rain fell in a Manchester style, but it must have made them feel at home
for they failed to turn their considerable pressure into goals and
allowed Spurs to take the three points to secure fifth place and a place
in the UEFA Cup next season.
struck twice in the first half, but were pegged back by a Mpenza header
and fought a bit of a rearguard action before having the opportunity to
wrap the match up late on. Both sides had openings, which were
snuffed out by the defences, before a ninth minute goal by Robbie Keane
on his 200th appearance for Spurs opened the scoring. Berbatov's
back-heel found Ledley King moving into the opposition half, with a spin
away from a City challenge. He played a square ball to Jermaine
Jenas, back after his bout of back spasms and a delicate chip over the
City back four provided Robbie the chance to smash home a volley from
about 12 yards out, which went through the keeper's legs. It was a
fine goal and one which gave Spurs an early buffer against the rigours
of what the day might have brought.
Didier Zokora put in a huge performance
considering this was the third game in a week for Tottenham and he was
on the end of a lot of rough tackles by the visiting players, but he
stuck to his task until the end ... more of which later. He was on
the end of a two-footed jump tackle from Ireland which went unpunished
and a foul when Vassell left his foot in and he did get a caution.
From the quarter hour mark, City started to push Spurs back. A
hesitant piece of defending saw Richard Dunne allowed time to ship the
ball into the heart of the Tottenham penalty area and the ball fell
nicely for Vassell to strike the ball at goal from about six yards out
and the ball was close to Robinson, but he did well to palm the ball
away with a fine piece of goalkeeping. Robinson has had his
detractors this season, but he has come good near the end of the
campaign with some vitally timed saves.
The midfield was a tough part of the pitch and
Teemu Tainio made a valuable contribution with some hard running and
some tough tackling. He even got forward to curl a shot not too
far over the top in the 23rd minute and the Finn was playing the ball
around the pitch well too.
With an injury to Distin, Manchester City had
to re-organise and maybe this allowed Spurs to attack through the middle
of the defence to score the second goal shortly after. Anthony
Gardner played the ball into Berbatov's feet and he turned to move into
the penalty area, centrally placed. He tried to prod a pass
through to Aaron Lennon outside him on the left, but Onuoha could only
stick a leg out to stop the ball, leaving it invitingly in the
Bulgarian's path. What else is a striker to do when presented with
such a chance other than to oblige by smashing it into the net to make
Gardner's pass was one of the better things he
did in the match, as he had a tough time up against Vassell and brought
a yellow card out of Steve Bennett's pocket when he mis-timed a tackle.
Luckily the free-kick was cleared, but in City's next attack, Hamman
curled in a cross that hit Mpenza at the far post and although a little
behind him, the Belgian forward put his header back across Robbo to find
the corner of the net. 1-2 with five minutes until half-time
and within a minute Mpenza's cross was pushed out by ENO and the ball
bounced up for Johnson to head at an unguarded goal, only to put it over
the top. It was an escape for Tottenham and one which left them
going in a goal to the good at the break.
With the team 45 minutes from the end of the
season, they put in a tired second half performance, with City pushing
forward to grab something from the game. Keane went close with a
curler just after the restart, but then in the 57th minute, Tottenham
were indebted to Robinson once more, as Ireland's cross found Mpenza
unmarked, with Chimbonda allowing him a header, which Paul had to
back-peddle to jump up and push the ball over the bar when it was
heading for the top corner of the net. For the next fifteen
minutes, Tottenham had to defend as the crosses came into the area, but
with Lennon's exit to be replaced by Malbranque, the match swung the
Jenas showed good pace to break forward, but
his pass to Keano was not well weighted and the chance slipped away,
then Berba's pass was heading for Keane until Dunne got it away by
slicing it over his own bar. Keane then took a break, with Jermain
Defoe coming on for the last ten minutes.
With five minutes remaining, Defoe curled a
free-kick just wide of the goal and then in the next forward move,
Zokora picked up a loose ball, ran at Dunne and as he neared the penalty
area, he was nudged by the Irish defender and Bennett pointed to the
spot. It looked dubious and on TV afterwards, it was outside the
box. However, taking what is given, Defoe grabbed the ball and
stepped up to take the spot-kick, but smashed it straight at Isaksson
and when the rebound bounced in front of him, he struck it when it was
slightly too high and it rocketed over the bar, with Jenas coming in
behind him with perhaps a better run at it.
Right at the death, Zokora lead another
breakaway and with Defoe in support, played him in. With it
looking like a typical opportunity for the little striker to fire a shot
in on goal, he instead tried to drift it across the six yard box, but
the ball flocked off Dunne for a corner and the last chance of the match
went begging and shortly after the final whistle blew on a season that
was a marathon this time and Tottenham stayed the course to win their
aim of European football and a fifth placed finish was a good return for
some entertaining football.
Next season will be the tester, as it will be
expected that we move to the next level and crash the top four party.
With some astute buys and with Berbatov retained, it might be a
realistic aim. With the UEFA Cup to look forward to, the players
earned themselves an extra month's holiday, as there is now no need for
the InterToto Cup.
The after match presentations for Player of the
Season and the speech by Martin Jol left everyone leaving with a smile
on their face. Especially when Jol told the crowd that he wasn't
"a slimeball" just before he told us that we were the best fans in the
Long may he reign !!