Crouch sends Spurs into Champions League

Manchester City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Four years after an ill-timed bout of food poisoning cost them a place amongst Europe's elite, Peter Crouch's late winner ensured Tottenham will get their chance to tuck into the Champions League next season.

Crouch settled what was dubbed the £50million match eight minutes from time when he was on hand to turn home the loose ball after Marton Fulop had only been able to push Younes Kaboul's cross straight to the striker, who was lurking just five yards out.

It was just reward for an incredible season for Harry Redknapp and his men, who may yet pip old rivals Arsenal to a place in the main draw.

At the very least they will be in the final qualifier, with a route to riches clearly mapped out.

For Manchester City, the world's richest club, their failed attempt may just be a brief delay on an inexorable rise through the game.

But in a season that promised so much and will end with only a Europa League place for comfort, it was further proof for chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak and owner Sheikh Mansour that money alone cannot build a successful football team.

With so much riding on the encounter, so astutely placed at such a delicate stage of the season, it hardly needed the added spice of a potential legal battle over Redknapp's complaints about City's conduct in their pursuit of Craig Bellamy.

The lawyers will almost certainly not be called upon to intervene but both sides knew that Liverpool's collapse had left the path marked Champions League wide open for them.

Mathematics were hardly required. Tottenham, a point in front at kick-off, are due to visit Burnley on the final day, so barring some unexpected heroics from Brian Laws' relegation fodder, City knew they needed a win.

Their desire was evident from the start, with Carlos Tevez leading the way.

Apparently so unhappy with life under Roberto Mancini, the Argentina star still did his best to ensure the top four berth he is said to have made the requirement for his stay at Eastlands to be extended beyond the summer.

Yet in Heurelho Gomes, Tottenham had their own South American desperate to secure their top four status.

When Gomes, who shrugged off pre-match injury concerns along with skipper Ledley King, denied Tevez in the opening minutes with a feet-first save, it was the first of three excellent stops before the interval had been reached.

The second was the best, flinging himself to his left to keep out a fizzing 20-yard strike from Adam Johnson that was heading for the bottom corner.

Gomes also had to be on his toes to keep the ball out when Gareth Bale got in the way of a Gareth Barry cross that had flicked off Tevez's stomach.

Given the frenzy of City's attacking play, watching England coach Fabio Capello can only have noted with admiration the composure of Ledley King, pressed into action for the second time in five days and producing a performance that belied his chronic knee complaint.

King had the ball in the net for Spurs, but referee Steve Bennett rather harshly ruled a single hand on Barry's shoulder warranted a free-kick instead of a goal.

Bale's effort would have stood shortly afterwards though after he had met Crouch's nod-back perfectly and fired a ferocious volley agonisingly wide.

The loss of Barry following an innocuous collision with Vincent Kompany not long after the restart was a blow for City, and also watching England coach Capello, who must have been impressed by Johnson less than a week before he names his provisional 30-man squad.

As Barry gingerly made his way down the tunnel - which could have serious repercussions for the Three Lions - the loss of Tom Huddlestone would have been a much more immediate problem for Tottenham had Bennett not taken a lenient view of what appeared to be a stamp on Nigel de Jong during a skirmish outside the City box.

It was the focal point of a scrappy second period that suited Spurs down to the ground.

Had either Jermain Defoe or Crouch been able to get their foot to Benoit Assou-Ekotto's curling low cross, the visitors really would have been in dreamland.

Crouch came even closer 13 minutes from time when Fulop somehow managed to keep out the England man's header after he had met Bale's cross perfectly.

It was only serving to prolong the agony for City though. Tottenham were on top and the hosts' best chances had gone.

And when Crouch was presented with a third sight of goal, he did not miss.

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