This was it…the game to catapult City in to the European Elite, something fans could only dream about a decade ago. How things change, favourites for tonight`s game and only needing to beat Spurs to launch the Champions League dream.
City owed spurs for last season`s loss and Mancini went for ….hart, richards, kompany, lescott, zabaleta, de jong, toure, johnson, silva milner and dzeko. So fan’ favorite’ the sublime defender kolarov left on the bench….huzzah.
This was an exciting line up and Mancini was certainly going for the win tonight.
The sound from the supporters was electric and City started well enough with the lions share of the ball in the opening few minutes.
Silva was on the receiving end of a few heavy tackles as the two teams skirmished early on.
On five minutes Richards burst through on an overlapping run but Dawson cut out the ensuing cross.
Spurs first corner came on seven minutes easily cleared by the Blues defence. The end to end nature of this game was becoming apparent as seconds later Toure was blasting wide of Cudicinis right post.
Ten minutes in and a Lescott ball over Spurs` right back found Silva who got to the by line and cut the ball back to Dzeko who shot cleanly but straight at the Spurs keeper.
City were playing with much more width as Richards overlapped Johnson. This in turn created more space for Silva and Milner to run into as the Spurs midfield looked stretched.
Seventeen minutes in and the first instance of poor refereeing, as Milner through on goal was brought down inside the Spurs box. Neither linesman or ref gave anything although the Spurs player came away with Milner`s ankles rather than the ball.
Seconds later City were attacking again and even when they lost the ball, the midfield closed down instantly.
Twenty minutes in and Spurs had another corner, again cleared by the Blues defence which looked much better in the air with Richard`s added height.
Five minutes later and the pace of the game was slowing. Possession stats weren’t good…sixty/forty in Spurs favour but Hart hadn’t had a save to make.
Spurs should have taken the lead on twenty eight minutes after Zabaleta lost possession and Kompany his footing but luckily Modric shot wide.
Within a minute City had gone ahead. A short corner found Milner who crossed the ball low and hard across the crowded six yard box. The ball hit Crouch`s outstretched foot and rebounded past Cudicini. One nil and game on.
Palacios was then withdrawn due to injury and replaced by Pienaar. City broke immediately after this and Silva found Dzeko in the Spurs box but once more the towering forward`s first touch let him down.
With ten minutes of the half to go and one up, the City machine began to purr. Toure had dropped into defensive mid, Milner out right and Johnson left with Silva dropping in just behind Dzeko.
Spurs players were dropping like flies as the third injury break of the first half took place with three minutes of the half left.
With a minute to go Spurs had another corner on the City right. Once more the in swinging ball was repulsed. Spurs were winning nothing in the air as Kompany, Lescott and Richards were imperious.
As the whistle blew for half time a few things had become apparent. Richards was making the defence look more solid in the air and was also looking good going forward. Mancini had changed the tactics mid-way through the first half rather than waiting till the eightieth minute and Dzeko didn’t seem to have a first touch.
Spurs came out of the blocks at one hundred miles an hour as the second half kicked off and City had Hart to thank for a Gordon Banks-esque save which kept the score at one nil.
Richards was brought down on the Spurs right after one of his bulldozing runs. Nothing came of the resultant free kick but the City right back was looking something special.
City were looking good for their score but they seemed to be a man short as Johnson once more took the ‘we’re not really here` song too seriously.
On fifty five minutes crouch mistook Zabaletas face for the ball. The resultant injury forcing Zabaleta off. His replacement, oh dear, Kolarov.
Some of the decisions were getting ridiculous as ref and linesmen were doing their best to help Spurs….perhaps cataract removal might help them. Although the partial sight seemed reserved only to decisions against Spurs.
The London side were having the lions share of possession this half but Hart’s super save aside, the city keeper had little to do.
Peter Crouch was treating the City centre halves like climbing walls each time a high ball was launched into the Blue`s penalty box.
The pressure was rising as Spurs got another corner on sixty three minutes but each time the ball was cleared it came back as City left no one up field.
Something had to change. Well the invisible man was changed not for Tevez who was warming up on the touch line. No, for Vieira as Mancini looked to shore up the midfield. The problem was not in midfield though as it was on the wings that Spurs were making headway.
Another Spurs injury on seventy minutes as Gallas went down under pressure from Dzeko after treatment though the ex-Chelsea player was able to continue.
Three minutes later and the game was stopped again for….you’ve guessed it a Spurs injury!
Seventy four minutes saw Richards find Milner with a ball over the top of the Spurs left back. With Toure running in unmarked Milner contrived to find the center half with his pull back rather than his team mate.
Minutes later Dzeko was almost through but the ball didn’t drop for him early enough and his shot was scuffed.
Seventy eight minutes saw the introduction of Defoe on for Crouch. A point to note here that unpopular as the decision to bring on Vieira had been, he had done more in the ten minutes on the pitch than Johnson had in the previous seventy.
On eighty one minutes Mancini took off the diminutive Spaniard David Silva who looked exhausted having sweated blood for the City cause. His replacement bought the loudest cheer of the night as top scorer Carlos Tevez came on.
With five minutes injury time announced Spurs just couldn’t break the Blues back line as Richards seemed to appear everywhere the ball was.
Two minutes left until the Champions League beckoned for City. The crowd cheered, Tevez chased and Spurs, well Spurs just weren’t quite as good.
With seconds to go, Tevez nearly set up Vieira only for Gallas to clear the experienced midfielder`s shot off the line. This was Gallas’s last touch as he was replaced by Kaboul.
As the crowd`s whistles became deafening, the ref took a last look at his watch and blew for full time. This is it, the big time. Champions League football for City and thoroughly deserved it is. Well done City and Roberto Mancini. Let`s go for third place in the league and the F.A. Cup to boot!
Joe Hart – 8
No nerves from Joe tonight. His kicking and passing was impeccable and whilst not called on too many times, made a world class save down to his left reminiscent of Gordon Bank’s against Pele.
Micah Richards – 8.5
Whether going forward to assist in attacks, defending set plays or attacking long balls and crosses, Richards was simply imperious tonight. Surely he should be first choice for England on a performance like this.
Vincent Kompany – 8
Strong in the tackle and rarely gave the ball away. Dealt well with the high number of crosses Spurs put into City’s box.
Joleon Lescott – 8
This guy has become Mr Consistency. He wins everything in the air and has ironed out the mistakes that had crept into his game. Looking worth the money City paid for him.
Pablo Zabaleta 7.5
Got caught out by Lennon’s pace once or twice but literally put his body on the line (and Crouch’s boot) and ended up being substituted through injury. Did well supporting the left winger.
Nigel De Jong – 7
Broke up the Spurs play well and looked comfortable and assured on the ball. Wasn’t his usual ferocious self probably with one eye on Saturday’s big one.
Yaya Toure – 7
Started out supporting Dzeko and ended up in defensive midfield. Made some good runs and could have had a goal. Tired towards the end of the game.
Adam Johnson – 5.5
Once more the invisible man. He didn’t see much of the ball and didn’t do much when he was on it. Didn’t drop back to defend as Milner did when not in possession.
James Milner – 8
Played defensive mid, right wing, left wing and central attacking mid and even full back for a short period. Is there anything he can’t do? Played with intelligence and steel. A great asset to the squad.
David Silva – 9
This guy has my respect. One of the smallest players on the pitch and kicked week in week out but he plays with verve, intelligence, forsight and strength. Not scared to tackle and makes the team tick
Edin Dzeko – 6
Poor first touch and struggling to get to grips with the pace and physical nature of the Premier League. Showed glimpses of what he can do and will probably be much better next year.
Aleksander Kolarov – 7
Wasn’t actually as bad as he usually is and only got skinned by Lennon once. Look good going forward and put in a couple of good blocks.
Carlos Tevez – 7.5
Harried and chased, chased and harried. Looked a bit overweight but still quick and fit. Could have had a goal made the Spurs players quake in their boots.
Elegant on the ball and tough in the tackle. Did exactly what was asked of him when he came on as sub and added a wealth of experience to the midfield.
Roberto Mancini – 8
icked the right team to play Spurs and changed things early. Champions League in his first full season at the club has to be given a big pat on the back. F.A. Cup on Saturday and I will personally cook him dinner.
Harry Redknapp -6
oaning, mind-games and some very good players, but they seem to have gone backwards this year as City have improved. Not my favourite Manager.