Tottenham looking for a second Premier League win in Manchester this season, took a first half lead against City at the Etihad Stadium. Two second half goals maintained City’s unbeaten League record with the second coming from substitute Dzeko, three minutes from time. Spurs drop to seventh place in the League behind West Ham United who won at Newcastle but a point ahead of Arsenal who they play next at the Emirates. Tottenham, worryingly, are dropping behind the top three clubs with Chelsea seven points ahead of them, in third.
Manchester City 2 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Scorers: Aguero, Dzeko Caulker
Team: Friedel; Walker (Dawson), Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen; Sandro, Huddlestone; Lennon (Naughton), Dempsey, Bale; Adebayor (Defoe) Subs: (unused) Lloris, Sigurdsson, Livermore, Carroll
Andre Villas-Boas replaced Jermain Defoe, hat-trick hero in Thursday’s Europa League win, with Emmanuel Adebayor who was making his first Premier League start of the season against his former club. Brad Friedel was re-instated in goal.
In the opening minutes both teams tested each other out with City looking to lift the ball over the Tottenham back four and into the space behind. Friedel was alert and came out quickly to collect the ball. City won their first corner after ten minutes and were showing the greater attacking intent with little threat from Spurs. After thirteen minutes a City free-kick from distance was collected by Friedel and then Gareth Bale had the first opportunity to threaten abut was fouled. Tottenham won two corners in quick succession from the free-kick with Steven Caulker getting his head to the first.
Spurs were putting their passes together better and a little spell of pressure was cleared for a throw-in. Jan Vertonghen’s long throw into the area caused some confusion for the City defence and Hart had to dive at Adebayor’s feet as he and Lennon tried to get a touch on the loose ball. After 20 minutes, a run by Lennon was again stopped with a foul but from Tom Huddlestone’s great free-kick driven into the area with pace, Caulker got between the City defenders to head powerfully towards goal. The ball bounced in front of Hart and hit him on the chest and squirmed into the goal.
Three minutes later, City had appeals for a penalty when the ball hit William Gallas on the arm from close range but the referee was unsighted. Adebayor was working hard and was a constant nuisance to the City defenders who were getting rattled by his persistence and as the half progressed had accumulated 13 fouls to Tottenham’s three. A minute on, Adebayor went on a run on the right, cut in to the middle and on the edge of the area he laid the ball back to Huddlestone but his low shot went just past the post.
City were dominating possession (65%) but Spurs were causing them concerns when they broke from defence. City persisted in trying to get play the ball behind the Spurs defence but their final pass was over hit. City were always a danger but Spurs survived through to half-time. Gallas and Caulker misjudged an innocuous ball but escaped when City shot wide and then Friedel saved a low shot from Tevez and again when Zabaleta was played in to the area.
After the interval City increased the tempo of the game bringing more pressure on the Spurs’ defence. They persisted with the tactic of trying to get behind Spurs but the assistant referee came to Spurs’ rescue with a number of off-side calls, all correct bar one. Aguero got away once but his control let him down. Maicon came on for City with just over half an hour to play and his introduction caused Vertonghen frequent problems as City continued to dominate possession.
After 62 minutes, Bale who had a quiet game shot past from 20 yards. Three minutes later, City broke Spurs’ resistance when from a Spurs’ break they gathered the ball and with defenders forward, Toure played the ball to Aguero in the area who beat Caulker and scored with a low shot across Friedel.
The momentum was now with City although a run by Lennon a minute after the equaliser, gave Bale a chance to shoot but it sailed over. Tevez had a shot across goal with twenty minutes left and was then replaced by Dzeko who scored four against Spurs last season at White Hart Lane. Bale almost scored when the ball kept running for him as he got into the City area but his powerful shot was well saved by Hart.
City quickly threatened the Spurs defence every time a Tottenham attack broke down and Maicon was making it very difficult for Vertonghen. Dawson replaced Kyle Walker with Gallas moving across to right back. Friedel dived at Aguero’s feet to deny him and then Dzeko headed wide. Defoe replaced Adebayor with ten minutes to play but the City pressure continued. Friedel was again in action saving low and then again as he lay on the ground with 83 minutes played. A quick break by Bale enabled him to put in a cross but it was cleared with Clint Dempsey closing the defender down. Kyle Naughton replaced Lennon but a minute later City scored their winner. Dzeko got his foot to a chip over the defence and powered the shot past Friedel.
Gary Lineker’s tweet summed the match situation perfectly.
Even with five minutes of added time, Spurs couldn’t recover, missing out on a second victory in Manchester inside two months. City’s unbeaten home run of 35 matches in the Premier League since December, 2010 continues. Spurs put up a gallant performance but lacked any real threat as an attacking force in the game. Adebayor worked hard throughout and while Bale and Lennon had the capacity to trouble the City defence they rarely had the service to do so. Defensively, Spurs greatest problems came in the last half hour when Vertonghen was isolated against Maicon with Bale offering little cover or support.
Time for Spurs to regroup once again before next Saturday’s return to the Emirates where they will want a positive result to expunge last year’s disastrous capitulation from the memory.