~ Prithwish Deb
The 19th edition of the Premier League got underway to a fabulous start at White Hart Lane as Tottenham Hotspurs and Manchester City played out quite an intriguing goalless draw. Joe Hart was the match saving hero for spending giants City.
Both the managers made some surprising inclusion in their starting 11 as Peter Crouch, who many believed would be the fall guy this season ( heavily rumored to be on his way out of the club with Liverpool, Everton and more recently Sunderland thought to be interested), started ahead of Robbie Keane & Roman Pavlyuchenko; while Shaun Wright Phillips, who is rumored to be a surplus to requirements at Eastlands, was given the starting spot ahead of Adam Johnson. But the biggest surprise was the inclusion of Joe Hart ahead of experienced Shay Given (Mr. Wenger , are you listening??). More surprise was to follow in the team sheet as Carlos Tevez was preferred over Kolo Toure for the captaincy, looks like he is the only City player who has guaranteed a starting spot in every match. There were premier league debuts for the summer singings Alexander Kolarov, Yaya Toure & David Silva.
The match had the frantic opening that many predicted and a brilliant link-up play in the 7th minute between Crouch and Aaron Lennon forced the first corner of the match which was cleared easily by the City defense. Spurs should have been a goal up in the 11th minute, the reason they were not was Joe Hart. A brilliant run to the by-line from Lennon on the right saw him deliver a cross to Crouch. He nodded down to Defoe, how somehow spun and let fly but the City goalkeeper dived and stuck out a strong hand to palm it away. Inspired by the superb Gareth Bale on the left, Spurs poured forward at every opportunity. Hart denied first Tom Huddlestone and then Benoit Assou-Ekotto from decent range in the 16th minute. Meanwhile City got an opportunity to break free in the 21st minute but Silva`s shot was blocked. We had the first yellow card of the new Premier League season when Vincent Kompany was booked for a foul on Defoe. City ‘keeper Hart then twice denied Defoe from close range in the 27th minute, four minutes later he was finally beaten but Bale’s shot came back off striking the post. Spurs were completely dominating the game during that time.
City were satisfied only with long rangers with Kolo Toure hitting a shot on target in the 37th minute but Gomes gathered it easily at the second attempt. Bale & Assou-Ekotto were creating menace and Micah Richards was really struggling. Spurs ended the first half looking the more likely to score in the second half.
City restarted the second half and made a change with Pablo Zabaleta coming on for Kolarov, who had picked up an injury. In the 47th minute Yaya Toure picked out Wright-Phillips who beat the offisde trap and looked through on goal until Assou-Ekotto made a superb challenge to deny the English international. Early in the second half, Yaya Toure was dictating terms in the midfield and Tevez and Wright Phillips had their shots blocked by the Spurs defence. Close to the hour mark, Zabaleta was booked for a foul on Lennon. City were looked more threatening at that time. Yaya again picked out Micah Richards with a perfect cross, but the latter’s header was not upto the mark and grabbed easily by Gomes. A couple of minutes later, Spurs almost grabbed the lead but Crouch mistimed his header from a nice cross by Lennon.
In the 66th minute Redknapp made a double change with Crouch & Defoe being replaced by Robbie Keane and Pavlyuchenko respectively. Mancini responded with a change of his own with Adam Johnson, who many believe is the future of English Football, replacing Shaun Wright Phillips. Adam Johnson`s introduction sparked up City and he immediately fed Tevez with a cross, whose shot was deflected wide by the intercepting Ledley King. Pavlyuchenko, who a few months back looked unsettled at the club, had two of his shots saved by Hart in the 71st minute.
With only 15 mins of regulation time remaining and still both the sides were locked at 0-0, Lennon cut inside and shoot with his left foot but his week attempt was easily saved by Hart. That was Lennon’s last action of the day as he was replaced by Giovani Dos Santos, who was coming off an excellent display in the recently concluded World Cup. Tevez had another futile attempt at the Spurs goal before being substituted by Emanuel Adebayor. Tevez looked confused on whom to give the Captain`s armband, finally he passed it onto Kolo Toure.
With just around 7 mins to go before the final whistle, Giovanni supplied a sublime low-cross which was blocked before it could reach Keane. With the match heading towards a stalemate, Bale provided a decent cross to Pavlyuchenko on the edge of the box but the offisde flag was up by then. Four minutes of extra time was added but none of the teams could manage to get the much desired break-through.
Manchester City came into this game full of ambition after recruiting more than £100 million talent this summer but had their optimism checked by a brilliant Tottenham Hotspur side that outplayed them for much of this game. If not for a series of superb saves from Joe Hart, Spurs would have won this game comfortably. But at the end of the day Mancini would be the happier of the two managers to snatch a point from this tie.
TheHardTackle’s Player Of The Match
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Had an awesome day in front of the city goal. The City goalkeeper was superb in the face of relentless Tottenham onslaughts. It was all Tottenham in the opening period and they should have been four or five up at the break. But Hart stood firm like the Rock of Gibraltar.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card
Name: Andre Marriner
Grade: B+ (Good)
Marriner had a very good game, got all the fouls correct. Kompany and Zabaleta should not have any complaints on their cards. Deserves credit for not showing Kompany a second yellow just before the half time for a foul on Lennon.
Tottenham 0:0 Manchester City
Venue: White Hart Lane, England
Tottenham line-up: Gomes, Corluka, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon (Giovani 77’), Huddlestone, Modric Bale; Crouch (Keane 68’), Defoe (Pavlyuchenko)
Unused Subs: Cudicini, Kaboul, Palacios, Bassong.
Manager: Harry Redknapp
Sent Off: None
Manchester City line-up: Hart, Richards, Toure, Kompany, Kolarov(Zabaleta 45′), Wright-Phillips (Adam Johnson 68′), Toure Yaya, De Jong, Barry, Silva, Tevez(Adebayor 83′)
Unused Subs: Given, Lescott, Vieira, Jo.
Manager: Roberto Mancini
Cautions: Kompany (22’), Zabaleta (58’)
Sent Off: None