Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 5: Some Thoughts
Another lucky victory, another three points bought from the officials – you know the stuck record drill by now.
This was the first of two difficult games that would test City’s championship credentials once and for all, and the truth is that I wouldn’t have been too disappointed with a draw going into the match.
The line up had few surprises, Clichy preferred over Kolarov, perhaps for his pace, something Spurs traditionally have in abundance. The rest of the side was as you might expect with Negredo not risked to start the match, though perhaps Dzeko would have been picked anyway, as has happened previously away from home.
For half an hour, City were simply majestic. They passed their way round Spurs with consummate ease, scored one, should have scored plenty more and the only concern was that we may pay for the profligacy. Spurs came back into the game in the last 15 minutes of the half, but once down to ten men there was little to worry about. City closed the match out after the Spurs goal with great professionalism.
For me, Spurs paid the price for being far too open. It’s been City’s downfall playing teams who pack midfield, press high and press hard and harry City’s midfielders. Spurs did none of that and played right into Pellegrini’s hands. City have turned around their away form in recent months to the point that people have almost stopped talking about it, but the performances have not come close to matching those at the Etihad and there have been some roller-coaster rises along the way. Against Spurs it was so refreshing to see such dominance on the road against a side with Top Four aspirations.
On the surface, Edin Dzeko had a terrible game, his second in succession after the FA Cup horror show, spurning chance after chance on a night when he could easily have equalled his four goal tally from two seasons ago. For much of the match I found myself exasperated by him and adult words were heard drifting towards the television screen on more than one occasion. But away from his shooting, he once more put in an excellent shift, worked his socks off and led the line well. He will continue to both exasperate and excite until the day he leaves.
Sergio Aguero was once more unplayable, making his injury all the more worrying. You would hope he was being very cautious by effectively taking himself off, but he could easily be out for over a month. City have coped admirably without Aguero, barely breaking stride, but Barcelona is a whole new ball game and City’s chances of getting past the Spanish champions will be severely hindered without their talismanic front-man.
Great performances were littered throughout the side, Jesus Navas once more catching the eye (and Silva, obviously) whilst Martin Demichelis’ shift in midfield was once again a success. Elsewhere and it is great to see Stevan Jovetic not only playing but scoring and he is quickly showing signs of becoming the player we hoped for.
Be thankful that the Spurs goal was not prevented by the hand of Fernandinho, otherwise we’d be another man down on Monday.
Where to start with BT? I mean, really, where?
It was clear that a narrative had been set from the moment the half-time whistle sounded, namely that Manchester City had once more got the benefit of decisions. A blatant handball was not deemed worthy of analysis, nor an Adebayor stamp or any other rough-house tactics, nor was there felt the need to mention that the free-kick that preceded the disallowed goal was won with a dive thus making everything thereafter utterly irrelevant. But why let these trifling little details get in the way of another Manchester City conspiracy theory. The BT team felt a goal correctly given offside was worthy of repeated analysis, for reasons that defeat me apart from the obvious intent to create a story that wasn’t there. Adebayor, a player who should not have stayed on the pitch for the duration of the game, was clearly offside, went for the ball and said ball shaved the top of his head. There ends the debate. In the end, the linesman gave offside against Dawson, incorrectly, but he made the right decision even if it was for the wrong reasons, the City player playing Dawson onside totally obscured by Adebayor to the linesman.
As for the penalty, another miscarriage of justice it was not. Rose got his foot on the ball, but this is irrelevant. It certainly looked a nailed on penalty when first viewed, and this is what the officials base their decisions on, not a super slo-mo replay from 3 different angles. I would argue it was a tad harsh, and if it had happened the other way round you would probably be agreeing with me, but contact on the ball does not matter if you foul the man as well, and Rose not only grabbed Dzeko’s right hand but also made contact with the back of the Bosnian’s legs -there is enough there to justify the decision. I’ve mentioned before that the double punishment for such an offence is unduly harsh in my opinion, but that’s not City’s fault, nor was it their concern last night.
And then there was the commentary…..brace yourselves.
Watching the game in the pub, the avalanche of drivel spewing out of Michael Owen’s mouth eventually became too much for one patron, who proceeded to rip his own ears off before trying to flush them down a toilet. Thankfully a doctor was seated at the next table and helped sedate the man until the ambulance arrived. As he left on a stretcher, the pub rose as one and applauded him out of the building.
I hope you’re happy with yourself BT Sport.
With that in mind, you don’t need to hear anymore about the world’s most banal co-commentator as you know it all already, though I particularly liked his inept attempts to dissect the disallowed goal for Spurs (“it’s offside on the video replay, but clearly not offside for me”) and his complete lack of ire when Adebayor stamped on Demichelis or when Benteleb juggled the ball.
But perhaps we’ve all been had here. It’s occurred to me that Owen has played a decade-long trick on us all, having played the long-game and as a result it is he who is having the last laugh. From his tedious twitter account to his monotone commentary, this could be one big act to give him an “angle” in his post-playing media career. He’s been pretty savvy as it happens, but thankfully I am intelligent enough to see through his act and thus will not be getting irate when next I hear his unique brand of analysis.
But time for praise outside of City. I half-expected Alan Hansen on the Match of the Day “sofa” to spend fifteen minutes dissecting the goal City conceded, but let’s be glad that they actually showed Bentaleb’s handball, that Hansen noted it should never have been a free-kick prior to the disallowed goal then pointed out that the offside call was correct. It is ridiculous that I should be praising a programme for pointing out the obvious, but this is what it’s come to.
On a more positive note, some credit is merited towards Tim Sherwood for being honest in his post-match comments. No whinging, no blaming of officials or bemoaning their luck nor were there cries of great injustices, he just said it as we would. He has gone up in my estimation, a nice contrast to the classless spiv that patrols the St. James’ Park touchline.
And on a similar note, some credit too for Andre Marriner for a sterling attempt to deflect criticism away from Michael Owen’s performance or that of the home side. He was inept from beginning to end, intent on not giving City a free kick all night, even for the most blatant of fouls, whilst booking Demichelis for being stamped on. Bravo, a promotion cannot be far away.
Unexpected draws for Arsenal and especially Chelsea have given City breathing space now. Chelsea cannot go ahead of the Citizens even with victory on Monday, and City will be there or thereabouts come-what-may. I’ll settle for that, but victory on Monday would make a huge statement to the rest of the chasing pack and put City in a very strong position indeed.
Good to see Vincent Kompany move ahead of Adnan Januzaj in the goal-scoring charts.