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Manchester City v Spurs, 17.04.19

(Aggregate score 4-4 – Spurs win on away goals)

City scorers:-
Sterling, 4,21
Bernardo Silva, 11
Aguero, 59

Spurs scorers:-
Son, 7,10
Llorente, 73

Attendance:- 53,348

Referee:- Cüneyt Çakir (TUR)
Assistants:- Bahattin Duran (TUR) & Tarik Ongun (TUR)
Fourth official:- Artur Dias (POR)
Video Assistant Referee:- Massimiliano Irrati (ITA)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee:- Marco Guida (ITA)

Man City (4-3-3):- Ederson; Walker, Kompany (Capt.), Laporte, Mendy (sub Sane, 84); De Bruyne, Gundogan, David Silva (sub Fernandinho, 63); Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling

Subs not used:- Muric; Stones, Otamendi; Mahrez; Gabriel Jesus

No bookings

Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose (sub Sanchez, 90+1); Sissoko (sub Llorente, 41), Wanyama, Dele; Eriksen; Son, Lucas Moura (sub Davies, 82)

Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Walker-Peters, Foyth; Skipp

Booked:- Sissoko (time), Son (foul on De Bruyne), Rose (foul), Wanyama (foul on De Bruyne)

Ecstasy at The Etihad!

The Etihad Stadium

You saw the game. Either, like me, you were one those blessed to have been at what has been described as the most wonderful game of European football ever, or you watched it on TV. You’ve experienced the drama; the highs and lows of this simply incredible night. If you’re a Spurs fan (which most readers are!) you are still on Cloud Nine. How can I, a mere mortal, hope to convey in words what we witnessed at The Etihad Stadium?

Let me start at the end of a game which had entered five minutes of added time. Spurs, through 34 year old substitute Fernando Llorente, who has all the experience you could wish for at this level, had scored a second half third goal with 20 minutes to play. That goal was going to put us through to our first Champions League semi-final on the away goals rule. Wave upon wave of attack-filled Manchester City bombarded the Tottenham goal, which our heroes defended like tigers – dervishes even. It looked as if Eriksen was going to be able to bring the ball forward and ease us towards the sacred final whistle. But no! Eriksen stumbled; lost control and passed backwards, where the ball was flicked on by Bernardo Silva towards Aguero, who passed inside to Sterling who scored what was announced as a hat-trick goal. The home crowd who had been ramped up to provide an astounding cauldron of noise for most of the game were in the sort of ecstasies they had seen when Aguero scored “that” Premier League goal in 2012.

I thought it was all over. My heart was down. I knew there was no time to reply to this dagger to my heart. I left my seat. Yes, dear reader, I was on the concourse (not the stairs) when I heard roaring cheers from our fans. I rushed up the stairs – any stairs – and was greeted with howls of “the goal’s been disallowed”! God bless VAR. God bless Tottenham! We saw out what was left of added time. Where Spurs players had been strewn on the ground in despair, it was City players – so desperate for Champions League success – who collapsed while the army of Spurs fans, the players, substitutes management and all gathered and celebrated heartily in their corner of the stadium.

I was lucky enough to be here when Peter Crouch put us into the Champions League for the first time on May 5th 2010. Now I was here to see the heroes of Tottenham (yes, all of them) put us through to our first Champions League semi-final. For all their money; for all their undoubted skill, artistry and ability; Spurs had beaten city to the Champions League in 2010. Now we have beaten them to the semi-finals of this elite European club competition. This was the most dramatic football match I can remember witnessing in person. It was, of course, the most fantastic night!

The Etihad was decked out in City’s sky blue and white colours being waved in every corner of the stadium, except of course that of Spurs. City surprisingly, use a Liverpool based song (“Hey Jude”) as some sort of anthem. For most of the game, the City fans (and they did manage to sell all their tickets in the end) roared on their team. They whistled heartily (like many European venues) whenever Spurs had the ball.

Mauricio Pochettino had come not to try to hold onto the 1-0 lead earned last week at New White Hart Lane. “Magic” Mauricio had come to match Pep Guardiola’s 4-3-3. He had come to have his team go toe-to-toe in a magical night. Dele was part of our midfield three, with his lower arm in a cast, due to the hand injury he suffered last week. Wanyama got another gig next to Sissoko. Eriksen played behind the pace of Son and Lucas Moura, designed to attack. Perhaps Guardiola anticipated Llorente starting, for I was a little surprised to see Vincent Kompany play, and not Stones or Otamendi.

De Bruyne started and had a masterful game. He has missed so much of this season, and it seems he had been eased back into full action especially for this night. Whilst Fernandinho did not start, Gundogan offered resilience and skill in front of the City back line. Bernardo Silva was a constant threat, and then there were Aguero and Sterling.

When de Bruyne cut open our defence with a ball from the right, across the area to the feet of Sterling, who scored in the fourth minute across Lloris, I feared something like the 6-0 of November 2013, when City had opened the scoring after 14 seconds and went on to annihilate Spurs. But no, Spurs responded in the only way Pochettino had intended – with attack. Son tried a ball to Dele, but it was just a little too far in front. Then Son had an equaliser on the night and Spurs had a lead! Dele crossed from the inside right. Laporte failed to clear and “Sonny” had the ball in the middle. His shot hit Ederson but also hit the net. The City goalkeeper had failed again, as he did last week, to keep out a Son shot.

City needed to score two more now. Then they needed to score three more! Son scored again. These were his 19th and 20th club goals of a magnificent personal season. This time Lucas Moura had passed to Eriksen who gets the final assist, but again Laporte had been found wanting. This goal was a magnificent right footed curler to the far corner by our South Korean hero, who became the highest scoring Asian player in Champions League history.

City got the first of the three goals they were looking for immediately. It was only the 11th minute for goodness sake, and we had already seen four goals. This one came from Bernardo Silva, at the right side of goal. His shot took a deflection off Danny Rose which left Lloris wrong-footed and unable to prevent the ball entering his goal. Aguero had provided the pass.

In relative terms, the game settled down. 6 minutes had gone before City had a free kick out on the right. De Bruyne and David Silva shaped up. Silva took this one and hit it over Lloris’s bar. Trippier looked a liability at the back but played a part in attack, as after a throw he had taken deep on the right, he subsequently passed inside to Eriksen, who also fired over the target. Then, in the 21st minute, it was 3-2 to City. They took a quick free kick and Bernardo slipped the ball to de Bruyne, who again crossed through the Spurs 6 yard line for Sterling to finish at the back post with his right foot.

After 31 minutes and following a City move from the left the ball was worked to the right where Bernardo Silva took a low shot which Trippier did flick clear. This dd not seem like a conscious clearance by the Spurs right back. Toby Alderweireld blocked an Aguero effort following a Sterling pass. Now Moussa Sissoko went down injured no less than three times through injury and eventually had to go off. He was booked – presumably for taking too long to hobble off, which seemed cruel, but he had mightily riled the home fans. Llorente took his place. Eriksen moved further back.

Eriksen hit a nice ball from deep on the right to Son on the far side of the area. Son hit a curling shot which beat Ederson, but passed across goal. De Bruyne responded at the other end with a shot which was held by Lloris. There were three minutes of added time, which seemed longer, but they were negotiated by Spurs, who were still ahead (on away goals) in the tie.

Two minutes into the second half, De Bruyne was fouled by a combination of Son and Rose, just outside the box. Son was booked and apparently this means he will miss the next match, which will be the home leg against Ajax, and comes as a severe blow. De Bruyne took the kick which was over the target. A minute later, City attacked again. David Silva crossed low from the left and Sterling shot from close range, with Lloris saving, but not cleanly Danny Rose did enough to prevent a shot and the final touch by Bernardo Silva was wide and Spurs had a goal kick. Hugo made a great save from De Bruyne after 53 minutes. This move followed the loss of the ball by Son in the City half, which left Danny Rose exposed to the City counter. City had a free kick on the right, following a foul by Llorente. David Silva met the kick but headed high across the goal.

Lucas Moura put through a terrific ball for Son from his own half, an d it looked as if Son would have a great scoring chance. He couldn’t get a shot in though as Kompany tackled well. In the following play dele crossed and Llorente headed low, but Ederson saved. Eriksen also had a shot saved soon after that. He didn’t hit the ball with strength and the save was comfortable for Ederson.

Spurs had not only had some respite, but looked like taking the clear advantage, but it looked like our hopes had died in the 59th minute when de Bruyne slipped a ball to Aguero who hit a rocket of a shot from an angle on the right of the area. City had an aggregate lead for the first time in this tie. Now Guardiola replaced David Silva with Fernandinho and the clear intention was to consolidate. Subtle dirty tricks were used by Fernandinho and Gundogan, but no yellow cards were shown to City men.

Spurs won a corner on the right after Son challenged with Ederson near the bye-line, chasing a Trippier ball. This corner was taken by Rose, followed by a second corner from the left taken by Trippier. Both Toby Alderweireld and Llorente were in the mix for the ball at the near post, and the ball went into the net off Llorente’s hip. We cheered this goal which gave us the advantage, and we cheered it again after what seemed an age whilst the incident was reviewed by VAR. The referee went to the screen and eventually signalled that the goal stood!

Eriksen had a great opportunity after good work by Llorente and Son, but then Wanyama had to “take one for the team” as City made a break forward. Bernardo Silva managed to squeeze in a shot despite close attention and won a corner, as Lloris dived to his left post. Walker made a great run deep into Spurs territory down the right wing. The former Spurs man crossed, and Aguero headed goalward, but Lloris saved, diving to his right.

Lucas Moura was replaced by Ben Davies, and Danny Rose was pushed forward as Spurs maintained their back four formation. Sane replaced Mendy for City. Spurs were generally on the back foot, but successfully resisted the City advances. Eriksen had the audacity to try and catch Ederson out with a kick from his own half but the keeper was the comfortable victor here. Fernandinho pushed a ball out to Sane on the left. Sane passed inside to Gundogan, but he fired over at the near post.

Davinson Sanchez replaced Danny Rose as five minutes of added time was signalled. Now it was all hands to the Spurs defensive pumps. Then the came the drama of Sterling’s “goal” that was not a goal. VAR decreed that Aguero was in an offside position when Bernardo Silva had flicked on Eriksen’s errant ball. Son even had a chance for his own hat-trick goal in the dying seconds, but overran the ball.

So, there were “scenes” as the modern idiom goes. From my position I could see the wonderful Glenn Hoddle in the BT SPORT box. Glenn was leaning over and looked emotional, as indeed I am told was the case. There’s a tear in my eye as I write this too. Now we have a Champions League semi-final against Ajax Amsterdam. Former Ajax man Christian Eriksen described it as a fairy tale tie. Don’t forget we have other former Ajax men too. The fairy tale for them, and for us goes on!


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