Monday, 23 January 2012

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur: Post match review.

A cagey first half as both teams sized each other up, 4 goals in 9 minutes in the 2nd half and a stoppage time penalty. I think my pulse has just about managed to return to normal.

There was a lot of talk about this being a season defining game for City and Spurs, but to be honest, I think it was more important for Spurs' title challenge than it was for City's given the next 2 month's worth of fixtures. Kyle Walker took to Twitter and stated that City were "there for the taking" or so he thought.

Micah Richards returned to the side and was once again handed the captain's armband, an indication of how far he's come since Mancini joined the Blues and a testament to how highly the Italian rates him. Mario Balotelli also passed a late fitness test and started on the bench. James Milner was preferred over Nigel De Jong and started alongside Gareth Barry in the centre of the park.

The first half lacked any real pace and urgency, although City managed to create a couple of chances. One of which came on 17 minutes when Silva pinged the ball back from the touchline into the path of Sergio Aguero, but as has happened recently, Edin Dzeko was in the way and the chance went begging. Spurs also had a couple of speculative efforts that were blocked by City's defence.

8 minutes later a quick free kick set Aguero on his way with Kaboul in toe. Aguero could have possibly bought himself a penalty after he was taken wide in the area and Kaboul gave him a little push in the back. To his credit though he stayed on his feet and created a chance for David Silva who flashed the ball across the face of the goal.

With 30 minutes gone, Richards stole the ball from Bale and then Parker before hitting a low cross to Aguero on the edge of the area. Sergio jinked to his right, giving himself so space but a good save from the evergreen Brad Freidel prevented City going 1-0 up.

There was a potential penalty shout early in the second half Richards steamed into a packed 18 yard box with his cross being blocked by Assou-Ekotto's elbow. I've seen them given, but with the distance between the players was minimal and a penalty would have probably been a harsh decision.

Then the game really sparked into life with 55 minutes gone. David Silva doing what he does best, finding space, keeping the ball and threading an inch perfect pass through the defence. Nasri had made a superb run from the left, leaving Kyle Walker stranded. The pass was excellent and the finish, superb. First time, right foot, Friedel had no chance.

City had the ball in the back of the net 3 minutes later after Nasri's corner was flicked across the face of the goal by Dzeko. Joleon Lescott got to the ball before Scott Parker and slid into the back of the net with the ball and City were in complete control and seemed as though this could spark another mauling.
If you thought a mauling was on the cards though, you were wrong as Spurs hit back almost straight away from the restart. After 2 changes of possession, Kaboul  hoofed the ball forward and Savic, who had had a good game up to that point and dealt with similar lofted passes throughout the first half with ease, misjudged the flight of the ball and gave Jermain Defoe a clean run on goal. Joe Hart could do very little about it as Defoe rounded him and passed the ball home. What should have been a comfortable lead with Spurs not making many good chances before hand was threatening to turn into a real scrap for victory.

Minutes later though, City could have go back the 2 goal lead when Aguero knocked the ball through the Spurs defence and into Dzeko's path but the Bosnian blazed the ball high over the bar from 10 yards. Despite his goal in his previous game he still looks like a player low on confidence and with Balotelli fit again he may find it difficult to keep his place in the starting 11.

9 minutes after City scored their first goal, Spurs levelled the game when Lennon carried the ball down the left and passed the ball to Gareth Bale who had drifted into the middle. Once again, Hart could do nothing about it as the first-time finish was simply top class.

Spurs could have taken the lead when once again Savic lost possession. This time Bale stormed towards City's goal and squared it for Defoe, but he couldn't turn it into the net. It was a real let off for City.

Mancini had already made his first change, bringing on Mario Balotelli for Edin Dzeko and after getting booked for a late challenge on on the edge of the area a few minutes earlier, he then found himself in the centre of another controversy as it is being alleged that he intentionally went to stamp on Scott Parker's head after the two of them got in a tangle.

If you watch it in real time, it's nothing. Watch it in slow motion and it looks like a deliberate attempt at a stamp. Personally, and I can hear the cries of bias and blue tinted specs already, I don't think it was intentional and I know many will disagree. I'll be the first to hold my hands up and say when something is wrong, but despite the best attempts of Harry Redknapp after the game and Alan Hansen in the MotD2 studio, Balotelli is not the kind of person to try and deliberately stamp on someone's head.

Mario had already been knocked totally off balance by Parker's challenge with Modric coming in behind him. Now you can go on about 'unnatural movement' or whatever you want but all you are doing is speculating as to how a person may or may not move when that will vary from person to person depending on their size, size, agility, actual direction of movement and intended direction of movement.

If you want to watch it in slow motion, go ahead, then tell me where Luca Modric is looking when the 'stamp' occurs. Did he call to the ref to point this out? No. Why? Because it wasn't an intentional stamp to inflict injury on anyone. In fact no player on the pitch made any claims of a stamp.

The ref was 6 yards away, did he see any foul play? No. Why? Because it wasn't an intentional. And that is where I will leave it, but no doubt this will drag on for days in the press and in the forums compounded by the factor that Balotelli then went on to win a penalty in the last few seconds of time added on.

When the pressure is on and a penalty has to be taken, there is only one man for the job. Seemingly unaffected by any kind of pressure and supremely confident in his own ability, Mario Balotelli is one of the best penalty takers I have ever seen. Nonchalantly striding towards the ball and effortlessly stroking it beyond the keeper 

A simply enthralling game for the neutral, a heart stopping game for City and Spurs fans, but it leaves City 8 points clear of the London Club and still 3 points clear at the top of the table with a fantastic run of Premier League games ahead with the opportunity to push further ahead in the race for the title.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880 or @mcfcDSLeftFoot
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

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