• 'I saw same team spirit today as last year,' says manager
• Edin Dzeko, scorer of winning goal, 'not happy' as substitute
Roberto Mancini was delighted with a "huge win" over Tottenham Hotspur that ended a tough 10 days for Manchester City. "It was a difficult moment," the manager said. "We had a lot of important players injured and today I saw the same spirit from the players that I saw last year.
"In the first half we played well. Tottenham, I didn't feel, had chances apart from a couple of set pieces. We need to improve there. But after they scored first I thought we played fantastic."
Steven Caulker's 21st-minute header gave Spurs the lead following lax defending from a set piece before Mancini's team had penalty appeals – for a William Gallas handball and a Tom Huddlestone shove on Pablo Zabaleta – turned down.
"We are unlucky with referees at the moment," the Italian said. "We made some mistakes in the Champions League but in football you can never say never. Today we deserved to win this game, the players were fantastic. The supporters were fantastic and in the second half they were like the 12th player on the pitch."
The win, after draws against Ajax and West Ham this month, maintains City's unbeaten league record and keeps them within two points of Manchester United. "The Premier League season is long and difficult – there are a lot of teams who can fight for the title. Tottenham can come back and fight for it, as can Arsenal," Mancini said.
Edin Dzeko's 88th-minute winner means he has scored in nine league games for City as a replacement, with the team winning them all. "He is not happy [with the role as a substitute]," Mancini said. "A player who is happy on the bench does not exist. We had three important strikers today – last year we won the championship because of goals from our strikers, today we missed some goals from them but hopefully they can score again soon."
Dzeko, who has scored six this campaign, said: "The goals are my message, that's the only thing.
"From the [Huddlestone] free-kick we conceded a goal. It was stupid, like against Arsenal too. We have to improve for sure. After the goal we played better. We were the better team over the 90 minutes and at the end we deserved it."
Of the comeback that occurred when Mancini switched to three at the back Dzeko said: "It's not the first time. It showed our character and that we are strong. Even when we are losing, we can come back. I hope next time we start winning 1-0 before we win the game, because this is much harder to play."
Missing from City's match-day squad were Samir Nasri, who is ill, Joleon Lescott, due to a back problem, and Mario Balotelli. The absence of the striker, who watched from the stands, was a football matter, David Platt, the City assistant manager, said. "The gaffer [Mancini] can only pick 18 players. Last time I looked we only had seven on the bench and he made that decision.
"I don't think we are playing to answer questions," said Platt, standing in for Mancini at the official press conference. "We are playing to win football matches. That's what our focus is. We don't get motivated because people want to say things. We get motivated because there is a football match to win.
"There is nothing behind it [Mancini not attending the post-match press conference]. He has a flight to Italy."
André Villas-Boas, the Spurs manager, said: "An individual moment of brilliance from Dzeko, which I think is recurrent. He continues to be on the bench and come on to destroy opposition." The Spurs right-back, Kyle Walker, suffered a tight hamstring which may rule him out of the squad for England's friendly against Sweden.