SATURDAY 16TH DECEMBER, 2017
MANCHESTER CITY 4(1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(0)
Man City scorers:-
De Bruyne, 70
Sterling, 80, 90
Eriksen, 90 (+3)
Referee:- Craig Pawson
Assistants:- Lee Betts, Adam Nunn
Fourth official: Lee Mason
Man City (4-1-4-1):- Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Mangala, Delph; Fernandinho (Capt.); Sterling, De Bruyne, Gundogan (sub Foden, 83), Sane (sub Bernardo Silva, 85); Aguero (sub Jesus, 58)
Subs not used:- Bravo, Danilo, Zinchenko, Toure
Booked:-Otamendi (foul on Kane), Delph (foul on Trippier)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Dier, Vertonghen, Rose (sub Davies, 89); Dembele, Winks; Eriksen, Dele (sub Sissoko, 84), Son (sub Lamela, 77); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Foyth, Aurier; Llorente
Booked:- Kane (foul on Sterling), Dembele (foul on Fernandinho), Dele (foul on De Bruyne), Sissoko (un-sporting conduct)
Call me stupidly pessimistic if you like
Obviously, this report serves as an answer to my stupidly optimistic match preview, in which I expressed the honestly held views that we could win this game. It is right that the Spurs manager should invigorate his team with such a belief, especially in a season when they have beaten the European Champions and other major opponents such as Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool – convincingly too. Similarly, fans such as me (and I was not alone) could rightfully hold such views. I was however concerned when the team news came through. Despite the enforced absence of three of our most powerful and skilled defenders (Alderweireld, Wanyama and Sanchez), I was expecting Pochettino to play five at the back, as he had done in those afore-mentioned significant wins. It would be different personnel but the option was there to present a defensive line-up and succeed on the counter.
That was not Pochettino’s way today. It was the 4-2-3-1, looking fragile with just two in the middle, and more so with the two in front of the middle. Winks and Dembele have flair, but not enough muscle. Against what is a marvellous record-breaking team Spurs were a team with potential but rarely expressed flair; little muscle, and not enough pace to deal with the onslaught which would follow. Trippier, at right back, was totally exposed and inadequate against Leroy Sane, who was too often afforded acres of space and a head start as he repeatedly ploughed goalward down the left wing, and inside that line. Kyle Walker (who had a relatively quiet game for City today), and not Trippier, will be the first choice for England to face Sane in a potential World Cup meeting next summer with Germany.
Let there be no mistake that this City team is awesome. They could go on to win everything this season, including the Champions League. What hope does that give we Spurs fans, desperate for a trophy – any trophy – when ultimately there will be a Manchester City side in the way? What hope is there for this Spurs and England fan, when so many of this Spurs side (Kane, Dele, Dier, Trippier and now Winks) are considered a major part of the England set-up when they failed to make an impression today? What hope do England have against Belgium next summer, when that side will feature such a gifted player as Kevin De Bruyne, who once again dominated proceedings here at The Etihad? What point is there in travelling up and down the country and across Europe if there is no hope of seeing glory for your beloved team?
You know you in the “new Manchester” when you get on the bus from the City centre alongside one City fan and a United fan (both female) going to the game. The United fan was even wearing a red jacket. It seems City are tempting fans from Salford. You know you are in the “new Manchester” when, as you arrive at the away entrance, a hapless Asian City fan, who no doubt travelled across the world to see his team, tried to gain entrance with the away fans.
Former Spurs and City man Paul Stewart was introduced before kick-off, and said he was in a win-win situation as both teams had a place in his heart. Oh to be in the same position as a retired professional footballer, and to be able to hold such affections in your heart.
Spurs actually started brightly, with Danny Rose hitting a ball which was just too strong for Harry Kane to reach, but it wasn’t long before Spurs were on the back foot, with Jan Vertonghen making an excellent saving tackle on De Bruyne, but Dembele committing a foul on the same player just outside the Spurs area. Sane’s first (of many ) victories over Trippier led to a corner and then a cross which I think was cleared by Dier. De Bruyne took a free kick from the right and Aguero stooped to meet it with a low header at the near post, going the wrong side of the post.
Spurs had a chance of sorts after 11 minutes, but not on target. We had to wait till the second half for one of those! Dele Alli was involved at the back as Dembele brought the ball away with Eriksen continuing the move forward to Son on the left. Son passed back; Eriksen crossed and Harry Kane got his head to the ball, but hit it a good 10 yards wide of goal. Maybe I should call it an attack, not a chance.
City took a 14th minute lead following a corner on the left taken by Sane, and an easy header home by Gundogan – once of Borussia Dortmund, signed last year – who thus scored his first goal this season. Gundogan doesn’t get many starts and perhaps only started today because of the absence of the excellent David Silva. I felt that Gundogan had been offside in the build-up to the corner, but that’s picking hairs, and it was one of those situations where he might have been called offside in the old days, but now “was not active”.
Eriksen tried to tee up Kane at the other end, but Harry just could not get control of the ball, and therefore had no shot. Harry did head back a Vertonghen ball for Eriksen and Son to try to reach, but City cleared and countered with Sane threatening against Trippier again. Spurs managed to clear this time. Good passes by Dele and Harry Winks gave Danny Rose a ball on the left, but he over-hit the cross. See how excited I am getting about relatively nothing from Spurs?
We did well to end the first half only one down, with Hugo making several good saves. The first of these was from Aguero. Lloris then closed down Raheem Sterling as he tried to follow-up, but the England man fired over. Then (and this was after a Spurs throw) De Bruyne was allowed a run through the middle before he hit a shot which took a deflection before Hugo saved. As usual, Spurs put themselves under too much pressure at the back with the insistence on backward passing, and attempted short clearances, which often failed. Lloris saved again, this time from Gundogan, after Aguero and Sane had combined on the left.
Trippier did have a rare good win against Sane after half an hour hitting the ball forward for Son, who ran into the box but into trouble. Trippier then needed treatment in the City half. De Bruyne fed Sane and Lloris came out to save at his feet, before Aguero fired wide from a scoring position. Spurs managed an attack down the left flank, with Eriksen feeding Kane who hit a right footed shot wide of the far post. Otamendi got booked for a head high foul on Kane near the half-way line, and this was the first of arguably lenient actions by referee Craig Pawson, who in the second half might have sent off both Kane and Dele for challenges which saw only yellow.
Spurs made a break from the back down the right hand side after 43 minutes. Dele flicked the ball back to Son, who crossed to the left side where Rose and Kane combined before Rose chipped a cross which was claimed by Ederson with Dele closing in. In added time Sterling gave Gundogan another chance which Lloris saved to his left.
Spurs actually started the second half with more fight about them. Winks passed down the line to Danny Rose who passed inside to Eriksen (who had switched flanks with Son), passing to Kane who carried on the movement with a pass to Son on the right of goal, where his threat was blocked. Kane actually had Spurs’ first shot on target after 54 minutes with a great right foot shot from almost 30 yards, well saved by Ederson at the expense of a corner.
Aguero was replaced early by Gabriel Jesus (much to his chagrin) and Gabriel nearly scored from his first touch after a cross from the right, but Lloris came out to smother the effort. Danny Rose had a shot wide across goal after a Kane pass at the other end. Sane was in loads of space again as Sterling passed from centre. Sane came in but hit his shot over Lloris’s goal. De Bruyne hit a shot across the goalmouth from the right.
63 minutes had gone and Spurs were still in the game. Kane hit a good ball, to the advancing Trippier, who passed inside to Son, who hit a left footed shot well over as he entered the City area. Sane was in space again, fed by De Bruyne, coming inside before hitting a shot which Lloris could only parry with Sterling hitting the follow-up over. City took a long-awaited two goal lead in the 70th minute. It came after Harry Kane over-ran a ball in the City half. City countered and before you knew it De Bruyne had the ball on the left of goal, hitting a powerful shot which Lloris got a hand to, but which hit the net.
Spurs heads now fell, and after a mistake by Dier, Vertonghen made a desperate tackle on De Bruyne. Gabriel took the penalty kick, beating Lloris, but not the post. Sterling hit the follow-up shot over. I suppose Spurs were still in the game. Lamela came on for Son, and there was something of a tragedy for Harry Winks as he collected the ball from Lamela on the edge of the City area, might have hit a shot, but carried the ball too far forward to the bye line before City cleared. Then the game was up for Spurs, and it was all too easy for City, with De Bruyne at the helm again passing to Sane on the left, whose cross to the back post was easily converted by Sterling.
The game was well and truly up for Spurs now, but the last rites consisted of City substitute Bernardo Silva hitting a shot that Lloris saved at his right post; Eriksen losing the ball in the City area and De Bruyne teeing up Sterling for a shot which Lloris tipped over, and Sterling scoring his second and City’s fourth after Dier failed to clear and Sterling had an open goal.
Spurs did get a very late consolation through Eriksen’s left footed shot after he intercepted a City attempted pass in their half, but most Spurs fans (this one included) were well on their way home by then.
Once again, Spurs have slipped down to seventh. I guess we all have to dust ourselves down for next Saturday’s tea-time trip to Burnley, who once again have moved above us. City have now won 16 consecutive Premier League games and are no less than 21 points ahead of us on 52 points. They are 14 points ahead of the field. They are more or less Champions-elect, aren’t they?
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