The disappointment of cruel late defeat lingers long and Spurs fans have long been used to it. But today’s defeat with 18 seconds left on the clock is really upsetting, particularly as we had got back into a game that was dead and gone when Manchester City were 2 up after a three minute spell that tore us apart.
Yet only 7 minutes later the scores were level as first Defoe capitalised upon a defensive mistake and then Bale produced an amazing strike to rock City to the core. Our second half performance was truly excellent and had Defoe been able to turn Bale’s cross into the net at the end of the game we would have taken the points.
So a six point turn in three minutes leaves us still in third with United still to conclude their own game. Losing two points at home last week took us off the pace and this defeat leaves it to City to get us back into title contention. Yet for me we played like Champions.
In the first half we controlled much of the game and kept City to a couple of half chances. The only problem was that we did not get the opportunity to use our pace much to put City under pressure.
My suggested line ups omitted Lennon but he played and did well throughout before giving up to Pienaar with time running out. We stuck to our usual 4-4-1-1 with Kaboul keeping his place in central defence. He fully justified this and was a colossus at the back. The strength in his neck to produce headers of the distance he achieve was phenomenal and for much of the game we looked pretty comfortable.
When the sloppy period arrived Walker was lost momentarily by Nasri who then fired home an excellent opening goal leaving Friedel with no chance. If you lose to a goal like that you can’t complain too much but it inspired City to step on the pace and within a couple of minutes it was two as they exposed our lack of height in defence for the one and only time to force the ball home from a corner.
My immediate thought was this game is gone and it could be tricky from here but as if by magic Savic gifted a ball to Defoe who rounded Hart and slotted home from a tight angle. It wasn’t on the cards but we grabbed the chance with both hands and got ourselves going. Unfortunately the City fans didn’t appear to be doing the Poznan at the time and the wait continues to see a goal conceded whilst their backs face the pitch.
From that point our confidence rose and we took the offensive to City. Lennon out on the left cut inside and played a delightful ball to Bale whose first time shot was of such quality that Hart might as well have watched it go past him into the top corner.
Our fight back complete the game continued end to end with both sides searching for a winner. Rafa was brought off to allow Livermore to come on and try to close down in the midfield and his contribution justified the change which Rafa was rightly disappointed about.
What we have to accept is that it was a penalty which will be soul destroying for Ledley who had made another super return to the side after injury. His partnership with Kaboul remained solid throughout with Brad taking control in a manner Gomes never did behind them. Walker had a good game, Parker was back on the money and competitive and Modric kept going right until the end.
Our most disappointing player today was Benny who gave the ball up a little too easily on occasions but he didn’t have a poor game by any means. Replacing Adebayor Defoe did well and worked hard throughout.
Much is already being made of the incident in which Ballotelli caught Parker. For me it didn’t look like a deliberate stamp but better judges than myself are suggesting it was a red. Yes he stood on Parker but was it deliberate? I wasn’t convinced and I thought his reputation earned him a booking that was maybe a little unlucky as soon as he came on.
Contrast that with Lescott who should have been booked for a bodycheck on Bale in the first half and then committed an appalling elbow on Kaboul on the edge of his own box in the second. Reputation counts highly when it comes to which players get carded and which get away with things. If City should have gone down to 10 the man to go off got away scot free unless the panel make a late decision to punish him for deliberate foul play.
At the end the Spurs players were all gutted to lose in such a manner having given their all for 95 minutes. We couldn’t ask any more of them and I’m reminded of the League Cup final against Liverpool where Archibald missed a chance on 85 minutes and we ended up losing in extra time.
City know they had a game today and will also know that we will be at their heels till the end of the season. All we can do is continue to amass as many points as possible between now and then to achieve our initial objective in qualifying for the Champions League and I believe that we will do it.