Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Manchester City 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Spurs Qualify for the Champions League

Tottenham Hotspur will head into Europe's Premier Cup competition for the first time since 1962 after they beat high spending Manchester City 1-0 at the Eastlands. The match was essentially a playoff for the final English placing in the Champions League next season.

Peter Crouch scored the only goal of the game as the man-of-the-match latched onto Martin Fulop's messy clearance to head the ball home with just eight minutes remaining.

The 1-0 win was thoroughly deserved by Harry Redknapp's adventurous side as they took the game to the home-side right from the off. 'Arry signalled Spurs' intentions with a brave team selection that included the returning Aaron Lennon and the injury prone Ledley King.

Lennon's inclusion meant that Spurs went with two out and out wingers on either side of the pitch, sending the message to everyone that Spurs were there to win the match and not to play out a draw that would have given them the advantage going into the final games this weekend.

City on the other hand were strangely subdued, and one must figure that the Italian fearful mentality of Roberto Mancini dictated the tempo his team were to play at.

While Spurs attacked and probed and got men forward at every opportunity, Manchester City played with two deep defensive midfielders and seemed happy to let the Londoners force the flow of the game.

Ex-Tottenham 'keeper Fulop made a number of brilliant saves to deny Spurs and at one stage the Blues goal was leading a charmed life. Crouch hit the post with a diving header, King had a goal disallowed for pushing, Defoe went close only to see Fulop's finger tips deny him, and Gareth Bale fired inches wide after a deft header from Crouch.

In reply, City barely troubled Heurelho Gomes, and when he was eventually called into the action the Brazilian was equal to anything the Citizens could muster.

In the end, City's game-plan and shape went out the window completely, and the more disciplined Spurs side took over. David Bentley, on for the dog tired Lennon, released Youness Kaboul who was let free by some abysmal defending by Craig Bellamy.

The deputising full back's cross was too hot to handle for Fulop and his parry sat up nicely for Crouch to nod home and send Spurs into Europe.

For Tottenham it is the next chapter in a remarkable story. In October 2008 when Redknapp took over they were rooted to the bottom of the table with an under-performing team. Less than 18 months later and they will be one of three London teams that will play in the Champions League next year.

The Spurs boss has built an exciting team, one of the few sides who use a traditional 4-4-2 with two attacking wide players. They have a goalkeeper who has gone from zero to hero and who is regularly linked with moves to the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus.

A midfield that combines silk and steel in equal measures with the likes of Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone growing with every game. Luka Modric is a class act who will garner attention from every major club and the two wide "diamonds" of Lennon and Bale are good enough to frighten any defence.

Spurs contain quality all over the pitch and with one or two extra signings could consolidate their stay in the top four.

That very much depends on progressing towards the group stages of the Champions League, and if they do they will have the financial and motivational tools to hold onto their very best players.

As the travelling Spurs fans broke out into Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur one could not help to feel for Manchester City's fans who had expected so much after their massive spending.

This defeat to Spurs has knocked their plans back, but they will end up in the top four sooner rather than later so it is up to Spurs to take advantage while they can and make hay while the sun shines.

Speaking after the game an obviously happy Harry Redknapp spoke gushingly about his young side, which included eight English players.

"Most people probably thought we'll come here and take a point but I picked the most attacking team you could ever wish to see," he told BBC Sport.

"We came here to a hot atmosphere and got at them and we deserved the win."

Redknapp added: "It's fantastic. It's been a terrific season for us, we've played some great football and we deserve it.

"I thought maybe the goal wasn't going to come and we'd go to Burnley with the extra point in the bag, which would have been a good situation, but this is perfect to finish it here today. It's just perfect for us.
"Crouchy was top class and led the line and he deserved the goal," he added.

"I also think Jermaine Defoe had his best performance away from home for some time.

"Finishing fourth is something that gives me a lot of pleasure. It's great for the club and it is nice to have finally done it after coming so near in the past.

"I think to finish third would be asking a lot but fourth is a great position for us.

"We'll have to have a look in the summer and see where we can improve if we have to, but we've got good players here. I think there might be eight boys in the preliminary squad for England."

Asked about centre-back Ledley King, Redknapp said: "What a player, he's got to go to the World Cup, but Michael Dawson as well—the two of them tonight were just fantastic. You've got to put them in your squad."

Eighteen months ago Spurs were on the verge of relegation, today they sit on the edge of playing in the Champions League and contributing more players to Fabio Capello's England squad than any other team.

Happy days indeed.