Crouch O.G. 30
Football often throws up a chain of events which define irony and Peter Crouch will testify to that as he scored the own goal which sends Man City into the Champions League next season. Adding a further quirk of fate, he scored it from almost the exact spot where he headed Spurs into a top four finish this time last year.
The big team news emanating from the City of Manchester Stadium encompassed one big inclusion and a significant omission. Roberto Mancini included Carlos Tevez on the bench for the first time since he limped out of the defeat against Liverpool, as the diminutive Argentine attempts to prove his fitness ahead of the FA Cup final on Saturday. Gareth Bale is out for the remainder of the season, but Harry Redknapp also called upon Carlo Cudicini in place of the much maligned Heurelho Gomes, who the club say missed out due to a back injury.
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The visitors adopted their approach from continental fixtures with Rafael van der Vaart supporting Crouch up front, as Jermain Defoe was confined to the bench. Redknapp saw this as a task of breaking down a resolute City side who themselves were unchanged from the Everton defeat. The biggest challenge facing Spurs was to get in behind their opponents who have proved robust for the most part this season, although the absence of Gareth Barry would have offered them some incentive.
Both sides started brightly during the first 20 minutes but Redknapp would have been the happier of the two managers, although chances were few and far between. Tottenham begun to tick as soon as they got Luka Modric on the ball, but they were wasteful with the what came their way in the final third, Modric himself spurning their best opportunity when he drifted into the box unmarked, only to fire wide.
Their problem of late has been scoring goals and on the evidence of this game it is easy to see why, as they lacked conviction in front of goal. City looked dangerous when they got David Silva on the ball and it was he who created the host’s best chance, before the own goal eventually broke the deadlock.
The second half reflected the most important 45 minutes of Tottenham’s season so it was no surprise they started with more urgency, although Mancini’s men excel at defending a lead. Patrick Viera’s introduction for the anonymous Adam Johnson only invited more pressure from Spurs, but they were finding it hard identifying that final ball. With all that was riding on this game Mancini was seemingly content with the goal he was able to bank at half time, as they struggled to breach the half-way line in the second half.
It was by no means a classic, but those associated with the Sky Blues will not complain, as the lure of playing in Europe’s premier club competition, surely outweighs an evening of expansive and attractive football.