May 2007 - Reports
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 Tottenham 2 Manchester City 1        Roll on Next Season
Sunday May 13th 2007 : Simon Burnton for GYKO at White Hart Lane


The fifth place that Tottenham secured yesterday was greeted with delight among the very same supporters who considered an identical final placing something of a disappointment a year ago, but in truth the league position is the only similarity between their last two campaigns.

Martin Jol's achievement this year has been in sustaining the standard of his team's performances while increasing the number of them. There were 40 games last season and 59 this, enough for Jol to acclaim "our best season of the last 20 years".

Much of the credit must go to Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian scored Tottenham's first goal of the season and yesterday he scored their last as well. But if the future looks bright at White Hart Lane, the Manchester City manager cannot be sure if he has a future at all.

His side probably deserved a point here, but a finish of 14th might not be enough to secure Pearce's position if a rumoured Thai takeover takes place this summer. "Whether I'm going to be here next season or not is out of my hands. I hope it's me but if it isn't me I'll move on and manage elsewhere," said Pearce.

If this proves his final game he might still be cursing Berbatov as he clears his desk. In addition to scoring the winner the 26-year-old had a hand, or rather a backheel, in his team's first. His touch to Didier Zokora surprised the City defence and when Jermaine Jenas lifted the ball into the box Robbie Keane scampered clear to volley in. Then in the 32nd minute a lucky break saw him with time and space on the edge of the area and his finish beat Andreas Isaksson at his near post.

City were destabilised by the early departure of Sylvain Distin, but improved after a poor start. Only two excellent saves from Paul Robinson, to deny Darius Vassell in the first half and Emile Mpenza in the second, prevented them from adding to the Belgian's 40th-minute header. Isaksson made a couple of decent saves himself, including one from Jermain Defoe's 86th-minute penalty, awarded after Richard Dunne was harshly judged to have brought down Zokora.

Get Your Kits Out View : I suppose a decent effort but I'm just glad it's all over this season - enough said I think.....

Teams:

Tottenham Robinson, Chimbonda, Dawson, King, Gardner,Lennon (Malbranque 75), Jenas, Zokora, Tainio,Keane (Defoe 81), Berbatov.

Subs Not Used: Cerny, Huddlestone, Assou-Ekotto.

Booked: Gardner.

Goals: Keane 10, Berbatov 32.

Man City Isaksson, Onuoha, Dunne, Distin (Hamann 28), Jordan, Vassell, Jihai, Johnson, Ireland, Beasley (Samaras 81), Mpenza.

Subs Not Used: Weaver, Dickov, Laird.

Booked: Vassell.

Goals: Mpenza 40.

Att: 35,426

Ref: S Bennett (Kent).

Manchester City 0 Manchester UniŁed 1     Point Lost.
Saturday 4th April 2007 : Get Your Kits Out at the COMSTAD

In the frenetic opening moments, Ball took the opportunity to aim a  stamp into Ronaldo's midriff while the double player of the year was grounded. The thought occurred that it was just as well Joey Barton was not in the vicinity. Ferguson railed on the touchline. The City fans wailed back. The temperature soared. What must Jose Mourinho have thought watching on television? A symbol of game on?

Hardly. It was more of a clue as to what would decide this crucial instalment of the Premiership quest. Ball was on a mission to stop Ronaldo more by foul means than fair. Unfortunately for City, they had no other means of squaring up to United.

This particular duel aside, it was too cagey a spectacle to set the pulses racing. United were comfortable, if tired. City were toothless. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand struck the bar from set pieces in the opening 25 minutes. United's breakthrough arrived shortly after and it was no surprise to see the joint catalysts were Ronaldo and his gritty shadow. When Smith's crossfield pass found Ronaldo, the overture to his dribble consisted of two stepovers - evidently a red rag to Ball's bull. The City left-back dived in and naively kicked at Ronaldo's foot. Rob Styles pointed for a penalty without hesitation and the boy himself relished the chance to put United in front.

Ronaldo, hardly one to keep things simple if there is some showmanship to be had, used the old Robbie Fowler routine. He stepped forward, stopped, then whacked his spot-kick low into the corner. It was his seventeenth Premiership goal of a campaign Ferguson described as 'a fantastic season for the boy'.

There was little evidence that City could respond to peg United back, considering the closest they came to troubling Van der Sar until their 80th-minute penalty was a volley from Emile Mpenza aimed nicely at the goalkeeper's chest. Stuart Pearce tried to inject a fraction more energy when he replaced the creaking Dietmar Hamann with Sun Jihai at the interval. But the second half served up more of the same as United stroked the ball around without exerting too much of what was left of their mental and physical power after arriving home deflated from Milan at 5am on Thursday.

Ten minutes from time, United's title advantage hung in the balance as Ball jinked into the area and was felled by Wes Brown. Styles awarded the second penalty of the match. Thousands of Chelsea fans willed Darius Vassell to do the honours, but the former England striker shot straight down the middle of the goal, enabling Van der Sar to pull off a theatrical save with his legs. And the Dutchman knew it, roaring to the heavens before the ball had even been cleared.

And so the chance for City to end their uneasy run without a goal at home was dashed. They have not scored at the City of Manchester Stadium since New Year's Day. On this evidence they may not until 2008. 'Putting the ball in the back of the net is our Achilles' heel,' lamented Pearce afterwards. 'It is what we have to address going into next season.'

Unsurprisingly, the stadium was half empty by the time the City players re-emerged for a sheepish lap of honour. Their fans may feel like hibernating over the next few days. Apart from the handful who left the ground in the free City scarves that had been handed out singing 'We're all going to Wembley'.

Get Your Kits Out View : Best City could do under the circumstances although a draw would not have been undeserved. I'm not unhappy about Michael Ball's attack on the Ladyboy, a bit Thatcheresque but that guy needs a good kicking. One more game to go and then good riddance to this miserable season and hopefully a good clear out before the next campaign begins. Corradi, Dabo, Sinclair, Hamann, Beasley, Dickov just for starters.

Man City: Isaksson, Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Ball, Hamann (Jihai 46), Vassell, Johnson, Ireland (Dickov 69), Beasley (Sinclair 61), Mpenza.
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Samaras.

Booked: Johnson, Dickov.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, Heinze, Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Smith (Fletcher 73), Rooney (O'Shea 87).
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Solskjaer, Richardson.

Booked: Van der Sar, Giggs.

Goals: Ronaldo 34 pen.

Att: 47,244 Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).

 

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