The Knaggs Report: Man City 0-1 Spurs – CL here we come!


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At some stage over the next few days I will come floating gently back to earth, like a leaf carried on a breath of breeze. By then, I’m certain, I will have bounced off of every star in the sky on the way back down.

Never mind that I wasn’t among the thousands at Eastlands deliriously celebrating Champions League qualification. It was a night when Tottenham supporters everywhere were as one. Total strangers were striking up instant, awestruck conversations on trains from the City to the shires; the queue in the late night chippy was a scene of animated back-slapping. Internet chatrooms were abuzz; Harry Redknapp was soaked through by a possee of excited, drinks bucket-wielding Premiership footballers. We laughed heartily, despite the sight of David Bentley cavorting in his underpants…

Funnily enough, Harry didn’t look all that happy. Perhaps it was an expensive whistle he was wearing. Perhaps he felt he needed to take a step back amidst all the craziness, and try to keep things in perspective. But even so, this achievement must, you’d think, be his greatest. Eighteen months ago, Spurs were rock bottom – two points from nine games. Now, an outside chance of third place with one game to go. I wouldn’t imagine our illustrious neighbours are enjoying the feel of our breath, hot on the backs of their necks.

What makes this all the better is the way Spurs have done it. The football has at times been sublime; never better than in the dismantling of Champions-elect Chelsea, but with meaningful nods towards the 9-1 rout of Wigan, the drama of North London derby victory, and the gradual but unshakeable grip we took on this tumultuous night in Manchester.

Right now, and all season in fact, we are a better team than Moneybags Man City. We’d have to expect that they will throw ludicrous sums of dosh at reversing that situation, but we have a bigger carrot to dangle before the best players in the world, and we also have a young, vibrant and largely English/British team that will only get better and better. You’d think that a real top centre forward and maybe another defender would be priorities, while certain players – Robbie Keane, Alan Hutton, maybe Gio, maybe Jenas – will be allowed to leave. David Bentley, despite parading in his underwear, may have done enough to prolong his Spurs career.

Anyway, those matters are for the future. For the present, we have this night and this achievement: the first time that the club has ensured an invitation to dine at Europe’s top table since the days of Danny Blanchflower, John White, Bobby Smith, Dave McKay et al. Bill Nick, God rest his soul, must be smiling contentedly up there.

The team selection was bold, as so often is the Harry way: a midfield of Bale, Lennon, Huddlestone and Modric, supporting two strikers. As Harry said, not a ball winner in there, but they worked their socks off to close down space, and when they had the ball there was always danger to Man City’s thin sky blue line. In the first half there were moments of sloppiness that invited pressure on to us; Carlos Tevez threatened with bursts into our box, and Adam Johnson tested Gomes from long range. But even though Man City had the first half, Spurs still managed to hit the post through Peter Crouch, have a Ledley King goal disallowed a little harshly, and a Bale snap shot that flew narrowly wide.

Half time, 0-0. I was damned confident that we’d go on and win it from there. City were bright again at the start of the second half, but the expected storm never really materialised. Through hard work, tenacity and concentration, with Dawson and King again simply magnificent, Spurs kept them at arm’s length and piece by piece started to unblock the route to goal, creating shimmering passing moves as they de-constructed City’s defence. Loan goalkeeper Fulop had to save superbly from Jermain Defoe, and point blank from the second of Crouch’s three headers.

There must have been dismay and despair in the City ranks, players and fans, as the second half wore on, and the minutes ebbed away; a goal was coming, and it was going to be scored by a man in white.  Then Kaboul beat Bellamy on the right flank, advanced with purpose, and crossed at the near post. There was a deflection off the covering defender, Fulop was startled and flapped, and the ball sat up for Crouch to rush in and head high into the net. Mayhem in a section of the City of Manchester Stadium, mayhem in front rooms and pubs across north London.

There were eight minutes left plus time added. Those fearing the unleashing of an irresistible Man City cavalry charge to carry the day were mistaken though. The Sky Blues were already beaten, and they knew the day was done. Gomes scarcely touched the ball in those last, pulsating minutes. If anything, Spurs were still more likely to score, and Pavlyuchenko, on for Defoe, drew another terrific fingertip save from Fulop.

Deep joy at the final whistle. We made it. Champions League here we come.

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  1. Thx for the artcle which allows me to enjoy this match again from a totally different frame of mind,relaxed,calm,no need for beer but a glass of milk instead.


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