Crouch own goal sees City qualify for Champions League

Manchester City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0

After an overall investment in excess of £1billion and over £350million spent on players, the team that Sheikh Mansour built qualified for the Champions League.

And just to make the night even more sweet for the City owner and manager Roberto Mancini, the goal that sent them there was scored by the same man who denied them last year, Peter Crouch.

The Tottenham forward's own goal after half an hour was enough to take City nine points clear of the Londoners, and out of Liverpool's reach as well with two games to spare.

And, though City fans were watching through splayed fingers at times as their team sat back on their lead and allowed their visitors to attack, they can now look forward to Saturday's FA Cup final with Stoke knowing an end to their 35-year wait for a trophy will complete a perfect season.

A lot can change in a year.

Both sides retained only four members of their starting line-ups from 12 months previous.

In Tottenham's case, that was exclusively down to injury and poor form.

City were calling on five men who were not even at the club for that fateful occasion, including goalkeeper Joe Hart, who they had tried to get back from a loan spell at Birmingham.

Given Harry Redknapp had already declared a belief that City have made one or two signings that will "blow your brains out" in the summer, it was clear where the momentum lay.

Even without Carlos Tevez, who was back on the bench ahead of Saturday's Wembley showpiece, Roberto Mancini was still able to call upon the dynamic services of David Silva, who threatened danger at every turn.

The irony in Crouch scoring the goal to put City ahead was inescapable.

At the very same end last term, the England forward sent Tottenham on a rollercoaster journey that has taken them to Milan twice this season, and Madrid. Meetings with Europe's elite that will live forever.

As Mancini has noted though, there has been a physical toll taken and Tottenham are now a shadow of the side that lit up the Champions League stage.

So, once Luka Modric had gone for accuracy instead of power as he connected with Aaron Lennon's square ball, yet still failed to find the net as his shot rolled agonisingly wide, the fear for Tottenham was obvious.

Crouch wasn't the only man to blame.

There was no effort to track Milner's run after he had taken a short corner with Adam Johnson, allowing him to stride down the by-line and deliver a powerful, low cross to the near post.

Under pressure from Joleon Lescott, Crouch stuck out a boot instinctively.

After scoring only four Premier League goals this season, Crouch could only reflect on the fact that this time, the target was found with ease, and in much the same way as his effort last season.

City had only created one other first-half chance of note.

It was hardly a surprise Silva was the architect, squaring for Edin Dzeko in much the same manner as Lennon was to do a bit later.

The Bosnian's effort was on target but Carlo Cudicini, in for injured first-choice Heurelho Gomes, turned it away.

There have been a number of decent performers for City this season but few have been as consistent as Hart.

And, after being relatively unemployed during the opening period, he made a telling contribution right at the start of the second half as Steven Pienaar met Lennon's far-post cross with a firm header.

Hart's movement was to his right. He quickly adjusted his feet to make an excellent save to his left, denying Tottenham an equaliser and saving a few fingernails, that ended up getting chewed anyway.

If City and their supporters had taken a backward step and thought about the situation, they would have realised they were actually in a position of complete comfort in terms of their top four aspirations.

But a sense of panic swept round the ground, which only grew as Rafael van der Vaart and Lennon threatened from decent positions.

Yet it was City who came closest to grabbing a second, only for William Gallas to brilliantly turn away Patrick Vieira's goalbound header.

Tottenham tried to respond but could muster nothing worthwhile and they are now outsiders to even finish fifth, with Stoke guaranteed a place in the Europa League, no matter what happens on Saturday.

Carlos Tevez will be fit for that after a late substitute appearance, having done as much as anyone to ensure City are back amongst Europe's elite for the first time in 43 years.

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