SATURDAY 20TH APRIL, 2019
MANCHESTER CITY 1(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)
Referee:- Michael Oliver
Assistants:- Stuart Burt, Simon Bennett
Fourth official:- Chris Kavanagh
Man City (4-3-3):- Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; De Bruyne (sub Fernandinho, 38), Gundogan, Foden (sub David Silva, 85); Bernardo Silva, Aguero (Capt.) (sub Sane, 66), Sterling
(Armband to Fernandinho)
Subs not used:- Muric; Otamendi; Mahrez; Gabriel Jesus
Booked:- Sterling (Unsporting conduct)
Spurs (5-3-2):- Gazzaniga; Foyth, Sanchez, Alderweireld (sub Llorente, 78), Vertonghen (Capt.), Davies; Eriksen, Dier (sub Wanyama, 61), Dele (sub Rose, 69); Son, Lucas Moura
Subs not used:- Vorm; Walker-Peters; Skipp; Janssen
Booked:- Wanyama (foul on Fernandinho), Vertonghen (unsporting conduct)
The game plan was excellent - execution not so good.
I always felt that this game was a “free hit”. Anything we could gain from it in the way of points would have been a bonus. That was not to be, as City scored an early goal and held onto that slender lead for the remaining 85 minutes, plus added time. Mauricio Pochettino had made a number of changes including goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga in for Hugo Lloris, who has a slight muscular problem. I am sure Hugo will be back for Tuesday night’s game at home to Brighton. Gazzaniga, whilst showing a degree of nervousness and uncertainty, was not sorely tested by a City side who attacked with vigour, but didn’t get much on target.
Gazzaniga was only one of several changes including the Spurs formation. I call it a 5-3-2, which could have become 3-5-2 going forward, but our full backs (Foyth on the right and Davies on the left) did not get forward too much, as any attacking invention was left to the creativity of Dele and Eriksen with the pace of Lucas Moura and Son to take the ball on. Over the course of the game, we did have four or five very good chances, at least three of which fell to Son. The execution of these chances was below par, but you also have to give credit to City’s defence and goalkeeper Ederson, who I understand has actually been called man of the match by the BBC.
Eric Dier made a welcome return, appearing for his club for the first time since early March when we lost at Southampton. Dier, clearly lacks match fitness and was replaced after an hour by Wanyama. Speaking of Southampton, that game was the third of what has become five consecutive away defeats. That is the first such run since the days of David Pleat (as caretaker) in 2004, and seems totally alien to a side which has had such a good away record under Pochettino in recent years.
City fans had been asked on Wednesday to bring back their flags that had been waved with such enthusiasm before the Champions League game. Not all the flags appeared, but there was plenty of waving before the game. The crowd figure is given as 54,489, but there were empty seats to be seen. In fairness, a few Spurs fans didn’t make the trip, and two long hauls to Manchester is a big hurdle to cross for some.
The weather was glorious and we are enjoying potentially the hottest Easter on record. Inevitably, the game and the atmosphere lacked the intensity of Wednesday night, but Spurs fans were keen to gloat over the magnificent Champions league success with chants lauding VAR, our continued presence in the Champions League and of course our forthcoming trip to Amsterdam. Some City fans leaving the stadium chanted “Have you ever seen Spurs win the league?” Well, of course, they either aren’t old enough, or they don’t know their history.
City kicked off but within two minutes, it was Spurs who had the first chance. Stones lost the ball and Lucas Moura passed to Eriksen who was in a central position in City’s half. Eriksen sent Son away down the left channel, but his shot (at an angle) was saved by Ederson. City had the next chance, and sadly it was the vital scoring opportunity. The excellent Bernardo Silva crossed deep from the right. Aguero headed back across the Spurs goal, and the 18 year old Foden, making only his second Premier League start, headed home his first Premier league goal.
After 13 minutes, Spurs had another great chance. This time Lucas Moura passed inside from the right and Eriksen was into the area, hitting a shot which Ederson again saved. We Spurs fans felt we had not made the best use of our chances. The next one fell to Son again as Eriksen sent him away with an excellent pass from inside the Spurs half. Son was advancing upon goal, but Laporte managed to block his right footed shot. Foden had another opportunity, provided by Bernardo Silva, but this effort was held by Gazzaniga. One thing Spurs were doing today, more than we have seen in recent games, was passing backwards and so tentatively that Gazzaniga actually kicked the ball out for a City corner, which was less than satisfactory to say the least! After 33 minutes Foden became the supplier for Bernardo Silva, crossing form the left before Bernardo’s low shot was held by the Spurs keeper.
Spurs were generally holding their own, and might have drawn encouragement when De Bruyne booted the ball out of play; went down injured and had to be replaced by Fernandinho, thus replacing some creativity with defensive grit.
There was some good play by Eriksen, Son and Lucas Moura as they advanced before Foyth crossed, but the ball, was just too far in front of Lucas Moura. This move was preceded by a poor Kyle Walker cross and a wayward shot by our former full back, which drew derision from the travelling fans. There was a great win of the ball by Dele at the back, and a ball forward by Ben Davies to Son, who again advanced upon the City goal, this time from the right channel. Son was surrounded by Sky Blue shirts but got a shot in which was again saved by Ederson.
Three minutes into the second half, Aguero had a shot blocked by Toby Alderweireld after a run and cross by Walker. City fans – getting as partisan as those of Everton – were crying for a handball, which I don’t think was justified. Two minutes later a good tackle by Jan Vertonghen brought another Aguero advance to a halt. The striker went down, but recovered without treatment.
Dele Alli was in the City box and received a long ball from Alderweireld, which replays show was clearly and deliberately put out of play by Walker’s arm. Dele’s appeal for handball came to nought, and Spurs had two corners in succession, the second of which was cleared. Eric Dier, whose application had looked a bit stale at times, was replaced on the hour by Wanyama. Aguero was replaced by Sane, and Juan Foyth came to the fore with his excellent defence in the face of a new attacking foil by City.
Dele and Eriksen combined in their own half before Eriksen hit a long ball for son to take on, but Laporte came out the better and was able to head back to the goalkeeper. Dele was replaced by Danny Rose, who not for the first time, took a position in front of Davies in the midfield. Spurs had another handball penalty shout turned down when Laporte seemed to handle under pressure from Son. Sane then crossed at the other end for Sterling, whose shot was well blocked by the foot of Gazzaniga. After a Spurs free kick at the other end Lucas Moura had one shot blocked and the next held by Ederson.
Pochettino brought on Llorente for Alderweireld with the clear intent to try and level the scores. Eriksen also had a shot blocked with a follow-up by Lucas Moura going over the target. Danny Rose had a shot from distance towards the end of the game, which passed wide, and there were some shenanigans deep in the Spurs half near the corner flag when City were trying to see out time. I think this led to Sterling and Vertonghen getting booked.
City did see out time, and went back to the top of the table until Liverpool’s visit to Cardiff tomorrow. The Manchester Derby will be played next Wednesday at Old Trafford. Spurs now have to make sure they win their home games against Brighton and West Ham in the next week, before we play our home Champions league semi-final on April 30th. We have plenty of excitement, and hopefully achievement to come!
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