For the second season running, a Peter Crouch goal at the South Stand
end at Eastlands confirmed Champions League football, but after the
highs of 2010, this time it was in his own net and handed Manchester
City the victory that sees them replace Tottenham as one of the
country's representatives in Europe's top competition.
Nobody would have banked on Crouch being the
only scorer and certainly not where he put the ball away from ... almost
the exact spot 370 days ago to ensure a Champions League campaign for
Spurs. And despite Tottenham controlling a large portion of the
game with good possession, the failure to turn that into goals once more
underlines the difference in our success of last season and the lack of
turning winning positions into points this time around.
Harry made five changes, with Gomes out with
a "bad back" and Kaboul replaced by Corluka, Spurs set up with four at
the back and four in midfield, with Lennon starting and Palacios
returning in the middle of the midfield with Sandro. Rafael van
der Vaart played in behind Peter Crouch as the front man.
While Spurs looked comfortable in possession
in opening phase of the first half, it was City who threatened goal
first with a 10th minute move that saw Silva escape past Corluka and
pull a low pass back form the dead ball line for Edin Dzeko, eight yards
out, but the striker's shot was blocked by Cudicini, who took the ball
in his bread basket.
Spurs then started to move the ball into the
City half and keep it there, apart from one break when the annoyingly
dramatic James Milner went down in a should to shoulder challenge by
Michael Dawson in the area, but referee Dean waved play on. Lennon
and Luka Modric both had efforts blocked and Crouch shot over, before
Modric should have opened the scoring. A pacy run by Aaron Lennon
took him from the halfway line to the edge of the City box and he looked
up to play a square ball inside to the Croatian midfielder and he was
half falling as he hit a shot from just inside the box that went six
inches wide on the left of the City goal in the 28th minute.
In another moment, atypical of our season,
City went ahead two minutes later when they worked a short corner, with
Tottenham slow on the uptake and Milner played a quick low ball into the
six yard box and Crouch was back defending, but could only knock it into
his own net to make it 1-0. He couldn't do much else with Lescott
coming in behind him, but it was a strange twist of fate that saw him
score from virtually the same place as he did last season.
Not only had Tottenham lost a goal, but
Wilson Palacios cold not carry on and was replaced by Steven Pienaar,
who, for a little while, could not pick up the pace of the game.
City had their best spell of the first half and put the Spurs defence
under a little pressure, but could only produce a long range shot from
David Silva that dipped over the top form 25 yards out as he cut in from
the left. Then towards the end of the first half, it was
Tottenham's turn to frustrate the home side, with their fans getting
anxious, as Spurs camped in the last third. But alas, all that
they could produce was a tame volley from van der Vaart in the last
minute of added time.
The half time break was not a joyous time
for the Spurs fans, who had been on a long trek this season and were so
hoping that a repeat of last season might happen, but we travel in hope
and are not always rewarded, so the second half needed to start well for
any hope of a comeback. With Tottenham attacking the goal in front
of us, it took only a minute and a half for a clear chance to be
created, as City looked nervy. Lennon got away on the right and
cut the ball back into the heart of the box in the air and running in
was Pienaar, who headed back across Hart and downwards towards the
inside of the side netting, but the goalie dived left and got a good
hand to knock the ball out before it was cleared away.
City had to make do with ten men for a while
as Zabaleta had head-butted Crouch's elbow and blood poured from his
nose. While the City crowd were not happy with the clash, Crouch's
arm was straight and therefore, it looked as though the elbow was not
swung a the City full back. He was replaced and following two
efforts on goal by van der Vaart - neither which troubled Hart - the
substitution that changed the game happened. Taking off Adam
Johnson, Patrick Vieira came on to shore up the midfield and suddenly
Spurs found it harder to get through.
In between poor efforts from Pienaar and
Lennon that sailed into the crowd, Vieira broke on the right to pass
inside for Silva and looking well placed for a shot on goal, he slipped
and the ball was taken up-field. But Tottenham came back with a
rising shot from Rose that flicked a City player for a corner, following
a corner that was not cleared properly and then van der Varrt shot off
target. It was catching, as Dzeko hit Milner's cross almost to the
back of the stand. The striker wasn't that impressive, but he
looks like he could be a handful when he is on form.
As the game wore on and the Tottenham player
s looked ever more weary, City brought fresh legs on in the shape of
Carlos Tevez and he first played in Vieira to dink over Cudicini only to
see a limping William Gallas rush back to head over the bar and the with
almost the last attack of the game, the Argentinian got onto a long
loose ball that Dawson left for Cudicini and Cudicini left for Dawson,
so getting it on the edge of the box, he stepped right and curled a shot
that he hoped would end up in the top corner of the net. However,
Cudicini was equal to it and beat the shot out before rescuing it before
it crossed the line.
And shortly after, the final whistle went
and the celebrations at the end where the Spurs fans stood were missing
this time, as City supporters jumped up and down around the ground.
Good luck to them, as over the season, their team has probably deserved
it and now Harry Redknapp will have to show what he is made of with the
side needing re-shaping before next season's campaign.