Football: Spurs fiddle as Ardiles fumes

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The Independent Online
Manchester City 5 Tottenham Hotspur 2 A Government minister's face would not have looked more worried if he had been told Mohammed Al Fayed wanted a quiet word with him. Ossie Ardiles' eyes remained downwards, his mouth tight with tension. He was the very model of managerial misery.

Like the monarch, he had been to Manchester and not been happy with what he had seen - except the indication was he had used stronger words than 'not nice'. Like a few fruitier Spanish adjectives, for example, with plenty of more rugged English thrown in. Pathetic might do for a start.

For Ardiles had witnessed an extraordinary performance by Spurs which would have been condemned as dilettante by Beau Brummell. How else could you describe a side which had a strike-per-chance rate of about one in 10 and leaked goals with obscene regularity? A firing squad of Jurgen Klinsmann and Co would have pulled their shots wide but the back four, who might as well have been blindfolded, would have dived to meet the bullets.

The first-half statistics could not have been more revealing. Tottenham scored once, through Ilie Dumitrescu's penalty, but Nick Barmby should have had a hat-trick, Klinsmann could have had two, Teddy Sheringham one and Dumitrescu another. City, meanwhile, had three chances and each resulted in a goal.

Ardiles, rightly, was furious. 'I'm not going to criticise the players,' he said, and then promptly began to. 'We are not defending properly . . . We had to stop crosses in the box and we didn't . . . We entertained, we created a lot of chances, but the object of the exercise is to win games.'

While Ardlies fumed, however, the rest of us could bask in the afterglow of a football spectacular. The Spurs defence did not cover itself with glory but City's Richard Edghill and Ian Brightwell will not be ordering a video of the game either and, as each back four creaked, the attackers ran amok.

The result might have been 10-10 but City prevailed because Peter Beagrie and Nicky Summerbee had read the coaching paper 'cross the ball sometimes' while Dumitrescu patently had not. The home strikers, too, were also willing to risk their arm at distances of, ooh, six yards when the Tottenham marksmen would have been looking to dribble past another defender if the ball had been on the goal-line.

As a result, Spurs began to look less dangerous by the minute while Paul Walsh (twice), Niall Quinn, Steve Lomas and Garry Flitcroft exploited the service they were receiving from the flanks, plundering to an extent that Tottenham have now shipped 23 goals this season.

Few have been better, though, than City's second, a move that was marred only because Quinn had to put in a rebound after Ian Walker had halted a pitch for perfection by saving Walsh's diving header. The build-up had included a 40- yard pass from Flitcroft to Summerbee, a shimmy past a defender by the winger and then a quick and accurate cross.

Brian Horton, City's manager, was effusive, describing it as 'a brilliant advertisement for English football' and he seemed inclined to turn a blind eye to what had happened to both rearguards. 'It's difficult to defend when teams attack you in that manner,' he said. 'You have to give credit to managers like Ossie who are prepared to open the game up.'

A female caller to Six-O-Six afterwards went even further. 'When City play like that it's better than sex,' she said. But given the defending on Saturday she was definitely talking unprotected sex.

Goals: Walsh (15) 1-0; Dumitrescu (pen 29) 1-1; Quinn (41) 2-1; Walsh (44) 3-1; Dumitrescu (46) 3-2; Lomas (52) 4-2; Flitcroft (79) 5-2.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Dibble; Edghill, I Brightwell, Curle, Phelan; Summerbee, Lomas, Flitcroft, Beagrie; Walsh, Quinn. Substitutes not used: Hill, Mike, Margetson (gk).

Tottenham Hotspur (4-3-1-2): Walker; Kerslake, Campbell, Scott, Edinburgh; Dozzell (Hazard, 72), Popescu, Dumitrescu; Barmby; Klinsmann, Sheringham.

Substitues not used: Calderwood, Thorstvedt (gk).

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).

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