Verdict: Manchester City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Goals: Crouch 83 for Tottenham.
City gave it their best shot and came up short as Peter Crouch led Tottenham to a top four finish with the only goal of a competitively fought game. The result saw The Smiths “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” played over the PA in place of a lap of honour on the pitch. Such is City life.
The evening had started brightly with Mancini electing to make only a single change to the team which beat Aston Villa. Gareth Barry returning in place of Vieira was a slight surprise, though Gareth went on to give a decent perfromance.
From the start we took the game to Spurs with de Jong the furthest man forward in our opening attack. Tevez was picking up the ball and causing genuine problems running at defenders. Barry and de Jong established an early grip of midfield and things looked promising.
Then Tottenham discovered they had an out ball. Crouch was pulling to the right of our defence and had the beating of Toure and Zabaleta in the air. In a fast paced game, Tottenham players were quick to support him and it became apparent we had a problem, but no obvious solution.
A taller right-back in Richards or Onuoha may have helped, but they may not have kept as tight a rein on Bale as Zabaleta. Lescott and Kompany would have offered greater strength at the heart of the defence but Joleon was injured.
Tottenham picked up numerous set pieces and Crouch was a constant threat. With the likes of Bale, Spurs were aided by a consistently good delivery, which contrasted with the erratic Bellamy and Johnson.
Consequently Crouch hit the post and King had a goal disallowed, while Toure had two headers from corners with which he could have done better.
The good work of de Jong and Barry was undone as Spurs simply bypassed the middle of the pitch with high balls to Crouch.Ã‚Â As a result City weren’t able to get forward in numbers, enabling King and Dawson to grow in confidence.
Once again Adebayor was doing most of his work on the flanks, leaving us with little to aim at in the penalty area. Neither Barry or de Jong are likely get on the end of crosses, while Tevez prefers to carry the ball into the danger area.
Johnson continued to show good touches without ever breaking through. It became the same story across the attack as the first half drew to a close. A pep talk at half-time saw us start the second period brighter, with Barry starting to get forward.
Once again it proved a false dawn as we failed to get a notable effort on target. As Barry went off injured, so Spurs again grew in confidence with Crouch once more the danger man.
Vieira was doing well enough, but as the game was getting stretched, the additional space seemed to benefit Spurs more. Johnson’s inability to last 90 minutes saw him replaced by Wright-Phillips.
What chances there were continued to be at the City end with Fulop required to demonstrate his reflexes in turning a Defoe shot round the post.
When the goal came, it was the result of Kaboul being allowed to much space on the flank. Bridge had dropped deep into the penalty area, and a ‘forwards challenge’ by Bellamy let the Tottenham player move into a dangerous position. His cross appeared to deflect slightly off Bridge, forcing a reaction stop from Fulop that only resulted in allowing Crouch to nod home.
Despite the best efforts of the crowd everyone knew it was over. Santa Cruz came on for Bellamy, who appeared to have picked up a knock. Once again Roque failed to make a difference, though the crosses which his game requires never came.
At the final whistle Spurs celebrated, while City players stood around, unsure what to do. Neither fans nor players seemed up for the customary lap of honour at the last home match. There was some mutual applause for the efforts this season, before everyone trooped off with a feeling of what might have been.
Apparently Khaldoon spoke to the players in the dressing room afterwards, and Mancini looks like being in charge next season. This campaign has seen us fall a fraction short of a top four place, so logic suggests we don’t need a major overhaul.
The likes of Torres and Mourinho will now be off limits, however players such as Jerome Boateng and Mesut Ozil would make for exciting signings with the quality required. A better balanced squad with Mancini at the helm from the start could well be enough to take us to the promised land next time round.