Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Manchester City 1 Tottenham 0

Never mind Oasis, this was Nirvana. On a night of high anxiety at Eastlands, Manchester City eventually enjoyed the sweetest of moments when the final whistle confirmed their place in next season’s Champions League.

On a nervy night, City demonstrated the defensive substance to Roberto Mancini’s team but not enough attacking style. Only when Carlos Tevez arrived late on did they look a genuine attacking force.

City even required a Peter Crouch own goal to progress and a fantastic save from Joe Hart to deny Steven Pienaar. City fans, who have suffered for so long, reveled in this result and lauded

Roberto Mancini for guiding them to the Champions League. Mancini knew this season has been all about ending up in the top four. Mission accomplished.

Spurs competed hard, particularly Luka Modric and Sandro, but their season has been in decline for a couple of weeks and now they face a fight with their next opponents, Liverpool, for a place in the Europa League.

When Crouch scored here last season, Tottenham Hotspur had their passport into the Champions League while Manchester City were forced to endure Thursday nights on Channel Five. When he scored after half an hour here, most within Eastlands felt the roles being inexorably reversed.

Poor Crouch. There was little the tall striker could do, the ball hitting him and flying past Carlo Cudicini. A few eyebrows had been raised before kick-off when Spurs revealed that Gomes had failed to travel, having injured his back in training on Monday, meaning a rare start for Cudicini.

The Italian was soon called into action, following a quick City break down the inside-left channel after 10 minutes. Joleon Lescott lifted the ball forward and Edin Dzeko flicked on to David Silva.

The Spanish international cut the ball back perfectly to Dzeko, who shot straight at Cudicini. The Spurs fans, standing behind the goal, applauded Cudicini’s save but it was a disppointing effort by Dzeko. It was a real waste of typically intelligent work by Silva, who was always looking to release team-mates and always willing to cover back on the left to keep an eye on Aaron Lennon.

City sought to exploit Spurs’ changes, particularly down the visitors’ left where Danny Rose was full-back and Luka Modric had shuffled across in the left-wing slot in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale. Adam Johnson played a great early pass behind Rose, sending Micah Richards hurtling towards the bye-line until Michael Dawson came across to block.

The game was slow to spring to life. There was a hesitancy staining the efforts of both teams, a trait that has been particularly evident in Spurs’ laboured performances over the past few weeks, so damaging their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League again.

Their fans have enjoyed the European tour this term, taking in such special destinations as Milan and Madrid, but over the past two months it has been City supporters thinking more realistically of elite arenas.

For a while it seemed that City were distracted by Wembley, by the thought of Saturday’s FA Cup final against Stoke City, whose manager Tony Pulis was looking on last night. Until Crouch gave City the lead, the hosts were hardly convincing. Eastlands was hardly full either, indicating that Wembley, and the substantial cost, was on many minds.

Spurs threatened occasionally. Sandro worked hard through the middle, shuttling back and forth. Modric, drifting into the centre-cirle, played a magnificent pass left to the racing Rose, whose cross was met by Crouch. The knockdown fell to Lennon, whose shot was blocked.

Modric, following up, fared no better. The Croatian almost scored after a bright run by Lennon, who eluded Pablo Zabaleta and Lescott. Lennon stroked the ball across perfectly to the unmarked Modric, whose shot flew just wide.

Within seconds, City were charging upfield, winning a corner, which James Milner took short to Adam Johnson, who immediately played it back. Milner’s cross was hard and low, bringing instant misery to Crouch as it bounced off the England striker and diverted past Cudicini. City had one foot in the promised land of Europe’s elite competition.

Once they had finished their Poznan celebration, City fans noted with delight that Carlos Tevez was warming up. Whatever the doubts over the Argentine’s future at Eastlands, City fans know how important he could be in the Cup final, causing constant problems for Stoke’s back-four. Dzeko’s first touch was not quite assured enough while Mario Balotelli remains an enigma, a mixture of red cards and occasional purple patches.

Spurs attempted to revive their season, pushing forward, enjoying plenty of possession but they lacked conviction. Wilson Palacios limped off to be replaced by Steven Pienaar. William Gallas needed attention but managed to continue.

Mancini tweaked his tactics, pushing Milner on from his anchoring role alongside Nigel de Jong. Johnson went left while Silva pushed into the centre, linking with Yaya Toure.

City got their hands on a trophy at the break, Lee Jackson receiving his award for Premier League Groundsman of the Year. Along with Arsenal’s Emirates, Eastlands is a splendid surface and the players had no excuse for frequent diffidence here.

Spurs began the second half showing more urgency in the final third. From one Lennon cross, Pienaar headed strongly goalwards but Joe Hart brilliantly stretched out his left hand to paw the danger away.

City’s defence was under pressure, and Zabaleta was withdrawn, blood pouring from his nose after an aerial challenge with Crouch. As Aleksandar Kolarov jogged on, Stoke’s in-form Jermaine Pennant will have noted City’s problems at left-back.

Spurs saw plenty of the ball but were failing to penetrate City’s obdurate back-line. Frustration crept in, and Modric just managed to restrain himself from throwing the ball away in disgust after Mike Dean failed to give one decision their way. In the technical area, Redknapp and Kevin Bond went into meltdown.

City were cautious, defending deep. Mancini decided to stiffen his midfield. Patrick Vieira arrived after 66 minutes, replacing Johnson as Mancini built another line of defence. City suddenly broke out after 71 minutes, Yaya Toure outstripping Dawson down the right but his cross would have taken out a Blimp.

The eye kept drifting to the benches. Jermain Defoe soon arrived. Tevez looked to be coming on but was then stood down. City should have soothed any local nerves with 14 minutes remaining when Silva’s flick sent Dzeko through the middle but he paused and the moment was lost.

Tevez was sent out again to warm up, the striker giving Mancini a quizzical look perhaps at the delay in using him. The need for Tevez was confirmed when Dzeko missed horribly eight minutes from time. Well-placed in the box, with a yard of space, Dzeko fired wildly into the stands. Yet it was Silva taken off for Tevez, who smiled broadly, clearly enjoying the fans’ passionate reception.

Tevez soon found Vieira, whose shot was headed off the line by Gallas. City will need Tevez at Wembley.

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