Tottenham Hotspur this evening secured an all-important fourth place in the 2009/2010 Barclays Premier League by defeating their rivals for the position, Manchester City, in a hard-fought match this evening at Eastlands.
Tall centre-forward Peter Crouch scored the only goal of the game in a match which Spurs deservedly won one nil.
The best chances of the first half both fell to Spurs, as Crouch hit a post with a header on around 25 minutes, before heading down to Gareth Bale who’s left footed half volley whistled past the post from within 12 yards.
City came back into the game after Spurs had arguably edged the first half and created two good chances of their own, the best of which was a Toure free header which the centre-half should have produced more with: the ball was headed straight at the grateful Gomes in the Tottenham net.
Gomes had been called into action earlier as Johnston – City’s best player on the right of midfield – cut in from a half-cleared corner and delivered a great right-footed shot which was superbly saved by the Brazilian stopper.
At half time, the nil-nil scoreline could well have been one all, or one nil Spurs.
As it was, we would have to wait until the 82nd minute for Crouch to open the scoring in a second half that Spurs dominated more than the first. Adebayor was kept quiet by the excellent King and Dawson while Bellamy had one of those days – he barley touched the ball – before being substituted shortly after Spurs went one up.
Defoe was substituted for Pavlyuchenko on 80 minutes, but not before he stung the hands of stand-in goalkeeper Marton Fulop with the best chance of the match: Gareth Bale flicked a delightful ball over a defender to Defoe, who, as ever, outpaced his marker and let off a right-footed shot destined for the bottom corner. The on-loan goalkeeper made an excellent save low to his left to deny the spurs captain.
Crouch had been a part of most good moves Spurs had been making, while Defoe was working tirelessly in a match that wasn’t suiting him: the ball was often hit long to Crouch, and Defoe was well marked by Kompany in the City defence on all but that one occasion. So it was no surprise that it was Defoe who would be replaced by the in-form Russian, Roman Pavliachenko with ten minutes remaining.
Crouch was probably the only man tall enough to grab his goal, which came after Kaboul, the Tottenham right-back, drove into the City box and flashed a hard cross-shot at Fulop. The goalkeeper could not hold the ball, and will be disappointed only to have palmed it straight to the onrushing Crouch, who headed the ball into the top corner before darting to the enraptured Tottenham fans.
City would not produce a shot on target in response as Spurs looked the more likely side to score in the closing minutes, such was the Londoners control at the end of this match.
In the buildup to tonight’s game, Harry Redknapp said his men “deserved” to claim fourth place. Now that they have finished the job by beating their only remaining rivals for the position, with a clean sheet, away from home, no-one can argue with that claim: the job is done.
Spurs will claim third place if they win at Burnley and Arsenal are beaten by Fulham – something which, as well as giving them bragging rights over their bitter rivals, would ensure qualification for the UEFA Champions League. As things stand, Tottenham Hotspur will have to enter the competition via the Qualifying rounds, something which is no simple task, and depends heavily on the draw.
Tonight, however, the men in white can remark upon a job well done. They can reflect upon expectations met and exceeded.
For many Spurs players, 2010 is turning into a dream year: several of them deserve to be flying to the World Cup in South Africa, and, if they do, they will go with the knowledge that a UEFA Champions League campaign is waiting for them at home, on their return.
Harry Redknapp, even before tonight’s impressive display, must have been a leading contender for Manager of the Year having achieved so much with his squad of talented players. Now, one feels, the award must be his.
For City, they must content themselves with a Europa League place, and the knowledge that they will be able to strengthen their squad in the summer to fight another day.
The Premier League decided against creating a playoff for the final Champions League place in March, tonight, we got one anyway, and it was everything we wanted and more. A wonderful, dramatic example of Barclays Premier League at its best, and, even the most ardent of City fans will attest, the best team won on the day.
Spurs claim at least fourth place, and will take their chances in the UEFA Champions League next season, by following the right game-plan, and executing perfectly. City must reflect on their tendency to draw winable games away from home, and a lack of the killer blow in the biggest games this season.
The watching Fabio Capello might have to get used to a number of the players he saw tonight – he could well be spending a few weeks with them this summer.