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Tottenham 2 Manchester City 1: Shades of old Arsenal as Harry's team get mean
Published : 16 May 2009 21:41:28
Players out on the lash, the accumulation of fortuitous single-goalvictories - whisper it around these parts but just lately TottenhamHotspur have been looking like the pre-Arsene Wenger Arsenal. After four consecutive 1-0 home wins, they looked set for anotheryesterday thanks to Jermain Defoe's effort until reverting to beingSpurs and giving up a goal to Valeri Bojinov to make a mockery of theirearlier comfortable control. Finally, though, Robbie Keane's late - lucky - penalty left Manchester City manager Mark Hughes fuming and secured a victory that keeps alive Tottenham's hopes of a European place while dashing those of City, who only belatedly lifted themselves out of the sort of lethargic performance that has dogged them away from home this season. The game also saw Tottenham establish a statistic that might be more associated with Arsenal of old, as they made it their best ever league season defensively at White Hart Lane, the 10 goals conceded breaking the club record of 11 in 1920. This with a goalkeeper in Heurelho Gomes for whom the phrase 'dodgy keeper' looked to have been coined earlier in the season. The victory sees them go into the season's final game next Sundaystill with a chance of making the Europa League as captain Keanereturns to Liverpool while Fulham, now their only rivals, are at hometo Everton. 'I think Fulham will do it with Everton in the Cup final the weekafter but, if we finish eighth, it will be a fantastic achievement,'said Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. It has indeed been a remarkable season for Redknapp after takingover in October with Spurs bottom of the table with two points fromeight games. The next challenge, apart from a bit of buying and selling over thesummer to hone the squad ready for a top-four challenge, is to sort outan apparent drinking culture that culminated with Ledley King spendingthe night in a police cell last weekend. It should be meat and drink to a manager with a midas touch thesepast couple of seasons, who won the FA Cup with Portsmouth this timelast year. Yesterday Redknapp sent out an attacking side, with Luka Modric andKeane flanking Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Tottenham's intent andconfidence was evident. Indeed they owed much to Shay Given for keeping the game scoreless for so long. First he kept out low drives from Defoe and Pavlyuchenko beforebeating away King's close-range header from Tom Huddlestone's corner. He could do nothing, however, about Defoe's neat back-heel from six yards that gave Spurs the lead. You could only sympathise with Given as he was left to wonder howJermaine Jenas could pick out Huddlestone so easily wide on the right,how nobody cut out the low cross and how Richard Dunne was leftstanding by Defoe. His side lame in attack with Robinho injured, Hughes took actionearly in the second half by bringing on strikers Bojinov and Benjaniand, coupled with Spurs losing Jonathan Woodgate and Jenas to injury,the game quickly changed. Stephen Ireland chipped a ball into the penalty area where King and Vedran Corluka got in each other's way as Benjani challenged for the ball, which dropped for Bojinov to lash home from 12 yards. City even threatened to go on and win the game until a controversial penalty decision. Pavlyuchenko had just missed glaringly from eight yards and stormed down the tunnel when replaced, prompting Redknapp later to joke: 'He flew past me. It was good to see.' Substitute Fraizer Campbell was then judged by referee Mark Halsey to have been held by Micah Richards as Defoe's low cross came in and Keane stroked home the penalty. 'It was shoulder to shoulder and Campbell has fallen into a heap. It was a poor decision,' lamented Hughes. However, Redknapp said: 'From where I was sitting it was a blatant penalty.' One thing was for certain. With a European place still up for grabs - and after Redknapp's strong words last week for King - Tottenham's squad should not be out celebrating yet. TOTTENHAM (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate (Hutton 46min), King, Assou-Ekotto; Modric, Jenas (Zokora 67), Huddlestone, Keane; Pavlyuchenko (Campbell 75), Defoe. Subs (not used): Cudicini, Bale, Bentley, Chimbonda. MAN CITY (4-2-3-1): Given; Richards, Dunne, Onuoha, Bridge; Kompany, De Jong; Elano (Zabaleta 32), Ireland, Petrov (Bojinov 61); Caicedo (Benjani 61). Subs (not used): Hart, Fernandes, Sturridge, Glauber. Booked: Zabaleta. Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).