|DATE||Sunday 21st April 2013|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
City are building up to a big finish to the season, which will be
too late to deny city rivals United the title, but could have an
effect on other issues concerning teams at the bottom, but only one
at the top ... us.
And this is where we have fallen down against the weaker teams. Wins or even draws against the likes of Fulham, Stoke and Wigan at home and QPR away, then Norwich home and away and we could have been out of sight. There has been a run of consistent performances and results, which have pushed us up and around the top four, with the away form particularly pleasing, but the lack of a proven goal-scorer and the lack of a killer instinct when we have been ahead has cost us.
Everywhere you look in the City team there is quality, brought in by the multi-millions from Abu Dhabi. The forward roster is a deep as a Stoke cross and the defence is as strong Vinnie Jones tackle. We saw last season when Dzeko got four at the Lane, there is no substitute for a good reserve. And he hasn't been a regular this season, Aguero and Tevez have been the chosen two. Pushing on from midfield, the hard working Barry and Milner allow Yaya Toure to roam forward and make inroads into the opposition's last third. With Nasri and Silva also attacking from midfield, sometimes it can get very difficult to pick up the men moving forward.
The defence is built around Vincent Kompany and he is a solid centre-half, who will win lots in the air. With Tottenham lacking a strong centre forward who can win balls in the air, I hope we don't start launching long balls forward to Ade or Defoe, as that will lead nowhere. It depends who else is available and Dempsey can win some headers, but it is not a style we are accustomed to.
With Joe Hart in goal, he can produce some very good stops as he likes to make himself big and is quite agile, but he has shown this season that he can be vulnerable and with our players showing some good finishing skill lately, maybe we can test him out a bit. I hope so, because our attempts on target stats have been dropping since Bale has been injured and we need to increase our efforts on goal.
With City being such a physically strong and athletic side, Tottenham will have to be at their best to compete with them and maybe, with the current players available to AVB, a draw might be the best we could hope for. With a full strength side, I reckon that we could take them, but the doubts over Bale and Lennon mean that we lack that devastating pace to hurt them.
City are not beyond being beaten, but they would have to have a very off day and having scraped through against Wigan on Wednesday, a change of personnel will give them fresher legs and no let up in quality. There are still games to go to get into the top four, but the number left are running out and we need to start winning soon. Unfortunately, I don't think it will be against City.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
|TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :|
|MANCHESTER CITY TEAM NEWS :|
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Manchester City 1 (1)
Sunday 21st April 2013 Kick off 13:30
White Hart Lane
Dawson (foul on Dzeko) 19
Assou-Ekotto (foul on Zabaleta) 48
Huddlestone (foul on Yaya Toure) 66
Yaya Toure (kicking ball away) 12
Kolarov (foul on ) 75
Hart (kicking ball away) 77
|Crowd : 36,212||Weather : Dry, hot|
|Referee : Lee Mason (Bolton)||Assistant Referees : S. Bennett; L. Letts|
|Fourth Official : Lee Probert||-|
|Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Manchester City :||kit|
Scott PARKER (
10 Emmanuel ADEBAYOR (18 Jermain DEFOE 71 )
10 Edin DZEKO (11 Scott SINCLAIR 83)
|Manager : Andre Villas-Boas||Manager : Roberto Mancini|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : Etihad Airways|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : Nike|
In what was termed as another crucial game in our season's progress, it looked for all the world that Manchester City would stroll to an easy victory in the Sunday afternoon sunshine after taking the leas in the fifth minute. but this Tottenham team are made of sterner stuff these days and when once City over-turned a 3-1 lead to win 4-3 here, the boot was on the other foot, as three goals in seven second half minutes turned the tide in Tottenham's favour. And frankly, it was nothing more than was deserved against a City side that was over-confident and content to waste time and pass the ball around without making any significant attempt to score a second goal that would have put the game beyond Tottenham's reach.
A scorching Spring afternoon saw a big crowd turn out to watch a match featuring Spurs against one of the top four. Not the happiest of records against the top four or City in recent years since we won at the Etihad to secure Champions League football, but maybe, the return of Gareth Bale might swing the game in Tottenham's favour. With Defoe on the bench and Lennon not making the match-day 16, there was a little apprehension, as the team had only picked up points through draws since the Welshman got injured.
The pitch looked very good, with the sprinklers adding a little zip to the surface. And when Spurs kicked off there was little indication of the drama to come. Bale decided to test Joe Hart in the City goal in the third minute, when he shifted the ball onto his left foot and hit a daisy cutter that swerved viciously and Hart had to have two goes at gathering it in. But within two minutes, Spurs were suddenly behind. A ball down our left side saw Benny Assou-Ekotto slide in to try and intercept, but he missed it, allowing Carlos Tevez to get away. He took the ball towards the corner and played a reverse ball inside to James Milner, who had snuck in without Assou-Ekotto or Parker picking him up, so close to the dead-ball line, he pulled the ball back across the box. It looked like he had missed all the claret shirts in the box, with Dzeko being missed out, but it came to Nasri at the far post and his half-hit volley crawled in as it bobbled past Kyle Walker on the line.
It was a devastating blow so early in the game and set Spurs a big task to come back from it. Esexcially when the visitors kept playing the ball around with ease. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry were winning everything in midfield - not always fairly, but referee Lee Mason had a very one-eyed version of the game today and allowed Barry free rein to do whatever he wanted. It is not even as though Barry does anything at pace for the ref to miss it, but miss it he did. How he didn't get a yellow card waved at him for persistent fouling at the very least, I do not know. Mason was happy to book people for trivial things and let others go ... more of which later. Assou-Ekotto got booked for tugging Milner back, while Barry twice did the same without anything said. The worst was a studding down Walker's shin by Nasri, which did not even warrant a free-kick in Mason's eyes. He really needs to take a look at himself, but as he is a referee, I don't suppose he would recognise himself ... like he doesn't recognise a bad foul when he sees one.
Vertonghen was left with a cut mouth after Tevez clashed with him and whether it was deliberate or not, there was little interest in the matter by Mason other than wanting Jan to go off to get it stopped. The Argentine striker was another who pulled people as they went by and had late digs at them, as did Milner, who took Assou-Ekotto so late, it was almost into next season. The tactics of City to close down Spurs on the ball was fair enough, but the tactics beyond the laws of the match threw Tottenham and they were struggling to cope with City and Mason as a force to be reckoned with. This resulted in Nasri going through the middle of the Tottenham defence to get on the end of a flick from Tevez and although he got to the ball first, he poked it under Lloris and also managed to get it wide from a position in the centre of the penalty area in the 28th minute. Just before this, Dempsey had played a neat ball into Kyle Walker on the right of the box, but Hart was quickly off his line to block the fullback's effort for a corner.
Dawson had been rightly booked for going through Dzeko from behind and he was instrumental in a penalty shout for Tottenham just after the half hour. A deep BAE cross found him at the far post and his downward header hit Barry on the hand, but Mason ... as you might have guessed ... wasn't interested. Five minutes later, there was another shout for a home penalty, as Bale's 25 yard free kick hit Tevez's arm, as he raised it above his head. He wasn't protecting himself and while his back was turned, the ball was stopped from going towards goal by an arm. We've seen them given before ... although I can't remember Mason giving one in such circumstances. City almost got a second, with Tevez heading a corner at goal from Nastastic's header and Lloris palmed the ball wide with a good save. When a series of corners City played in came to nothing, it was without any of the officials seeing that Kompany was pushing players over or pulling their shirts. With such petty fouling and with Hart wasting time at every goal-kick after they scored, the scene was set for a cynical win to take City closer to United at the top.
Dzeko had two efforts on goal, one which Assou-Ekotto stopped with a deflection off his foot and another which was weakly hit at Lloris, while Spurs had two late chances, with Dempsey heading a corner over when unmarked and Gylfi Sigurdsson hitting a shot at goal in the penalty box, which bounced away off Zabaleta.
Much of the half had been spent with Tottenham giving City a lot of space and time on the ball, but the soon to be deposed Premier League champions were content to knock the ball about in areas where Spurs were not being hurt. At half-time, following a weird sponsored kick the ball into the goal from ever further distances competition, Mancini decided to replace Milner with Kolarov. Milner had been a problem to Benoit and he had wound him up with that late tackle, so our full back was often trying to be too clever on the ball, usually leading to mistakes. With Kolarov being a more defensive minded player, BAE didn't have that problem any more. However, a couple of minutes into the second half, he flew into a challenge on Zabaleta that appeared to win the ball, but he had at leas tone foot off the floor and Mason awarded a free-kick. In the circumstances, you could easily have said that it was out of control and a red card rather than a yellow would have been appropriate. However, in the context of the way the match was being officiated (where linesmen didn't even know which way a throw-in should be given), perhaps it was more inline with Mason's world view of football decision making.
City didn't look that interested in finding a second goal and were happy to enjoy lots of possession in non-threatening areas of the pitch, but when Parker ran at the City defence, he was bundled over by Nasri just near the D, but from the free-kick, Bale out it over the top. On the hour, AVB decided enough was enough and shook things up with Tom Huddlestone coming on for Parker and Lewis Holtby for Sigurdsson. It changed the course of the game, but only after Hud had picked up a booking for pulling back Yaya Toure, who went down like he had been struck by a truck. For such a "robust" player the Ivorian is a feather when he comes into contact with anything. Just before that the City man has fired a shot at Lloris when the ball was cleared to the edge of the box. It was strange, as Hugo hadn't had a lot to do, as City's play had been mainly confined to midfield, but a corner soon after saw him come well to get over the crowd and punch clear.
Bale headed a Spurs corner over the top and then with twenty minutes remaining, Adebayor made way for Defoe. Within five minutes, Spurs had levelled the score. Having worked the bal wide to Bale on the right, he played a square ball from wide of the box across the six yard box with the outside of his left foot. It was in the old corridor of uncertainty and curling away from the keeper slightly, but Hart should have cut it out and Kompany should have dealt with it, but it evaded both of them for Dempsey to come in at the far post and put the ball into the net from close range. The Spurs crowd went wild, as the glory (as Danny Blanchflower had put it) had not come from trying to bore your opponents to death. Suddenly, Mancini's plans to play the ball around to conserve energy looked a poor one and the defensive change had not paid off.
So, 1-1 with 75 minutes gone. Which way would the game swing now ?
Four minutes later and the answer was Tottenham's way. Lewis Holtby, who had provided a bit of movement to be an option for an out ball and held and passed it wisely, got the ball out on the left. He played a ball down the left side for Defoe, who had Kompany for company. Turning infield, he got to the left hand corner of the City box and unleashed a powerful curling shot that Kompany couldn't block and hart couldn't reach. As the net billowed, the wind of change had blown through the City defence and Spurs were 2-1 ahead with 79 minutes gone. It was a trademark Defoe goal, which we have seen many times before and hope to see more off before the season is out.
With a winning position in the bag, would City be able to salvage something from the game ? Well, their tactics had set them in those ways and to try and alter them into an attacking mode was proving difficult, eapecially when the game moved further away form them two minutes later. Huddlestone had been looking to unpick their defence with every pass he made. One just failed to reach Dempsey and another later one just ran beyond Defoe's charge, but in the 82nd minute, his pass inside Kolarov saw Bale seize on it. Gareth had not looked keen to get too involve din the rough stuff, perhaps not fully confident that his ankle would withstand it, but he was onto Tom's ball like a flash and he was cool enough to flip the ball over Hart as he dived forward at him. If there was relief in the equaliser and joy at Defoe's goal that put us ahead, the roof was ripped off the Lane with the explosion of joy from the third goal in seven minutes that put City in the place they belonged.
Mancini introduced Scott Sinclair, who ahs been nothing but a bit part player this season and then took Dzeko off and brought on Joleon Lescott up front, without having much of an opportunity to play long balls up to him. It seemed that Mancini had lost the plot, but that may have happened in about the fifth minute and City went on to put in a performance of old ... glorious failure and the echoes of City side sin the past coming back to haunt them, while Spurs fans revelled in their discomfort. It was not only an important win for Spurs, but a blow for City, who could lose their league title on Monday ... which they had won with the last kick of the season in the last campaign. And they have lost it without style or grace. In fact, Joe Hart was lucky not to get sent off. Following the Defoe goal, he had kicked the ball away to the side of the pitch and following his continual time-wasting Mason booked him. Hart went to get the ball laying just outside his penalty area and when Mason told him to get on with it, he hurled it in the direction of the referee. Mason then reached for his cards, but realising he had just booked Hart, he would have had to have sent him off, so instead chose to talk to captain Vincent Kompany about it. It was a bottle job of the biggest order, as he knew he should have sent the former England keeper off for his show of dissent, but failed to do so, as he failed with so much other stuff in the game.
Hart really made himself look a muppet. Wasting time over every single goal-kick, but then scurrying around like some Duracell bunny when they were losing. He also made a show of running to the centre circle after the third goal to hand a coin to the referee which he claimed had been thrown at him. In any other situation you might have wondered why he was handing money to the referee.
But the final whistle came after Kolarov had blasted City's only other chance way over the bar from a free-kick on the edge of the box.
It was an incredible change in the swing of the game, with AVB getting his changes right, while Mancini couldn't change things for the better. This one game might not change our season, but another win over a top four side is progress and the confidence the side should take from this might just put them in a little run of form at the right time. Let's hope so and let's hope we don't revert to type and lose a game to one of the lesser lights we have left to play.
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Queens Park Rangers||0||Stoke City||2||Saturday|
|West Bromwich Albion||1||Newcastle United||1||Saturday|
|West Ham United||2||Wigan Athletic||0||Saturday|
|Manchester United||3||Aston Villa||0||Monday|
|8||West Bromwich Albion||34||13||6||14||44||45||45||-1|
|10||West Ham United||35||11||9||14||37||44||42||-7|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||34||4||12||18||29||56||24||-27|
Position before match :
Position after match : 5th
Position after the weekend : 5th
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