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Man City v Spurs, 11.11.12

(1.30 PM)

Man City scorers:-
Aguero, 65
Dzeko, 88

Spurs scorer:-
Caulker, 21

Attendance:- 47,208

Referee:- Mr. M. Oliver
Assistants:- Mr. S. Long & Mr. D. England
Fourth Official:- Mr. L. Mason

Man City (4-2-3-1):- Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany (Capt.), Nastasic (sub Maicon, 56), Clichy; Barry, Yaya Toure; Silva, Tevez (sub Dzeko, 73), Kolarov; Aguero (sub Garcia, 90)

Subs not used:- Pantilimon; K. Toure, Razak, Sinclair

Booked:- Zabaleta (foul on Adebayor)

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Friedel; Walker (sub Dawson, 78), Gallas (Capt.), Caulker, Vertonghen; Sandro, Huddlestone; Lennon (sub Naughton, 87), Dempsey, Bale; Adebayor (sub Defoe, 80)

Subs not used:- Lloris; Sigurdsson, Livermore, Carroll

Booked:- Walker (foul on Clichy), Adebayor (foul on Zabaleta)

Bale no show = Spurs no go

There was a key moment in this game when Roberto Mancini replaced centre back Nastasic with right back (or wing-back) Maicon. At the time City were trailing to a Steven Caulker first half header. Maicon’s arrival was greeted with cheers from both sets of fans, possibly loudest from the Spurs section, who recalled only too well what a mess Gareth Bale had made of Maicon in the two Champions League games we played against Inter two years ago. We chanted “Taxi for Maicon” as we had then. What Mancini had done was to switch from a back four to three at the back with two wing-backs, one of whom was Maicon on the right. We had hoped – almost expected - that Gareth Bale would make more mince-meat of the Brazilian full back, but Maicon ploughed a path forward, whilst Spurs sought to hold onto their slender lead and failed to make much headway in the direction of Joe Hart’s goal.

It was interesting that City chose to attack Spurs’ left flank more than their right, perhaps knowing that Jan Vertonghen would get less help from Bale than Kyle Walker did on the other side from Aaron Lennon. In fact, both full backs got most help from Sandro, who made a welcome return today, and supported his defence across the field of play.

The headline is sensationalist, I know, and it is unfair to pick out Bale as the fall guy, but it is true that when he does not play a starring role, Spurs are far less potent, and that was the case today. Clint Dempsey was far less visible in the middle today, and so far has by far the lowest grade given to any Spurs player.

Adebayor was selected ahead of Thursday night’s hat-trick hero Jermain Defoe, and worked as hard as ever, but Spurs as a unit rarely made any headway against the City side. In the end, the technician Andre Villas-Boas was out-thought by Mancini, under far more pressure at a club with a massive budget, and eyes on big prizes. Mancini’s substitutions were proactive and creative. Those of AVB lacked creativity. Defoe replaced Adebayor, and did not join him in an effort to get a winner. Dawson replaced the injured Walker. Naughton was a late replacement for Lennon. All three of Spurs outfield unused substitutes had creativity in their boots, but of course, AVB’s way is to try to hold on.

Indeed, at half-time we were happy to have the lead, but we only dreamt of things staying that way, because Aguero and Co. had already had enough chances to put Spurs behind, had they been more accurate and not profligate. The second had had City on the front foot virtually all the time, with Spurs rarely able to ease the pressure.

We did defend quite well until City equalised. Caulker was cool, taking the no risk option whenever necessary. As a defensive unit, Spurs generally closed down the opposition well, but when you have quick and gifted players such as Ageuro, Tevez and Silva darting around the area, you’ve got a big fight on your hands. City’s first real threat on goal though came after 13 minutes, when Kolarov took a free kick that he curled outside the wall, which Friedel saved outside his right post. Friedel had to parry the ball before holding it cleanly, and the City fans around us were claiming a corner, but then they claimed two or three penalties, and plenty of fouls and decisions that young, but strong referee Michael Oliver did not give their way.

Spurs had a half chance when Adebayor was challenged by Hart, but no shot ensued. Steven Caulker gave Spurs a surprise lead in the 21st minute when headed down Huddlestone’s free kick from the right and beat Hart low to his left.

Now it was to be a case of trying to hold onto that lead. City fans wanted a handball against Gallas, when Aguero’s effort hit his hand at close range. Adebayor carried the ball towards the area with a run down the left channel, and fed the ball back to Huddlestone, who hit a good low shot just outside the keeper’s right post. At the other end, Aguero was the recipient of a diagonal ball and teed up Kolarov, who tried a left footed shot that passed wide of Friedel’s left post.

Spurs failed to clear their lines before a shot by Aguero went well wide. Then Silva got behind the defence and fed the ball to Tevez, whose shot was straight at Friedel. Mr. Oliver had “words” with Yaya Toure just before the break, when Toure had surely been showing too much dissent, almost jumping up and down in frustration at a decision. Silva fed the ball to Zabaleta who had got in front of the Spaniard. Zabaleta hit his shot straight at Friedel too.

After 54 minutes, Aguero finally beat the offside flag, but then made a mess of his effort on goal, with another shot straight at Friedel. Even £38 million players can look ordinary at times. City fans had been baiting us with “You’ll never win the league again”, and I responded that we’d make a good crack at it with the benefit of half a billion or more!

On came Maicon and on the hour he was combining with Tevez to work the ball inside to Yaya Toure, who fired a shot from a tight angle, which resulted in a goal kick. Spurs had a rare attack on 62 minutes, and it was Dempsey who fed Bale, who fired well off target. City then equalised, and from my distant viewpoint, it looked like a poor defensive ball had led to the chance, but credit has been given to Yaya Toure for finding the feet of Sergio Aguero towards the right of the defence. Aguero finished clinically with a left foot shot across Friedel’s out-stretched right arm.

Now Lennon made a good run forward and got the ball to Bale, who again fired over. City had their tails up, and Maicon was grabbing attention for the right reasons from his point of view, hitting a right footed cross wide across the goalmouth. Tevez had a similar effort, and was immediately replaced by Dzeko.

At the other end, the ball somehow kept falling in favour of Gareth Bale, but his eventual left footed shot was cleared. Walker had to go off, and Dawson took over in the middle, with Gallas moving to right back. This might have been crucial to City’s late winning goal. The pressure was all upon Spurs, but City did not have their shooting boots, with Aguero and Silva prominent. Friedel made a great reaction save with his feet from Aguero, who had been set up by Dzeko. City’s winning goal came following great combination work from Dzeko, passing back to Silva, who gave the ball a deft touch for Dzeko’s run which deceived Dawson. Dzeko hooked an unstoppable left foot shot through Friedel’s raised arms.

The City fans found their voices at last. A draw would have been a good result for us, and to lose so late in the game was a crushing blow. Even West Ham are above us now, and our league ambitions have to be moderated from now on, I feel.

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