Manchester City 0-1 Tottenham: The Daily Mirror match report
Published 22:02 05/05/10 By David McDonnell
Four years ago a dodgy lasagne cost Tottenham their rightful place in the Champions League.
Eight players were wiped out by food poisoning on the last day of the season as Spurs suffered the ultimate indignity, watching arch-rivals Arsenal secure fourth spot at their expense.
But last night Tottenham kept their long overdue appointment with destiny as Harry Redknapp’s side exposed Manchester City’s top-four credentials as a sham in clinching fourth place in the £60million play-off showdown.
Redknapp’s achievement in steering Spurs into the Champions League, in his first full season in charge, is nothing short of remarkable and has made him a genuine contender to rival Fulham boss Roy Hodgson as manager of the season.
Bottom of the Premier League with just two points from eight matches when he took over in October 2008, Redknapp’s quiet revolution at White Hart Lane has yielded the ultimate prize and restored Tottenham’s battered credibility.
Seismic wins over Arsenal and Chelsea in the space of a week, after the crushing disappointment of losing to Portsmouth in the FA Cup semi-finals, demonstrated Spurs’ mental resolve and provided the platform for this crucial defeat of City.
And Redknapp’s gamble in picking a side with attacking intent paid off, as they played with more conviction and endeavour than City, their positive approach rewarded with the goal that ultimately saw them emerge victorious.
For Redknapp, a beguiling character who scored a victory for home-grown managers over the trend for foreign coaches, it was a personal triumph and one which should not be underplayed.
By his own admission, had he not kept Portsmouth up with a win over Wigan on the final day of the 2006-07 campaign, he may well have called it quits then and retired to walk his dogs on the beach at his Sandbanks home.
But the 63-year-old rallied the following season to lead Portsmouth to FA Cup glory, before beginning his remarkable revival of Tottenham’s fortunes which has taken them into the Europe’s premier club competition for the first time.
For City and their mega-rich Arab owners, defeat proved there are some things money just can’t buy. Sheikh Mansour has spent £250m on trying to purchase a squad capable of reaching the Champions League, only to fall short when it mattered.
Peter Crouch’s 82nd-minute winner, which came courtesy of a blunder from City’s emergency loan signing goalkeeper Marton Fulop, was the least Spurs deserved for their domination.
Crouch’s goal could cost Mancini his job, the Sheikh having already shown his ruthless streak by sacking Mark Hughes halfway through the season.
Mancini, visibly irritated by all the speculation surrounding his future, claimed he was not a magician and did not have a wand to make Champions League football appear in a puff of smoke – a sobering metaphor for City and their long-suffering fans. Too many of City’s expensive signings – Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott in particular – have failed to live up to their exorbitant fees.
And so much for Fortress Eastlands. City have now won just three of their last seven Premier League games at home, hardly the stuff of a side with Champions League aspirations.
The occasion demanded big names rise to the challenge, but City’s big players failed and a mass exodus is the likely scenario, with Carlos Tevez leading the way.
After a lively and even first half, in which Crouch hit a post with a header and Adam Johnson forced a fine save from Heurelho Gomes, Tottenham seized control as the Blues wilted. City suffered a huge blow less than 10 minutes after the restart when Gareth Barry, in pursuit of Aaron Lennon, stumbled innocuously but clearly sustained an ankle injury which meant he was unable to continue.
With Patrick Vieira waiting to replace Barry on the touchline, Fulop produced a superb save, diverting Jermain Defoe’s shot with an arm at full stretch.
It was all Spurs and in the 69th minute Defoe and Crouch missed a glorious chance to score the crucial first goal, both failing to connect with Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s dangerous ball in behind the overstretched City defence.
Fulop came to City’s rescue again in the 78th minute, saving a downward header from Crouch with his legs.
But all of Fulop’s fine saves counted for nothing with eight minutes to go when Younes Kaboul’s cross took a deflection off Wayne Bridge.
Fulop flapped at the ball, shoving it straight at Crouch, who gratefully nodded it into the empty net to take Spurs into the promised land and leave City full of self-recrimination once again.