareth Bale’s cross, before Ledley King committed a suicidal foul upon substitute Mario Balotelli in the very last of four minutes of added time to concede a penalty that Balotelli put away with a nonchalant hesitation in his run-up to deceive Brad Friedel. Not many Spurs fans in the stadium were aware, but TV viewers were very much aware that Balotelli should have been sent off for stamping on Scott Parker’s head earlier in the game. Balotelli only came on after 65 minutes, and did get booked for a foul on Assou-Ekotto, so he had a rather eventful day.
City fans don’t care about how they have come to be in this position of favourites for the title, or any mischievous antics of their £200,000 a week stars. They are crowing about this win and their position at the top of the league. I have to say though that they did not look like a title winning side, being fallible at the back, and susceptible, in particular when Jermain Defoe got a quick goal back, after Spurs had gone two down. To a certain degree, the “nasty days” are back at Man City, as there were elements of hostility towards Spurs fans as we left the stadium. Maybe Moss Side has simply moved a little.
We knew of course that City would be missing the Toure brothers, and the suspended Vincent Kompany. Micah Richards captained his side with style and aplomb, defending strongly, and getting up and down the right flank to cause plenty of problems at the other end too. How this man is not above Glenn Johnson in the England pecking order, I do not know. James Milner was an improvised central midfielder for City today, who have a midweek semi-final to contemplate against Liverpool. Milner made one particularly vital tackle inside the City box to prevent a goal-scoring opportunity for Spurs. I believe his victim on this occasion was Gareth Bale, which made the City fans all the more joyful.
Make no mistake, City and their fans feared us today, and we did a great job. We were so pleased to have Ledley at the helm, despite that late concession of the penalty, and Adebayor’s enforced absence was covered by Jermain Defoe.
The first half was relatively tame, as the teams seemed to be checking each other out, although City had the best of the chances and the shot ratio. After three minutes a defensive header by Scott Parker fell to Barry, who tried to send Silva away. Kyle Walker did a good job here, successfully shepherding the ball out of play. Former gooner Clichy got an early yellow card for preventing Kyle Walker from taking a quick attacking throw just inside the City half. Great determination by Luka Modric was demonstrated twice as he cleared the ball as far as Aaron Lennon. On the second occasion, Lennon got the ball to Bale who went on a run and sent in a low cross, but no-one was there to make contact. Spurs were playing somewhat deep in this half, with Van der Vaart often to be found behind the rest of the midfield. This of course led to a lack of support for Defoe.
After 17 minutes, David Silva (who was covering the full width of the pitch) got to a good position on the left of the box, and crossed low, where Dzeko and Aguero seemed to be competing for the final shot, which went wide anyway. Spurs did have a shot at the other end, snatched by Scott Parker, but hit well wide of the target, and almost wide of the penalty area. Bale and Lennon were switching flanks, and again, Bale was getting into central positions.
After 25 minutes, referee Howard Webb allowed City to take a free kick well away from the correct position and a dangerous attack ensued. The ball reached Aguero who had a battle with Kaboul. Aguero came off best, but hit his shot wide across the goal mouth. Aguero had another chance from another City free kick, but hit his attempt woefully wide. Richards made one of his forward charges and fed Aguero, after a rebound off Lennon. Aguero’s shot was saved by Friedel, and in the follow-up, Richards won a corner. At the other end, Richards partially cleared a Walker cross and Rafa van der Vaart had two shots on goal blocked.
Mr. Webb had “words” with Lescott following a challenge on Bale, but after the free kick, Kaboul hit a shot well over the target. Dzeko had a shot well over the bar after a Silva run from deep.
After the half-time break, City put some early pressure on Spurs. Spurs did have a decent counter attack that ended with a pass by Defoe to Van der Vaart, whose shot did not worry Hart in goal. Van der Vaart was the feeder in another Spurs break, getting the ball to Bale down the left, but the best we could do was win a throw at this stage. Bale had a great chance when receiving the ball from Modric, but fell backwards just inside the area as he tried to shoot for goal.
Spurs were punished badly, and the pain was deeper because it was Nasri who got the goal. No-one tracked his run in from the left, but Silva spotted it, and Nasri had acres of space in which to beat Friedel with a convincing shot past his right hand. Minutes later after a corner, Spurs were two down, as Dzeko flicked the ball on for Lescott to scramble the ball in from close range.
The drama continued as Jermain Defoe took maximum advantage of a long clearance, which was badly mis-judged by stand-in defender Savic. Jermain took the ball round Hart and finished with glee to put Spurs right back into the game. The come-back was complete five minutes later as Lennon took the ball down the left side, and cut it back to Bale who was lurking on the edge of the area. This time, there was no mistake from Gareth, but a fine powerful unstoppable finish into the roof of the net. It was 2-2, and some of us imitated the city Posnan jig!
Now Spurs had the better of the game, and would ultimately have that great match-winning chance. After a Spurs corner, Bale hit the ball from a central position to Lennon who fed tit back to Modric, who hit a right foot shot not too far over the bar. Another corner was taken by Modric, and fielded by Kaboul and Bale. The move ended with a rather weak shot by Lennon that was picked up by Hart.
The drama was ended first with that miss by Defoe. It was reminiscent of Gazza’s back post miss against Germany in Euro ’96. Bale had made a run to the left channel and hit a good hard low cross, which Defoe raced to reach, but just hit the ball on the wrong side of the post. Just when it looked as if we were holding onto a honourable draw, Balotelli made a run into the Spurs area for a chipped ball, and Ledley made that rash challenge. Balotelli made no mistake, and Spurs were made to lick their wounds.
We are 8 points behind City, but remember ……….. we remain 5 points above Chelsea, and as far as I’m concerned, our priority is to remain secure in third place. The title was always an outside chance, and that quest is not over yet, either! Be proud of your team. Plenty of non-partisan observers really enjoy our brand of football.
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