Spurs hit the Euro sceptics

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Armstrong 65 Manchester City 0 Attendance: 31,438
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The Independent Online
IF TOTTENHAM do succeed in making Uefa see sense over the decision to ban them from Europe, they will want to make sure they are in a position to take advantage at the end of the season. Yesterday a goal by Chris Armstrong midway through the second half moved them up to third, and with other results going their way, it might just be that Spurs will be arguing to be allowed into the Champions' League.

On a day when Spurs were re-living the nightmare of off-field crises that they thought they had seen the last of, Alan Sugar, the club chairman, sought to reassure supporters that the ban would come to nothing. The club's policy of fielding weakened sides in last summer's Intertoto Cup had, he said, been agreed not just by the Football Association and the Premier League but by Uefa as well. According to Sugar, Tottenham's chief executive, Claud Littner, had cleared it with them before the tournament began.

"It was a big shock when we first heard about it, but having slept on it I'm absolutely convinced it will go away," Sugar said. "On the Richter scale of 10 I'd give it one. It really is a non-issue. Uefa have got their wires crossed. Internally the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing."

Sugar said the problem "wasn't in the same league" as the ban from the FA Cup two seasons ago that he managed to have overturned. "But if it doesn't go away I'm not the type of person to let things happen." Gerry Francis, the Spurs manager, described Sugar as a good man to have on your side. Uefa will know they have been in a fight.

"I will be devastated if the ban stands," Francis said. "I can't say it had the best effect on my players this morning, obviously wondering whether all the effort they had put in would be a waste of time. Considering that, I was very pleased with the way we played."

It wasn't one of Spurs' most fluent performances, and City deserved to get something out of a match in which they had plenty of possession and were generally much calmer of purpose than might have been expected of a team for whom the clouds of relegation are darkening. But with only 12 goals to show from 22 matches this season, it is clear where their problem lies.

While Niall Quinn and Uwe Rosler strove manfully to keep City's flame burning - a task not made any easier by the excellent marking job done on Georgi Kinkladze by Sol Campbell - Spurs had an attacker of a different class altogether in Chris Armstrong, who seems to improve with every match. His slinky skills were shown to best effect when he needed to keep the ball in the tightest of situations, and some of his trickery, especially when close to the byline, was breathtaking. Is there room for another forward to join the list of those contending for a European Championship place?

After Quinn and Rosler had both gone close for City early on, Spurs gradually imposed themselves and Teddy Sheringham brought out a brilliant save from Eike Immel three minutes before half-time. The winning goal owed much to Armstrong's elusiveness. With 65 minutes gone, Campbell worked some space from a throw-in on the left and when he crossed to the far post, Armstrong stole in behind the last defender to head home.

Spurs got lucky when Stuart Nethercott slipped to let in Quinn and Ian Walker blocked his shot. With a quarter of an hour to go Rosler struck the outside of the post from the edge of the area. Few would have begrudged them that.

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