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Premier League

Saturday 16th May 2009

Funny side Manchester City.  You never quite know which Manchester City side will turn up ... especially away from home, where they have come unstuck a bit.  There is no doubt that they have class in their side, but whether it comes to the surface, is another question.

They are a team of internationals and have a huge amount of money behind them, but they are a bit like Spurs when we had Klinsmann, Sheringham, Dumitrescu, Anderton and Barmby.  We also had Nethercott.  Well, City have got Robinho, Elano, Wright-Phillips ... and Richard Dunne.

For all that, they can be a bit special on their day, which, to be fair is most days at the City of Manchester Stadium, but on the road, the Citizens are no longer so comfortable.  Home - won 12; Away - won 2.  So you would think Spurs have a good chance to add to the burgeoning points total they have gathered since HR took over. 

But the thinking that City are just here for the jaunt down to London would be a dangerous one to make.  Even without the pacy, albeit unlikeable Craig Bellamy and injury prone Benjani in the side, they have enough attacking threat to cause problems.  Wright-Phillips provides the same threat as Aaron Lennon, but he also likes to roam through the middle, where his pace can devastate defences. 

Signing the Newcastle United goalkeeper Shay Given in January was a good move, but has pushed young goalie Joe Hart down the pecking order.  Both have their strong points, with Hart a good closer down when players are through and Given a good shot stopper, but neither excel on crosses and are more than a little reliant on the defenders in front of them to deal with them.

Of those defenders, Richard Dunne has been there for ever; Micah Richards is the new young hope of the England set-up, Michael Ball is another old head, but not necessarily a cool one;  Nedum Onuoha might be one for the future for England and maybe for City, if Richards maintains his high wage demands.  Pablo Zabaleta is an Argentine full back, but one who likes to get forward and support his front men, as does Wayne Bridge, although he has not enjoyed the best of seasons since moving to Eastlands.  Belgian central defender Vincent Kompany is a bit of a man mountain, who will be a formidable object to get past.  Unfortunately, I haven't heard too many people have a good word to say about full back Javier Garrido.

City could be robbed of a talented, driving midfielder in Michael Johnson, who looks like he might have a hip condition which might terminate his career too soon.  That might have been in the management's thinking when they went out and bought Nigel De Jong from Hamburg in the January transfer window.  A tough tackling Dutchman, De Jong can also spring attacks and get in and around the box, as well as being used in the back four if needed.  Experienced German Dietmar Hamann is also at the club, but may be moved on as his opportunities are limited by more youthful team-mates.  Gelson has hardly had a look in this season and he might move on in the summer, while Elano has been a bit of an enigma, with some stunning performances since joining the Citizens, but often, he can be on the edge of play and lack the involvement, which City need to make them tick.  With Stephen Ireland having perhaps his best season for the blue side of Manchester so far, his set up play and finishing can be of the highest quality and he seems to have linked well with Robinho up front.

And when the Brazilian is on form and his toes start to twinkle, you know City will be a tough proposition, but often, especially on their travels that has not been the case.  Difficult to mark ,as he can wriggle away from an opponent and difficult when allowed space, as he brings others into the play so well, Robinho could have been a world class player, but whether that will happen at City might depend on who the club stump up to have around him.  Ecuadorian forward Caicedo has a decent enough scoring rate and is a big strong striker, so will give the Spurs central defenders a physical work-out if he plays, while Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov might be back in contention for a place after coming back form injury.  A pacy wide-man who Spurs courted before he went to City, he can cross the ball very well and also can shoot with great venom.   Injury-hit striker Valeri Bojinov is another who may get a start, with a hunger to score after missing the bulk of his time since signing from Juventus.  It looks like the influx of big money might lead to the futures of former Aston Villa man Darius Vassell and young Welshman Ched Evans having to move on to get first team football, while Daniel Sturridge's wage demands are another bone of contention for the City board, who don't want to lose their talented young striker.

A fair parade of talent at his command, it is Mark Hughes' task to shape them into Champions League qualifiers or his cash rich paymasters will axe him and bring in a big name manager.  However, that was probably the thinking behind bringing in Sven Goran Eriksson.  And Sven did a good job at the club, with the fans behind him and it was only the money men who wanted someone seemingly more successful, but Hughes' success at Blackburn was relative to their resources.  How he gets on with untold riches being thrown at him and who he can convince to join in the Eastlands revolution remains to be seen.

City should be doing better than they are, but while some of the players who have been there some time remain, you fell it might hinder their progress.  That could give Spurs, who are solid at home, a chance and if they take their chances, I can foresee a narrow win, although the home defensive record of clean sheets might take a knock ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur   2    Manchester City  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Michael Dawson (ankle); Darren Bent (thigh); Aaron Lennon (groin); Jamie O'Hara (knee); Adel Taarabt (knee); Giovani Dos Santos (illness); Wilson Palacios (compassionate leave)

MANCHESTER CITY :  - Benjani (thigh); Craig Bellamy (knee); Robinho (groin)


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Tottenham Hotspur   2    Manchester City   1      (Half-time score : 1-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Saturday 16th May 2009
Kick Off :  3.00 p.m.
Crowd :   36,000
Referee :  Mark Halsey (Bolton)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Rainy before the game, but sunny with some cloud as game went on
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes

22  Corluka
39  Woodgate (  2  Hutton 46)
26  King
32  Assou-Ekotto

  6  Huddlestone
15  Keane (c) 
  8  Jenas (  4  Zokora 67)
14  Modric

  9  Pavlyuchenko (18  Campbell 75)
25  Defoe   

Unused subs: 
23  Cudicini
  3  Bale
  5  Bentley
21  Chimbonda

Manchester City :

37  Given

  2  Richards
22  Dunne
  4  Onuoha
25  Bridge

33  Kompany
34  De Jong
  7  Ireland
11  Elano (  5  Zabaleta 32     )

17  Petrov (  9  Bojinov 61  )
20  Caicedo (27  Benjani 61)

Unused subs: 
19  Fernandes
28  Sturridge
36  Berti

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Tottenham Hotspur

  Manchester City
Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Defoe 29
Keane (p) 86

Manchester City

Bojinov 65

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  



Manchester City

Zabaleta (foul) 42  


Match Report : -  
A satisfying 2-1 win saw Spurs keep the race for a place in the Europa League going until the final day of the season and create a new record for the least home goals conceded in a league season, but it was the nature of the victory which was somewhat surprising.

A penalty out of nothing is something Spurs are not usually the recipient of and it was perhaps welcome after being on the end of a large number of contentious decisions.

And in the first half, Tottenham's play deserved more that their one goal lead at half time, with some fine passing and movement, but lacking the finish as as so often been the way this season.

Manchester City failed to trouble Heurelho Gomes in the first half, with his only work coming when Caicedo hit a weak shot straight at him in the 22nd minute and the play was generally towards the City goalkeeper Shay Given.  Defoe's shot after a rebound found the net, but was ruled out for offside inside the first minute, with the little Spurs forward testing Given with a low shot through some legs, only for the keeper to fingertip the ball around the post low down to his left. 

Jermaine Jenas slid in to take the ball off Elano, just as he looked like he was going to shoot and showed why the defensive record is so good, with the midfield getting back to help out the back four.  But at the other end, it was Pavlyuchenko who was next testing Given, who saved, but the ball went wide for Defoe to cross back in, but there was no Tottenham head to meet the ball.

With 18 minutes gone, Tom Huddlestone's corner was well met by Ledley King's head and his downward effort was well saved on the line by Given, but ten minutes later, it was Huddlestone again, this time popping up on the right, to play in a low cross into the six yard box, which found Defoe running in and slotting the ball past the City keeper with a cheeky back-heel.  it was a well worked move to create space on the right for the cross and a well-timed run by JD to meet the ball as it came in.

I feel it will be a mistake to let Tom Huddlestone leave the club.  His range of passing is unequalled and for his weaknesses, his presence in the side is one which is beneficial rather than detrimental.  He may have to have helpers alongside him, such as Palacios or Jenas to give legs to the midfield, but he is well worth his place, such is his accuracy in setting up chances.  Take the incident five minutes after the goal.  he got the ball, powered down the left, cut back as Richards tried to challenge and as he was almost falling, dinked an immaculate ball over Dunne's head for Robbie Keane to chest down and just fail to make a good contact on the volley.

A number of times the ball fizzed across the City six yard box from the left with Jenas' cross failing to find anyone on the end of it and Assou-Ekotto got one beyond Dunne, but the arrival of the ball seemed to surprise Keane, who could not convert from close range, when it looked easier to score.  BAE was on the end of two heavy challenges from substitute Zabaleta within a couple of minutes and he found his way into Halsey's book for the sliding tackle that took the Spurs left back out as he got away down the left.

The only other bit of action of the half was when Jermaine Defoe was tackled and he slid into the linesman and took him out, requiring medical attention and the stretcher was called but not needed, although I think he was replaced at half-time by Stuart Atwell !!  Another change at half-time saw Alan Hutton come on for Jonathan Woodgate, who must have been injured and this allowed Vedran Corluka to step inside to join King in the middle.

Soon after the restart Onuoha clashed with Pav and the Russian needed some attention to a knock on the head, but he returned to the fray.  It sparked a bit of a revival for City, with Ledley doing well to push a promising attack by the visitors wide of the goal and when Caicedo was put through on goal, his lame chip was easily gathered by Gomes.  The Ecuadorian missed another chance when he hit a shot very wide after Zabaleta played him in.  it was lucky for Spurs that City didn't have their shooting boots on during this period, but when Hughes took off Caicedo and Petrov, to bring on Benjani and Bojinov on the hour, things changed, although in the long run, not always for the better.

There was a bit of a panic a couple of minutes after when Gomes came for a catch or punch, but failed to get to it over a couple of forwards, leaving it loose in the area, but luckily it fell to Richard Dunne, who hit his shot off target.  Then in the 65th minute, City equalised.  A nothing ball was chipped into the Tottenham box by Ireland and as Benjani jumped for it with Corluka, it dropped down and Bojinov got to it first to flash it past Gomes and score the first goal against Spurs at home since Beattie got a consolation for Stoke back in January.

Jenas pulled up with an injury and on came Didier Zokora to replace him in midfield and his energy helped Spurs at this time, as City were pushing on.  Hutton got a good header in as Benjani looked like he was going to get on the end of Kompany's cross in the 73rd minute, but a minute later, the Scots full-back was at the other end, where he put in a low cross from the right which Pavlyuchenko screwed wide from five yards out when it looked easier to score.  Luckily, he had been flagged offside, so it didn't matter anyway.  Shortly after, Harry Redknapp brought on Fraizer Campbell for Roman, as he went for the winner.

That nearly came at the other end, when Zabaleta created a chance for Bojinov, but his shot was well stopped by Gomes, although he couldn't hold it and Hutton had to kick the ball to safety before a City player could get there.  in the 83rd minute, a long ball found Luka Modric, who had a quiet second half, where he showed how wrong Wenger had been about his lack of strength to play in the Premier League, as he held off defenders and got a shot in that went just wide.

A minute later, a move on the right lead to the winning goal.  Hutton and Defoe linked after the striker had done well to hold off the physical attention he was getting from Micah Richards, leading to him having a shot on goal that Given saved.  As the shot came in, Richards had got back to mark Campbell who was making a run into the box.  As he did so, Richards fell on top of him and Halsey pointed to the spot.  It wasn't the first time the City defender had done this during the game, but he had got away with it until then.  No card for him, which was surprising, but Keane accepted the penalty and with his Republic of Ireland team-mate Given in goal, coolly waited until he had gone one way and then stuck the ball into the opposite side of the goal.  That made it 2-1 in the 86th minute.

Noel Gallagher appeared out of his box, where a Spurs security guard had advised him to retreat to after the "banter" he was engaged in got a bit heated and this time he good humouredly took the stick of his side going behind.

With seconds of normal time remaining, it looked as though Manchester City might get a leveller, with Kompany heading Zabaleta's corner at goal and looking on the way in, until substitute Benjani headed it the other way, but over the bar.  It was the break that Tottenham needed to see out the game and kept the ball well for added time and then moved it up to the other end.  Modric showed great skill to get past a couple of City defenders and then pulled the ball back low for Defoe to fire in another shot, but this time it went wide.

The final whistle blew and the home part of the season seemed over all too quickly.  With another home win, the only home defeat under Redknapp came in one of his early games to Everton and that confidence had taken the team to the brink of Europe.  Whether the run to get a place in the Europa League will be just a little too late, we will have to wait until next Sunday to find out.  But to take it to the wire after the start Spurs had is an achievement in itself.



Reaction : -



We finish our home Premier League season with a deserved win.

City never turned up, but looked like stealing a point which seems to be our Achilles heel this season in never killing off a game.  However, a disputed penalty, in our favour for a change, saw us finish on a high.

I believe that we also have beaten a record of ours that has stood since around 1920 of conceding the least amount of goals at home in one season.  Just 10 goals have been scored against us at the Lane in the league this season and when you think we let in four goals in our first two home matches, I think it's a record to get the cockerel crowing about.  Even Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal failed to score at the Lane.

With one game to go we sit on 51 points, something that would be hard to believe on Boxing Day last year as we sat with 20 points at the half way stage of the season.

Credit due to Redknapp.  I was a critic of him, but, fair dues, he has done a great job just two defeats in the league from the last 13 games.  Remember, we were still in the starting blocks as other teams turned the first bend at the start of the season.

We may just miss out on Europe, but it might be a silver lining for next season.  In Europe, Thursday evening games and Sunday afternoon kick off seem to bog the players, as well as the supporters, down for some reason.

I'm happy with Spurs at the moment we look in good shape.


So, who would have thought it ??

From the bottom of the table to a potential Europa League place !!

Another solid performance saw Spurs dominate a lack-lustre City, who will surely be without Mark Hughes at the helm after this showing.  While he might not have spent the billions we thought might happen, will the Abu Dhabi people behind City give him the chance ? I think not.

Anyway, that is their problem.  You can only beat what's put in front of you and the way we bossed the first half, it should have been four or five by half-time.  A loose bit of defending and it was 1-1 and then a slice of luck, but then again, Bent was bundled down when through on goal at home a couple of weeks ago and we didn't get the decision.  This time we did and Keano slotted away the penalty to give us the win. 

So what happens next week ?  It's now between just us and Fulham, with City and West (Ha Ha) Ham unable to catch us.  We go to Liverpool, needing to win after Fulham beating Newcastle.  Fulham are at home to Everton, which would be a tough task normally, but a week before the FA Cup Final, the Toffees are likely to rest some of their more important players.  The only thing is, you hope that Everton want to secure fifth place, as they are only a point ahead of Villa.

Whatever happens, it is a remarkable turn around for Spurs, from bottom of the league to European contenders.  Next season, hopefully, it will be just the latter bit, although another 17 games to win it will be a big ask.

benny the ball


Moaning about the penalty is a bit rich from City. Perhaps they think that they should be able to buy decisions as well as all the layers they want.  But they won't have European football next season, so buying the players they want might be a bit more difficult than they think too !!

the funky phantom

For Wyart Lane's view on the game, click here to go to The Times Online Fanzine Fanzone.
The match against Manchester City last Saturday was my last after 27 years.

It was nice to finish on a high note with a win. 

Ironically the first match I was taken to was against the same opponents 40 years before, but unfortunately we lost that day 0-3. 

I hope to see a game or two next season, but it has been a wrench to give it up after all these years. 

I leave with a lot of great memories great wins in the league and in Europe, as well victories over our bitter rivals A@#n@l 5-1 last January and six years before big time Charlies Chelsea 5-1 as well  - priceless.

robert lester




Other scores this weekend :
Bolton Wanderers 1 Hull City 1 Saturday
Everton 3 West Ham United 1 Saturday
Middlesbrough 1 Aston Villa 1 Saturday
Manchester United 0 Arsenal 0 Saturday
Newcastle United 0 Fulham 1 Saturday
Stoke City 2 Wigan Athletic 0 Saturday
Chelsea 2 Blackburn Rovers 0 Sunday
West Bromwich Albion 0 Liverpool 2 Sunday
Portsmouth 3 Sunderland 1 Monday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 37 27 6 4 67 24 87 +43
2 Liverpool 37 24 11 2 74 26 83 +48
3 Chelsea 37 24 8 5 65 22 81 +43
4 Arsenal 37 19 12 6 64 37 69 +27
5 Everton 37 16 12 9 53 37 60 +16
6 Aston Villa 37 16 11 10 53 48 59 +5
7 Fulham 37 14 11 12 39 31 53 +8
8 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 37 14 9 14 43 41 51 +2
9 West Ham United 37 13 9 15 40 44 48 -4
10 Manchester City 37 14 5 18 57 50 47 +7
11 Stoke City 37 12 9 16 37 51 45 -14
12 Wigan Athletic 37 11 9 17 33 45 42 -12
13 Bolton Wanderers 37 11 8 18 41 52 41 -11
14 Portsmouth 37 10 11 16 38 56 41 -18
15 Blackburn Rovers 37 10 10 17 40 60 40 -20
16 Sunderland 37 9 9 19 32 51 36 -19
17 Hull City 37 8 11 18 39 63 35 -24
18 Newcastle United 37 7 13 17 40 58 34 -18
19 Middlesbrough 37 7 11 19 27 55 32 -28
20 West Bromwich Albion 37 8 7 22 36 67 31 -31


Position before the match :   8th
Position after the match :   8th
Position after the weekend :  8th

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