So, I had a lot of really great stuff written about how Spurs just ran up against a squad that was better at almost every position than them. Then Andre Villas-Boas happened. The Portugese manager made the perfect second half adjustments, switching Spurs from their initial 4-4-2 formation to a more fluid 4-3-3. The lineup featuring a midfield of Lewis Holtby, Tom Huddlestone, and Mousa Dembele proved too much for City and resulted in 3 goals in a seven minute span for Spurs.
Tottenham started the first half brightly, but that fast start was blunted by a 5th minute goal for Manchester City. As usual, Samir Nasri popped up and scored following a lovely piece of play from Carlos Tevez and a a nice layoff from James Millner. Nasri was lucky to escape punishment for a rash challenge on Kyle Walker a few minutes later. Many, including the commentators, believed Nasri should have seen red, but any card at all would have been nice.
The goal did a little to blunt Tottenham's attacking efforts and Manchester City spent most of the next passage on top. Tottenham managed to get something going though when Clint Dempsey played a beautiful pass to Kyle Walker, but Joe Hart came off his line quickly and knocked Walker's shot attempt out for a corner.
Nasri had an opportunity to extend City's lead in the 28', but his shot rolled just wide. Minutes late Tottenham Hotspur had a potential penalty shout turned down. Gareth Barry looked to have handled the ball following a Dawson header, but it was clearly a case of ball to hand and referee Lee Mason correctly ignored it.
In the 40th minute Dzeko was put through on Hugo Lloris, but the French goalkeeper saved well to keep the tie close. A few minutes later Lloris made another fine save off a Tevez header.
Tottenham's best chance came from a corner in the 44'. Clint Dempsey found himself unmarked at the near post and sent his header just over the bar. Just before the stroke of halftime Kyle Walker's cross was knocked back by Emmanuel Adebayor into the path of Gylfi Sigurdsson, but the Icelandic midfielder couldn't manage a quality shot.
In sum, the first half was an exciting back and forth. Possession was pretty even, but Tottenham just looked sloppy. Spurs seemed content to play long balls toward Emmanuel Adebayor, but those hopeful balls rarely connected. Sigurdsson was particularly bad for Tottenham. He seemedd to consistently give the ball away in compromising positions.
Immediately after halftime Assou-Ekotto put in a rough challenge on Pablo Zabaleta. The foul should have earned the Cameroonian a sending off, but Lee Mason was feeling charitable and produced only a caution. On the hour mark, Lewis Holtby and Tom Huddlestone were introduced for Sigurdsson and Scott Parker respectively in an attempt by Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas to change things up.
Following the substitutions, Yaya Toure had a shot saved well by Lloris. Minutes later Tevez blazed over the bar from 20 yards out. Huddlestone received a yellow card for, well, I'm not sure what. Perhaps for kick the ball after the whistle had gone, though it's unclear whether the whistle had actually been blown.
Tottenham's breakthrough finally came in the 75' through Clint Dempsey. The American scored his 6th Premier League goal of the season following a great low cross from Gareth Bale, who hadn't had much involvement prior to the cross. Walker found Bale wide on the right and the Welshman crossed with the outside of his left foot for Dempsey to slot hom.
Jermain Defoe, who had come on for Adebayor earlier, put Tottenham in front four minutes later. Holtby played a lovely ball for the striker, who hadn't scored in 2013, smashed a vicious shot from the corner of the penalty area past Joe Hart. The game was assured not 2 minutes later when Bale got on the end of Huddlestone through ball and dinked over Hart to make it 3-1.
A few observations:
- Some (Ed) often criticize AVB for his in-game management. Today, he did exactly what he needed to do. That doesn't make him a great in-game manager, but today, at least, he got it right.
- Kyle Walker was really really good today. Usually it's not a good thing when Kyle Walker provides our main attacking impetus, but today the right back displayed exactly why he's first choice. When Walker plays this way he's one of the best in England.
- It is so frustrating to watch Eden Dzeko on one end of the pitch and then Adebayor on the other. Dzeko plays exactly how a number 9 should. His movement, his strength, and his shooting are exactly what you want from a center forward. Imagine if Spurs had him leading the line.
- Dembele hasn't looked right lately. Parker was better than the Belgian today, which is odd to say.
- I really liked the lineup at the end of the match. I think ideally, I would want Dempsey to be replaced by Sigurdsson, but with the run of goals Deuce is on and as bad as Siggy was today, I'm content with the lineup as is.
- Seriously, what the heck is Benoit Assou-Ekotto's deal? He (and Nasri) both could have, and perhaps should have, been sent off. The tackle aside BAE was just very blah today. His heart doesn't seem in it anymore.