City left to count the cost as rapid route to Europe's elite is barred by Redknapp
Manchester City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Thursday 06 May 2010
Translated from the Latin, the Tottenham Hotspur motto that adorns White Hart Lane is "To Dare Is To Do" and finally last night, after years of precious little daring and very little doing, the club have at last lived up to that bold claim.
In a season when the plate tectonics of English football have shifted it has been Harry Redknapp's team who have seized the initiative and taken the fourth Champions League place. They earned it last night, on a rare occasion when entry to the biggest cabal in our game was up for grabs and Manchester City just did not look like a team capable of carrying the day.
It has been one astonishing journey for Redknapp who is never slow to remind us that he inherited a team in October 2008 which had two points from their first eight games and were bottom of the Premier League. Redknapp has had some considerable transfer funds to turn it around but City themselves are proof that money alone is not enough.
It was a fabulous night for Redknapp whose team were dragged over the line by the outstanding Peter Crouch who scored the goal that could be worth arond £20m should Spurs negotiate the qualifying round. This summer will be 10 years since a 19-year-old Crouch was sold by Spurs to Queens Park Rangers for £60,000 – he has returned in time to score one of the most important goals in their history.
Ledley King was the other Spurs trainee shoulder-to-shoulder with Crouch in the post-match interviews and he too turned in a stunning performance in defence. Fabio Capello in the crowd will have recognised what was clear to everyone else in the stadium – when he is fit, King is as good as any defender in the country and the England manager will have to do everything to get him in his World Cup squad.
Should Arsenal lose to Fulham and Spurs win their final game against Burnley then Spurs can still take third place in the Premier League and qualify for the Champions League proper without having to play that awkward August play-off. Given that Everton, the last team to break the big four, fell at that hurdle in 2005 it would be some reward.
As a club who have found themselves perennial outsiders when it has come to the elite of English football, this is a dramatic change in fortunes for Spurs. For City, it was another one of the nights when the characteristic gloom and foreboding closed in on this club. The shot of a crestfallen City chief executive Garry Cook grimly applauding at the end of the game was a reminder that transfer targets may have to be revised again now that his club have fallen on the wrong side of the dotted line that divides the top four from the rest. Their onslaught on the elite of European football will have to wait another year and it will cost a lot more of the good Sheikh's money to do it.
On the night, far too many of those big money players did not deliver. The £25m Emmanuel Adebayor did not look anything like as good as the £9m Crouch. When it mattered Carlos Tevez faded and Kolo Touré looked shaky. For £274m investment, you cannot guarantee a place in the Champions League but it warrants a much better performance than this one.
This game produced no more evidence that Roberto Mancini is the ideal man to lead City into the next season; City have not come together in anything like the fashion Chelsea did under Jose Mourinho in 2005-2006. What is not in doubt is Redknapp's ability to take on and beat the best managers in the game: he has triumphed over Arsène Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti and now Mancini in this remarkable late push for fourth place.
Last night Redknapp only had to draw this game to stay ahead of City in fourth and then finish the job against Burnley on Sunday but instead he played 4-4-2 and went for the victory.
It was played at the pace of a cup tie and, given that no cup competition in English football can earn a club a place in the Champions League there was an argument for saying it was worth even more. Tight, anxious but never dull, Tevez set the game alight in the seventh minute with a run and shot that Heurelho Gomes saved
The Tottenham goalkeeper has been another key player for Spurs in their run to fourth place, never more so than in the closing minutes, against Arsenal and last night he was equal to the very best that City threw at him. There was not as much as might have been expected. Arguably his most difficult save was from Adam Johnson's low drive in the 27th minute.
Redknapp's team had been unlucky to have King's headed goal in the 21st minute disallowed for an arm that he placed across Gareth Barry's shoulders as he rose to head in a free-kick from Gareth Bale. Barry hobbled off before the hour with a bad blow to his ankle that must have had Capello shifting in his seat but the early reports were that the damage to the England midfielder was not serious.
By then Crouch had hit the post and Bale had shot wide when presented with the ball in the area. City came out the stronger for the second half and then Spurs took control once again. Jermain Defoe forced a good save out of Marton Fulop. Tom Huddlestone was arguably lucky to stay on the pitch when he stamped on Nigel De Jong as the midfielder lay prone on the ground.
Spurs came ever closer. A cross from Benoit Assou-Ekotto eluded Defoe and Crouch, Fulop saved with his legs from Crouch. Then finally, in the 82nd minute, Fulop could only parry a cross from Younes Kaboul and Crouch reacted first to head the ball past City's emergency goalkeeper.
The man from Sunderland had done a good job in the City goal but this was one emergency too many for him. As Crouch ran towards the away fans you could not help thinking that this was the team who deserved to get the game's only goal – and Crouch was the man who deserved to score it.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Fulop; Zabaleta, Touré, Kompany, Bridge; Johnson (Wright-Phillips, 71), De Jong, Barry (Vieira, 56), Bellamy (Santa Cruz, 84); Tevez, Adebayor. Substitutes not used Nielsen (gk), Richards, Onuoha, Sylvinho.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Kaboul, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Bentley, 71), Huddlestone, Modric (Palacios, 88), Bale; Crouch, Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 81). Substitutes not used Alnwick (gk), Jenas, Gudjohnsen, Bassong.
Referee S Bennett (Kent)
Booked Spurs: Kaboul, Huddlestone, Assou-Ekotto.
Man of the match Crouch.
Industrious and tidy before limping off early with ankle injury.
Showed Capello what he might have had with a composed display.
Hit post and wasted chances before coming up with the goods at the end.
Dependable and repelled everything City had to throw in his direction.
Little to work with but lively in possession. Spurned late chances.
Had to work hard to find space in midfield but composed on ball.
A threat in the first half before tiring. Saw long-ranger pushed behind.
Stellar display and can't fail to make the 23 now. Unlucky to see first-half header ruled out for a push.
Always a danger in first start since December. A cert for South Africa.
Cheered off the bench but made little impact.
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