Match Coverage

City 1-2 Spurs: match report and goals

The final whistle squealed like an excited girlfriend returning from a grueling day at work and opening her eyes to find an immaculate fillet of venison steak cooked for her by her usually redundant boyfriend. Steaming, juicy, medium rare – just how she liked it. He hadn’t forgotten the wine, either; their personal butler Mark Clattenburg stood silently in the corner nestling a bottle of Château La Garde, smirking like a man who was planning on pleasuring a woman himself that night.

She’d never reveal it, but Valentine’s Day was important to her. This was her second year with her new Spanish boyfriend and although she believed him to be a significant upgrade on previous partners, he had failed to deliver the promise of a luxurious trip around Europe. But on February 14th 2016, after whispering sweet nothings into one another’s ears, he slid an envelope under her palm. Inside lay two tickets. Together, the girl and her partner, Mauricio, were going places.

On the other side of town, a different kind of relationship was unfolding. The couple of three years seemed to be the perfect match at the start. They had toured the world together, he had treated her to an exquisite range of English silver and the sex had been incredible. Ferocious in fact. But he was ageing and she already had her eyes on another man. He knew it, too, and although he wouldn’t admit it, it was rocking him. For the girl and her older lover, Manuel, Valentine’s Day 2016 was a story of heartache.

Tottenham’s 2-1 win over us yesterday seemed to hammer the final nail into the coffin of our title hopes. For Spurs, it was a result that strengthened theirs. Under Mauricio Pochettino, their fans have been able to wave goodbye to the past where astronomical amounts of money were misspent and promising campaigns were derailed by a plague of inconsistency. Here is an intelligent, yet aggressive, young manager who excels in bringing the best out of players others deemed as lost causes and a coach who quite clearly spends hours on organisation and fitness in training.

Take Erik Lamela, for example. In previous years, the sight of the Argentine entering the fray with the intention of winning the game for his side would have drawn sighs from Spurs fans and giggling from our own, but Pochettino is beginning to rescue the talent from the lad they paid £26m for three years ago. The 23-year-old, an impotent winger under Tim Sherwood, poked a delicious ball into Christian Eriksen for an 83rd minute winner yesterday. Touched by the healing hands of his new gaffer, he’s now a versatile forward with a bright future ahead of him.

In spite of Tottenham’s brilliance, this was not a result we deserved. It was one we expected, definitely – our last two home games have got me humming ‘you used to win football games at home’ to the tune of Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ – but the display we put on warranted at least a draw. Vincent Kompany returned to the side and the calming effect he had on the defence was impressive. The Belgian, who has been sorely missed throughout the season, made 10 clearances and won 100% of his aerial duels in his first start since December and kept loose-cannon Otamendi on a leash. It was a professional display from our back line, undoubtedly influenced by the skipper.

I thought Yaya played well, too. Cushioned by a midfield two of Fernandinho and Fernando, he was integral to most of our play in the final third. He had our best effort in the second half, smashing a free-kick against the bar and a powerful strike stung the hands of Lloris moments before Erisken rolled in the winner.

But from the 53rd minute when Mark Clattenburg, the sort of bloke that beeps and winks at 18-year-old girls from a Transit van while scoffing a BLT, awarded a penalty against Sterling for blocking a Danny Rose cross with his back, it was pretty much game over. Swings and roundabouts some may say after we got away with that cross against Everton (fair enough, you dicks), but decisions like that cripple a side as mentally fragile as ours is at the moment. Regardless of what’s happened in the past, this was a ludicrous decision described by former referee Graham Poll as a ‘guess’. Harry Kane wasn’t arsed, though, and fired past Hart to give his men the lead.

We’d been happy to sit off in the first half while Spurs probed and pressed as they have done so effectively all season, but a different approach was required to wrestle ourselves back into the game. We attacked well and dominated the game for 20 minutes – a spell in which Touré cracked the bar with that free-kick and Sergio squandered a couple of decent opportunities – but those misses were killing our chances of getting anything from the game. Often isolated, Sergio sometimes feels the need to perform a one-man rescue mission and can hold onto the ball too often. He was poor yesterday and we needed something different going forward to disrupt a rigid Spurs defence.

Enter Kelechi Iheanacho, who within eight minutes of replacing Fernando, blasted in our equaliser. The cross from Clichy was perfectly weighted and the finish, a cool blast into the top corner, was superb. Strikes like that in situations like that require a cool head and this finish seemed all too natural to Kelechi. The 19-year-old Nigerian possesses maturity beyond his years and should be a player Pep Guardiola enjoys working with.

But in this strangely coordinated performance, there was still time for a mistake. Charging into a dead end, Touré was dispossessed by Lamela who slipped in Eriksen for an 83rd minute winner. And there was no coming back from this.

Although we sit no further back from the summit after Danny Welbeck condemned league leaders Leicester to their third defeat of the season, Tottenham and Arsenal now have four point leads over us and much more favourable run-ins. It’s quite astonishing (and unacceptable) that we’ve managed only 6 points from a possible 30 against the current top 8 and with fixtures against Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea coming up, that record has to change if we’re going to stay in the top four, let alone the the title race.

With the pressure now off us in the league, perhaps we’ll see a more relaxed style of play. We’ve shown in the past that we’re pretty good at being the underdog, but injuries, a congested fixture list and a deteriorating mentality are pretty significant obstacles to penetrate on our way to silverware. The performance yesterday gives a me a bit of hope and it’ll be interesting to see how we react to another huge blow.

It’s Chelsea in the cup on Sunday and we already know that Manuel will be fielding a youthful side. Let’s hope for a pleasant surprise.


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