Monday, 23 January 2012

City vs Tottenham: Match Report

By Tom Smart
A spirited and enthralling 2nd half at the Etihad Stadium allowed Manchester City to go 6 points clear at the top of the league with a 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur, albeit temporarily. Manchester United narrowed the gap back to three points in the day’s late kick off on what proved to be a ‘Super Sunday’ for Manchester against their North London opposition.
The first half ended in a 0-0 stalemate as both teams cautiously eased into the game with Spurs having the better of the play in the opening 15 minutes, keeping possession and encroaching on the City goal. Despite this spell of domination Spurs were unable to conjure up a chance and allowed City to wake up and begin to press back.

The 17th minute saw a through ball played towards the by-line by Nasri, Silva managed to cut the ball back, before Dzeko and Aguero both collided amongst the confusion, resulting in the ball firing aimlessly wide, a wasted opportunity in the first real chance of the match.
City continued to press when on the half-hour mark Micah Richards surged down the right wing, Richards was able to cleverly cut the ball back to Aguero, before Aguero took a neat touch and lashed a shot that Friedel was well positioned for, ending with the ball cannoning off the legs of Friedel and out of play.
The first half ended with Spurs being the happier of the two sides after holding a Manchester City side that have averaged 2.73 goals per game this season. Few were to know about the chaos that was to emerge from the Eastlands tunnel after the break.
It wasn’t until the 53rd minute whereby Spurs engineered their first good opportunity of the match, Modric with some impressive work on the left providing a low cross for Bale to aim a strike at goal, only for Bale to completely miss-kick the ball and slip just before making contact with it. A let off for the home side, that appeared to wake the league leaders up.
The deadlock was broken less than a minute later with City’s playmaking genius David Silva typically carrying the ball into the middle of the park from a diagonal run, before then releasing an astute and excellently timed pass in to the path of Samir Nasri. Nasri took one look and with his first touch buried it past the Spurs goalkeeper with a powerful shot. City one up thanks to the all inspiring and ever consistent playmaking efforts of David Silva and the attacking awareness of Nasri.
Silva continued to dance and weave between the Tottenham defence driving a low cross across the goalmouth that was well cleared for a corner by Kaboul. It was the resulting corner that City were able to get their 2nd of the game. A lovely lofted ball played in by Nasri from the corner kick found a rising Edin Dzeko who guided the ball with the flick on into the path of the rampant Joleon Lescott. Lescott was able to clamber the ball home from inside the 6 yard box, comically crossing the line before the ball. City two up with a succession of quick goals and deservedly so judging by the manner in which the side had come out after the interval.
However, in typical City fashion that struck a familiar chord with the home fans around the Etihad, City were to make it hard for themselves. A long direct ball played forward by Kaboul was not dealt with by Savic, who headed the ball straight into the surging Jermaine Defoe who was lurking behind him. Defoe took the ball wide of the oncoming Joe Hart and slotted the ball home neatly to the eruption of the Tottenham fans behind the goal. Spurs had renewed confidence after conceding two goals in less than four minutes.
City appeared to have responded well to the setback of a Spurs goal with Dzeko creating an opportunity for himself following some great link-up play with Silva and Aguero, only to fire the ball over with a left foot swing of his boot. Two minutes later a ball played out to the left-hand side allowed Aaron Lennon to cut back inside and place a wonderfully weighted pass that Gareth Bale struck a curling effort towards goal. The ball dipped beautifully over the outstretched hand of England’s number one and underneath the underside of the bar before rustling into the back of the net.
Spurs pushed forward in search of a winner to complete a quite sensational come-back with opportunities being spurned by Lennon after some excellent dribbling skills. Seconds before, TV replays have shown Joleon Lescott adjudging to have elbowed Kaboul in the face as Lescott attempted to clear the danger from his box. Referee Howard Webb didn’t see the incident during the game with the incident may well being brought to the attention of an FA Committee Board. The drama however, hadn’t finished.
In the 82nd minute a challenge from Scott Parker lead to both himself and Balotelli falling over. The talking point in which Harry Redknapp in his post-match interviews has used as the reason to why his team lost, is that when Parker had committed and gone to ground, as Balotelli was trying to find his balance, he intentionally stamped near to the head of Scott Parker allegedly grazing the England midfielders forehead. Howard Webb did not take action despite stopping play as a result of a head injury to Parker. It appeared that Balotelli stamped towards Parker, yet there is debate surrounding whether it was intentional and certainly around if he knew his head was there. Balotelli appeared lucky that Webb did not see the incident, as a reaction to a challenge that involves physical contact away from the ball, especially when regarding a serious incident such as a stamp can often lead to a dismissal.
Spurs into injury time had the chance to win the game and seal the first three points for an away side at the Etihad stadium since Everton in December 2010. A 2nd Savic mistake allowed Spurs to break with a ball being driven through to Bale on the left wing, as Lescott chased. Bale managed to break into the City area with Jermaine Defoe sprinting in behind level with goal. The ball was rolled across the goalmouth into the path of Defoe with the strikers reach being just too short to make enough contact for the ball to hit the back of the net. Instead Defoe’s toe made enough contact with the ball only for it to roll centimetres wide of the City post and out for a goal-kick. City with a major let off minutes before the end.
It wasn’t yet to be the end of what has to be one of most dramatic matches at media-dubbed ‘Fortress’ that is Eastlands. A volleyed clearance from Clichy found its way down the middle of the park towards Aguero. The Argentinean was able to chest it into the path of Mario Balotelli who strode into the opposition penalty area. Just before striking the ball Ledley King dived in, in what seemed to be a reckless tackle and took Balotelli tumbling to the ground. Howard Webb looked up and pointed to the spot and awarded the home side a penalty sending the City faithful into scenes of pandemonium. Sergio Aguero’s reaction to being awarded the penalty told the story and replicated the feelings of all City fans. King claimed his innocence, but in reality it was evident to see on the face of the Tottenham centre back that the penalty decision was just. Up steps the one man with enough nerve and cool to slot the ball beyond the reach of the Premier League’s most experienced goalkeeper, Balotelli.
The penalty conversion from Balotelli proved to be the last kick of the game in what was the vital goal in this 2nd half classic from both sides. Redknapps’ frustration in the scenes of the aftermath proves how hard Spurs worked in order to get back into the match from a two goal deficit. City go on to remain 3 points top of the league with an extremely interesting fixture list in the coming months ahead of the two Manchester clubs. Games including Carling Cup games, FA Cup games and Europa League games amongst the Barclays Premier League just to add to the drama that has so far been showcased this season, more importantly it’s City who remain at the top of the league for now.

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