Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 9 November 2008, 15:00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Dunne (c), Richards, Garrido, Gelson, Ireland, Wright-Phillips, Vassell (Hamann 31), Robinho, Benjani
Unused: Schmeichel, Onuoha, Elano, Ben-Haim, Jo, Evans
Goals: Robinho (16)
Sent Off: Gelson, Dunne
City Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta
Spurs started the game quickly, with a good chance falling to Jonathan Woodgate on the edge of the box, but the centre-back’s shot was blazed over. Tom Huddlestone then had a weak effort easily collected by Hart.
The away side had the better of the opening exchanges, with Luka Modric almost giving them the lead on 10 minutes, with a curling effort that just missed Hart’s post.
Darius Vassell then broke into the Spurs box, but he couldn’t find Benjani with a cross and the away side were able to clear the danger.
And it was Darius Vassell who worked the opening for City to take the lead on 16 minutes. Wright-Phillips found the pacey forward after some very good passing moves from the home side, and Vassell’s shot was only parried by Gomes. Robinho was there to slot the ball home.
Ireland could have fired City into a two goal lead, after Robinho found Vassell and Vassell slotting the ball through for the Irishman, but this time Gomes’s save was away from the City players following in.
Then came the game’s turning point. Gelson Fernandes picked up his second yellow of the game, followed by a red, after two late tackles on Modric and Bentley. The Swiss international protested, the home fans weren’t pleased, and replays suggested that both cards were, perhaps, harsh given the conditions.
Hart then pulled off the save of the day, preserving the one goal advantage. Modric produced a great bit of skill to beat Dunne, but his fired shot across the goal was expertly tipped wide by the City keeper.
But Hart was unable to stop the away side’s equaliser on 29 minutes. Bent latched onto a through ball after a mistake from Richard Dunne and slotted the ball home, despite challenges from Garrido and Hart.
Assou-Ekotto then made the home fans furious when he kicked out at Robinho while the Brazilian was on the floor, but it was behind the referee’s back and, clearly, the linesman didn’t see it.
Bentley then could have made City’s day worse two minutes before the break, but his shot was way over the bar.
Shaun Wright-Phillips had a chance to restore City’s lead on the hour mark, but he elected to shoot when, perhaps, the square pass to Robinho was a better option.
Dunne then had the chance to atone for his mistake from a City free-kick, but the skipper’s header was well saved by Gomes. But, the referee decided that the City captain had climbed on Woodgate, despite the Spurs man doing the same to Benjani all game, and a free kick was given, rather than a corner.
Darren Bent then broke into the City area, after a period of City pressure, and managed to slide the ball past Joe Hart and in off the post, largely against the run of play.
Benjani then had a golden chance to bring City level, but the Zimbabwean couldn’t direct his free header goalwards, after great skill by Robinho set Garrido free on the left.
Robinho almost had his second of the game, when Hamann was fouled and the German took the free kick quickly. He found Wright-Phillips, who laid off Robinho to shoot from range, but Gomes was equal to it.
Ireland went even closer on 76 minutes, after a great skilled flick from Benjani landed to the Irishman, but his superb volley was neatly saved by Gomes at his near post. It was typical City – a goalkeeper who had been throwing away goals all season and City find him in good form.
With seven minutes to go, City’s day got worse. A missed interception by the City midfield headed towards Bent, and Dunne was there to clear. But his clearance hit Bent and fell kindly for the forward, who raced through on goal. Dunne then ever-so-slightly nudged the Spurs man, who needed no encouragement to go down and Dunne received his marching orders, once again, perhaps harshly.
Despite being two men down, City kept the pressure on Spurs, who resorted to time wasting to see the game out.
But, as the clock hit 90, the away side were reduced to 10-men, after Assou-Ekotto lunged in with a dangerous tackle on Zabaleta, which won the Spurs man a second yellow card, when it could have been a straight red. It wasn’t exactly vengeance for the City fans, but they did feel that there was a tiny piece of justice done to the man who should have walked in the first half.
City have now lost five of the last seven Premier League games, and without the skipper for games against Hull, Arsenal and Manchester United (pending any action from City or the Premier League), November’s going to be a tough month.