An opening day scoreless draw might have seemed a poor start after the
achievements of last season, but when the match was looked at in closer
detail, Manchester City would be the happier side with the point and
with Joe Hart turning in a man of the match display, he was the
difference between the sides in more ways than one.
With all the money City have spent over the
summer and the previous year, it was a side packed with big names that
took the field. And the manager Roberto Mancini had a big decision
to make between the two very good goalkeepers he has at his disposal.
In the end, the one he plumped for the England keeper and in the final
analysis, it proved a good choice.
With Tottenham all geared up for attack,
they peppered his goal in the first half especially and he was equal to
all the efforts on target and when Gareth Bale slipped a shot past him,
the post came to his rescue.
Spurs attacked from the start and Peter
Crouch, who seemed to have had a troublesome week away from the pitch,
had a blocked shot inside the first 30 seconds, after Bale and Modric
had linked up well. If anything, Tottenham's early tactics of
trying to hit Crouch early in the air did not work, as Hart came out to
take the crosses and when the big man did knock the ball down, there was
not often a Spurs shirt on the end of it.
Dawson had got to the ball before Tevez
in the Tottenham box to deny the Argentinian a shooting chance and then
six minutes in, Shaun Wright-Phillips got spare in the area and could
not keep his shot down, sending it rising into the Paxton. Within
two minutes, Crouch had got his head on the end of a floated Bale
free-kick in from the left and Hart was unsure about where it was going
to end up, so pushed it around the post, but somehow hapless referee
Marriner managed to give a goal-kick. This was the first of
several frankly confusing decisions he awarded throughout the game.
More of which are to come.
With ten minutes gone, Crouch was in the
action once more, as Lennon out-paced the leaden legged HaHa Toure and
the lanky forward headed down for Jermain Defoe to take the ball under
control and turn sharply to shoot only for Hart to dive to his left to
keep the ball out. Modric and Huddlestone were denied strikes on
goal by desperate blocking by the City defenders and then with 16
minutes on the clock, Hart got a punch to Bale's in-swinging near post
corner. The ball fell for Tom Huddlestone on the edge of the box
to hook a volley back at goal and it was heading in by the left hand
post, until Hart flew across the goal to push it wide. If Hud had
got a proper connection on it, the result might have been different.
From the corner, the ball was knocked out
and this time, it was BAE who shaped up for a 25 yard shot, which
deflected off Wright-Phillips' back and flew spinning towards the top
corner, but Hart was once again equal to it and reached up to tip the
ball over the top with a quality save. The cameras at White Hart
Lane cheekily cut to Shay Given on the bench quickly to try and gauge
his reaction to his goalkeeping rivals reflex stop.
Kompany found his way into the referee's
notebook for a cynical haul down on Defoe, as he turned away from the
big centre-half, but it hadn't stopped Nigel De Jong carrying on from
where he left off in the World Cup final, with his over-zealous
tackling. But then 25 minutes in, the ball found Tevez in the
Spurs box and he looked to shoot, but then turned inside to find a
better angle, but only found white shirts blocking his way.
In the 28th minute, Bale picked out
Crouch again and a knock down to strike partner Defoe, saw the little
man hook a shot goal-wards immediately, with Hart doing well to block
the shot with a reaching save, when it looked like he would not get to
it. A minute later, Gareth Bale engineered a way past Micah
Richards on the left side of the box and as he moved into the area, the
City defender had an arm in the Welshman's back to knock him over.
Referee Marriner failed to see the offence, even though he was behind
Bale and I was behind the referee and could see it. It might not
have been the worse foul in the world, but it was a foul nonetheless.
The onslaught continued, with a shot by
Gareth Bale in the 30th minute that cut across Hart from the left and
hit the keeper's left hand post with the keeper beaten. It
rebounded to Aaron Lennon, who controlled a shot on target, but the
effort was blocked on the line by Kompany. it looked like it
wasn't going to be Tottenham's day. Within a minute, Huddlestone
picked up the ball on the edge of his own box and pinged a pass over the
City defence to Defoe to run onto and Hart blocked the resulting shot
from the right with his legs. The loose ball fell behind him, but
Defoe could not get a decent shot and the ball squirmed away square.
Spurs had another chance to score, when
Bale picked out a low cross along the six yard area, but there was no
Spurs player close enough to get a touch on it to divert it into the
goal, but Heurelho Gomes had to be sharp to respond to a long shot from
HaHa Toure that took a deflection and the Spurs keeper stretched well to
hold the shot. It was hard to see what the fuss about HaHa Toure
is. What City got for £28 million and £500,000 a week was a couple
of long shots and a decent pass in the second half, but he appeared to
be troubled most of the match by thinking about what he was going to
spend all that money on.
A nostalgic half-time interval saw the
remaining members of the Spurs 1960-61 Double team take to the field.
Peter Baker, Maurice Norman, Dave Mackay, Les Allen, Cliff Jones, Terry
Medwin and relatives of Ron Henry, Danny Blanchflower and John White
took to the field with the League Championship trophy and the FA Cup to
mark 50 years since the achievement. With footage from the season
in question and interviews with the players at the time, it brought a
tear to the eye of many Spurs fans and full credit to the City fans who
applauded during the feature.
Unfortunately, when Tottenham came out
after the break, they looked like they had taken the fifteen minutes too
comfortably. City almost scored within a minute, with the new boy
Toure's pass clipped over the defence and Assou-Ekotto, who had played
Wright-Phillips onside, got back to make a last ditch tackle, as the
England winger took an age to get in a position to shoot. Another
new signing David Silva failed to show what the Eastlands club had paid
big money for, but I suppose these are early days, but City have so many
players that it might be some time before they settle down as a team, by
which time it might be too late to make up lost ground.
While Lennon had a couple of good
crosses, he failed to take advantage of the yellow card on Zabaleta on
the hour, when Corluka's ball down the line saw the Argentinian
cynically haul down Lennon as he sped past him (sound familiar ?).
It would have been an ideal opportunity to run at the full back, having
already had debutant Kolarov taken off after twisting him inside out,
but he didn't capitalise on the chance and eventually, he was replaced
by Giovani, after the front two had been taken off and Pav and Keano
With 20 minutes left, a run by Adam
Johnson, who had come on for Wright-Phillips, played in Tevez and his
shot hit King in the face as he tried to block it and with Gomes
stranded, the ball flew inches over the bar on the opposite side of the
Brazilian's goal. Then Spurs broke from the corner, with Roman
Pavlyuchenko having two shots in quick succession, both low to either
side of Hart, but neither had the power or the elevation to beat him.
Spurs broke again from a City corner with
seven minutes remaining and Pavlyuchenko put a low cross in from the
right, but Keane couldn't reach it, although the interception bounced
out to Bale, who was running in, but he shot wide with the goal at his
mercy, with the right foot effort not being on his better foot. It
was the chance that would have won it for Tottenham and was similar to
the goal that Crouch scored at Eastlands back in May, but this time not
With time running out, Spurs won a corner
on the right wing and taken short by Tom to Pav, the Russian cut inside
and unleashed a shot that flew waist high across the penalty area
crowded with players and went wide, when it could have taken a flick off
anyone to go in.
With four minutes of added time, little
more goal action came about, but with the City defence and keeper
holding out, they celebrated their point with glee. Away from
home, Mancini will perhaps set out his side to be hard to score against
and try to pick up points away from home, while being a bit more
adventurous at home. They might not be as lucky as they were today
every time, but the Italian obviously sees this as the way forward.
I am not sure that the Blues defence is up to that level of
concentration just yet, so it will be interesting to see how this
As for Spurs, they are set up to attack.
The defence is there if needed, but the midfield are almost all
attacking players and they might be going out to score more than the
opposition. One game down and one point in the bag. Worse
results comparatively with last season's opening match and against City
at home, but there is time to put that right. It is the start of a