English Premier League
Sunday 22 January 2012, 13.30 KO
City: Hart, Richards (c), Savic, Lescott, Clichy, Milner, Barry, Silva, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko (Balotelli 67)
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Onuoha, de Jong, A Johnson
Goals: Nasri (56), Lescott (59), Balotelli (pen 90+5)
Booked: Clichy, Balotelli
Referee: Howard Webb
Man of the Match: David Silva
It was a nervy opening from both sides, who spent the first few minutes probing each other, looking for the first chance of the game. It turned out to be the visitors that took the initiative, breaking away from a poor Nasri corner. Lennon, though, wasted the opportunity to cross, finding Hart’s gloves instead. Bale then drilled a low cross through the area, but it missed everybody and Clichy was able to clear.
With 25 minutes on the clock, City had livened up. Aguero fashioned a shooting chance for Silva, but the Spaniard’s shot was a yard wide of the post. Richards broke down the line and got the ball across to Aguero shortly after, but the Argentine’s shot was well saved by Friedel, after he’d skipped inside the challenge.
Lescott fouled Bale on the edge of the City box and it gave the visitors the chance to shoot at goal with the first half slowly ambling towards half time. But Kaboul smashed the kick well over the bar. Tottenham had perhaps edged the first half, but it was goalless at the break and there could have been few complaints about the scoreline from either side.
City, though, stepped up their game in the second half. Richards’s cross was blocked by Assou-Ekotto’s elbow in the area, but it would have been a very harsh penalty. Milner then pulled out a cracking tackle to deny Bale a free run on goal; it was timed perfectly to nick the ball away from the Welshman inside the City box.
With the hour mark approaching, Silva found Nasri with a brilliant through ball. The Frenchman was through on goal and, with the veteran Spurs keeper bearing down on him, the former Arsenal man smashed the ball past Friedel and into the back of the net. City’s pressure had earned them the lead.
And it got better: From a right wing corner, the ball fell to Lescott at the back post and, from no more than half a yard out, the centre-back scrambled it into the back of the net. It wasn’t the prettiest of goals, but it put the hosts two up in three minutes.
Within a minute, though, the visitors pulled one back. A ball over the top wasn’t cut out by Savic and he could only flick the ball on. Defoe broke away from the line of defence and skipped around the onrushing Hart, leaving himself with an easy finish into the open goal. It handed the initiative to the away side.
It didn’t take long for Tottenham to seize that initiative, either. Bale picked up the ball from 20 yards out after City had struggled to clear their lines. His stunning effort found the top corner and Joe Hart’s best efforts couldn’t keep it out. In the space of ten minutes, City had gone two goals in front and Tottenham had pulled it back.
With 20 minutes of the match to play, the game became very stretched. Spurs survived a string of City corners, before they broke away at pace, looking to get themselves in front. But neither side could get the breakthrough, both unable to forge a clear shooting chance. Balotelli was very lucky to escape a red card for a kick out at Parker after the Italian’s shot was charged down.
As the game entered stoppage time, Tottenham should have stolen the points. A mistake by Savic in the middle of the pitch gifted the ball to Bale, who broke on Lescott with a two-on-one. The Welshman sprinted down the line and crossed for Defoe at the back post, who was unmarked, and, from a yard out, he couldn’t stretch enough and somehow put the ball wide with the goal gaping.
And it turned out to be costly. With under a minute of added time to play, a Clichy clearance bounced nicely for Balotelli to run on to into the box. There, a challenge from King brought his run to an abrupt half and the referee pointed to the spot. Balotelli stepped up and won the game for City.