Just when it looked like Spurs would lose a lead once more, two moments
within a minute of each other turned the match in Tottenham's favour.
Stephen Ireland's ill-advised two footed lunge at Lee brought a straight
red card from the referee, while the resulting free-kick lead to the
second and winning goal for Spurs.
Coming to the Lane looking for their first away points since the opening
day of the season, Manchester City hardly looked that keen, with only
one forward and that forward was only Darius Vassell. A five man
midfield was obviously designed to stifle the Tottenham midfield and to
spring forward in numbers, which they did on a number of occasions.
However, there was little persistent threat, with their final ball
sloppy and some weak finishing meaning that Paul Robinson had little to
do for most of the afternoon.
The game started with a refereeing error,
when Lee kicked the ball off Petrov for a goal-kick and a corner was
given, leaving Spurs to breathe a sigh of relief when Johnson headed the
ball over, when he was unchallenged. However, the first save of
the game came in the eighth minute, when Berbatov, who looked a bit more
up for it today, slid a pass through to the left hand channel for Bent
to run onto. Reaching it first, he took his shot, but Isaksson
raced out to block it and although the Spurs striker could have got more
elevation on it, the keeper did well.
Tottenham were getting Aaron Lennon into
the game early and one run past Garrido in the 15th minute brought a
blatant foul as the little winger roared past him (and not for the first
time). A yellow card was shown to the Manchester City defender,
leaving him on a knife edge every time Lennon ran at him. Berba
did well when floored as he ran into three City defenders, but still
managed to hook the ball into the path of Darren Bent on the right side
of the area, but his low shot went across the face of the goal, with
Jenas and Malbranque waiting for a squarer ball to them.
While much was expected from Petrov, his
free-kicks, fortunately enough for Spurs were aimed directly at the wall
today. When Kelvin Etuhu (younger brother of Sunderland's Dickson)
ran at Lee, the Korean did not angle his body well enough and allowed
the City man to cut inside, but his decision to try and beat Robinson at
his near post was not a good one and the ball rippled the side netting.
The game was taking a similar path as last week's. Spurs having
lots of possession, but not making enough from it, while they were
always suspect to a breakaway, with City's midfielders pouring forward
in support of the lone striker.
When Tottenham broke and Bent chased down
a Chimbonda clearance, Micah Richards looked at the Spurs forward and
then cut across him from behind, bringing him down in the process.
For al the world, it looked like a free-kick, but the strange world of
refereeing raised it's head again and nothing was given. Maybe to
make up for it, when Berbatov was surrounded by Gerson and Corluka and
went down holding his head as a stray arm caught him, Halsey awarded a
free-kick. Jenas lined up to take it from the left side of the box
a yard in from the dead-ball line. It was a tight angle, but he
shaped to shoot, then played it low to the edge of the six-yard box,
where Berbatov flicked it through his legs and the ball popped up off a
defender and hit Pascal Chimbonda's arm as it deflected past Isaksson.
The City players went mad and it was a toss-up as to whether they were
complaining about the handball or the fact that Chimbonda was standing
right in front of their keeper in an offside position.
The psychological boost of a goal scored
right on half-time would have been a big enough lift for the Tottenham
players, but one in which they had such good fortune might have given
them an even greater buzz. So much has gone wrong this season, it was
about time something went right ... and these things even themselves out
over the course of a season (of course).
The second half was a different 45
minutes to the first, as City had to chase the game if they were to live
up to Sven Goran Eriksson's boast that his team were going to be
"braver" away from home to gain some points. It was Tottenham who
took the initiative and pressed forward to try to increase their lead,
with Zokora breaking up a visitor's attack and feeding Dimitar, who hit
a low, skidding effort that Isaksson turned around for a corner, even
though it looked like it was going wide.
However, it was Eriksson's substitution
of Bianchi for Etuhu that paid off immediately. Chimbonda got his
body in the way of Petrov's cross and the ball went off for a corner on
the left side of the City attack at the Park Lane end. When the
Bulgarian played the ball into the near post area with a bit of pace on
it, Bianchi was first to react and beat Bent to the ball and thundered a
header past a static Robinson. At 1-1, you could sense that the
Tottenham fans were fearful of what might happen, with so many leads
lost this season.
Petrov almost played a cross into the far
post for Vassell, but Lee got his head to it and deflected it away as he
did a couple of times to provide a valuable contribution at the back.
Petrov flashed a shot wide as he moved forward and nobody closed him
down and Lennon got past Garrido easily once more, but his cross missed
everybody in the box. it was the little winger's last involvement,
as Kevin-Prince Boateng came on to stiffen up the midfield.
The young German made an impression with
a cool performance of good control and sensible passing. He was
involved as he was fouled to provide Jenas with the opportunity to put a
ball into the area, which found Chimbonda at the far post, but the
full-back could not get sufficient power on it to bear Isaksson.
Then Lee and Malbranque linked well on the left for Steed to drag the
ball back, behind Berbatov, but into the path of Jenas, who hit the ball
leaning back slightly and it rose over the bar, when he might have
forced the goalie make a save.
Unsurprisingly, Dunne got a booking for a
foul on Zokora and Defoe replaced Darren bent, who had a disappointing
performance. Then came the minutes that changed the match.
Jenas played a short pass to Lee on the left and as the ball ran towards
him, Stephen Ireland dived two-footed off the floor into the top of his
calf. The referee hardly had any choice but to dismiss the
midfielder, who is turning into a cross between the new "Psycho" and the
new Joey Barton. For Eriksson to compare it to Keane's challenge
last week must surely mean he should have gone to Specsavers !!
City players argued his innocence, but
there was nothing innocent about the challenge, as he had already
cleared out Zokora with a challenge that started three yards away from
where the ball was without any chance of stopping. It was a shame,
as up until this point, Ireland had shown what a good player he was,
making short passes to link play and putting in a lot of energy getting
up and back. However, he needs to sort his head out otherwise, he
will go the same way as so many players.
As Tottenham were also reduced to ten
men, with Lee absurdly having to leave the field after getting treatment
for Ireland's assault, it was Jenas who floated the ball into the area
where an equal number of players battled for it. As the ball was
cleared to the left hand side, Boateng rescued the ball and dinked it
back for Malbranque. Pushing the ball first time past two
defenders, he burst into the box and played a low ball across the six
yard box. Dawson was at the near post and jumped over the ball,
confusing the keeper and defender behind him, but the ball cannoned off
the inside of the post, as our bad luck continued to visit us. But
then, the luck changed and the ball fell for Defoe, who turned quickly
to bend his foot around a shot that ripped off the wet turf and might
have taken a slight deflection as it went past Richards and Isaksson to
hit the back of the net.
The roar of relief from the Tottenham
crowd was evident and the joy with which Defoe celebrated got him a
booking (which should rate a lot lower in terms of punishment than that
given for a bad tackle). The whole team, except Robinson, joined
in the celebration, but they needed to focus for the remaining seven
minutes and then the four (four ?? where did they come from)
minutes to be added to the end of the game.
Jenas saw yellow for a nip at Geovanni's
ankles and the free-kick from Petrov hit the wall and another one a few
minutes later was played with such pace, it flew off the pitch beyond
all the City forwards.
But Tottenham kept going forward and
Malbranque pulled a shot wide, when he would have done better finding a
colleague in the middle with a square pass, while Berbatov played Defoe
in with a neat back-heel, only for Isaksson to beat out the powerful
shot. When Dunne tried to back-heel the loose ball to a colleague,
he only succeeded in stepping on the ball and Jermain reacted quickest
to the ball and managed to make the goalie make another save.
As the game came to an end, City threw
the ball in, with Richards getting his head to one cross, but could not
control his header, which went way over the top. It was desperate
and when you consider they scored with their only shot on target,
perhaps their lack of adventure cost them today, as it might have done
on other occasions.
Sven's cautious formation let Spurs have
a lot of the ball and we must really learn to make moves forward more
urgent, as the protracted build-ups allow the other side the chance to
get plenty of men back behind the ball. By getting Lennon
into the game, they can open teams up and from wide areas, rather than
the ball being played into the middle, where midfielders only have a
narrow angle to try to play the passes into the forwards. This
might be why Bent is struggling, as he is not used to this sort of
supply and is more accustomed to the ball being played over the top for
him to run onto. At the moment, he looks low on confidence and Defoe
might be the better option against Portsmouth, with his nippy movement
likely to cause the Pompey defenders more of a problem.
A win was vital today, with two tough
games coming up. The team did it, but, as always, caused a number
of cardiac flutters in the crowd !!