Game recap: Manchester City 1 - 0 Tottenham

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Peter Crouch of Tottenham Hotspur (obscured) scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the City of Manchester Stadium on May 10, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Almost a year to the day that Peter Crouch netted the only goal of the game in front of the South Stand to send Tottenham to the Champions League, there was a nice symmetry tonight as an own goal from the same player was enough to give City the win and send them, not Tottenham to the Champions League.

Recent history was certainly not on City's side, with a record against Tottenham so poor it makes fortunes against Everton appear somewhat positive, yet there was a sense that Saturday's missed opportunity was the end of the line for visitors and that even a win would still not be sufficient.

A redundant point now of course as City made sure they go into the FA Cup Final with the fillip of a guaranteed top four finish, accomplishing the pre-season objective that will likely prove to be so important.

It was a very watchable opening half, both sides keen to commit going forward but with Tottenham finding more space. The threat of Aaron Lennon was one that Pablo Zabaleta couldn't always counter and this drew Joleon Lescott to the left hand side on more than one occasion, creating gaps for Van der Vaart and Modric to exploit.

Tottenham possess one of the better records in the Premier League when trailing at half-time (having won three of eight) and indeed also when falling behind in games (posting an impressive W6 D6 L6 record) and the opening twenty minutes of the second saw the game played almost entirely in City's half, with Tottenham pressing to get back into the game and City unable to stem the tide. It was only when Roberto Mancini brought on Patrick Vieira for Adam Johnson that City regained a degree of control.

Johnson had struggled to make an impact for the most part - certainly the second half anyway - and the move ensured City would retain possession better, but also crucially push Yaya Toure further forward, as in Gareth Barry's absence, played a more withdrawn role. As a result, and largely due to Patrick Vieira's influence, City turned the tide a little and in the games latter moments could have added a second - both Vieira and Carlos Tevez (on for the final ten or so minutes) both being denied.

Vincent Kompany was named man of the match, but Micah Richards was surely the pick. Given a starting spot (likely to prove his fitness ahead of Saturday) he was strong, decisive in the air and dynamic going forward. Going up against Stoke, he will be a certainty to start on the basis of this display.

The possession battle finished in Tottenham's favour of course, by a margin of 63%-37% - surely not seen this season (or for some time) in a game involving City. Tottenham also outpassed City 630 to 390, yet Modric's miss in the first half and a smart save from Joe Hart (who drew level with Nicky Weaver as the season clean sheet record holder) Tottenham could not carve out the clear opportunities their possession may have brought. Resolute defending from City of course, but also suggesting a failing in general for them at times over the course of 2010/11

City have been much maligned over the course, some of it deserved, the majority not but they have been resident in the top four positions since the fifth game of the season (and spent two of the first four weeks their also) and now site only two points behind Arsenal in third spot, thus harbouring hopes of automatic qualification, rather than joining in the qualifying round.

Thoughts now of course turn to Saturday and the FA Cup Final (if they were ever far from the forefront anyway), but for now, reflection and satisfaction at what is a much deserved achievement.

 

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