Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham

First Division, December 9, 1967

Manchester City were gunning for their first League title for 30 years and were sitting third in the table when fifth-placed Tottenham arrived for a match that was nearly abandoned before it started. The Maine Road pitch was covered with snow and only after two inspections did the referee agree to play the game. City fans were pleased he did - as were the viewers of Match of the Day who were in for a treat.

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Manchester City
Colin Bell (18)
Mike Summerbee (49)
Tony Coleman (64)
Neil Young (75)
4-1
Tottenham
Jimmy Greaves (6)

First Division, December 9, 1967
Maine Road, Referee: D W Smith,

Before kick-off, the BBC's commentator described City as "the most exciting team in England today" and they certainly lived up to their billing. With Bill Nicholson's Spurs players slipping and sliding around on the icy surface, the boys in blue seemed to revel in the conditions and quickly put the Tottenham defence under pressure, with early chances for Tony Coleman and Alan Oakes.

But it was Spurs who struck first, when Jimmy Greaves - without a goal in six games before this - latched on to a Terry Venables free-kick after just six minutes.

The goal did not knock City out of their stride though and they continued to pour forward looking for an equaliser. It came 12 minutes later when Colin Bell pounced after Spurs failed to clear their lines.

Mike Summerbee headed City in front early in the second half and Tottenham looked to have little answer to the home side's silky attacking style. Joe Mercer's men wrapped up one of their most memorable wins with goals from Tony Coleman and Neil Young.

Defeated Spurs boss Bill Nicholson said: "I am certain that on a better pitch we would have given them a better game.

"But that is no excuse for the way we played. They were brilliant and certainly one of the best teams we have played."

Key Figures

Mike Summerbee

The former Swindon star was man of the match, popping up all over the park to terrorise the Spurs back line, and putting City ahead with a brilliantly taken second half header.

Colin Bell

The King of the Kippax was in only his second year at City but was already showing the sort of form that earned him his first England cap soon after. He scored the equaliser and could have had at least two or three more with a little more luck.

Pat Jennings

The Tottenham keeper may have let four in, but he kept out many, many more and made sure the score line wasn't even more embarrassing for Spurs. One of the first to discover just how rock-hard the frozen ground was that day when he had to make a spectacular diving save from Oakes in the opening minutes, he came up clutching his back but Spurs were lucky he was able to play on.

Did You Know...?

The match was dubbed the 'Ballet on Ice' by City fans who still remember this as one of their club's best ever performances.

After the game, Tottenham were convinced the City players had discovered the secret to playing on such an icy surface, speculating it was down to the type of studs they used. One Spurs player told the Mirror: "It was extraordinary. City moved like Olympic speed skaters while we were falling around like clowns on a skid patch."

City forward Francis Lee had only just arrived at Maine Road, after Joe Mercer paid Bolton a club record £70,000 for him in October 1967. He scored five goals in his first eight games, and 16 in total that season as City won the title. Mercer described him as "the final piece of the jigsaw".

What Happened Next

Joe Mercer's City went on to win the League title for the first time since 1937, finishing just two points ahead of Manchester United, after a final day 4-3 win at Newcastle. It was the start of the most successful period in the club's history as they won the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup-Winners' Cup over the next three years.

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From the back pages

The 'Ballet on Ice' Published: December 11, 1967

Daily Mirror analysis

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