City steamrollered Spurs again, but only after the home side were on the wrong end of three controversial decisions: a disallowed goal, a penalty and a red card
Well, that's City beaten Spurs 11-1 on aggregate this season. A strange result. Spurs will legitimately point to the Dawson "goal" and the very dubious penalty and red card incident. But even factoring those in, City were the better team pretty much for the entire game, and deserved the win. As for those refereeing decisions, well, there'll be plenty of chat. I'd say no goal, but no penalty or red card either. But most of your emails reckon Dawson's goal should have stood, too, and I can see the point. And then there's this: "I root for Tottenham, but I am afraid to say that this was really a penalty - and a red card!" writes Morten Bo Johansen. "No injustice done." Subjectivity, eh? Really, I ask again: who'd be a ref?
90 min: Spurs are 180 seconds away from sweet mercy.
A corner for City down the right. The ball bounces to the feet of Dzeko, on the edge of the box. He sends a shot straight at Lloris, but Bentaleb gets in the way first, deflecting the ball to the right, where Kompany prods home. That really has added insult to injury, the big defender scoring from almost exactly the same spot Tottenham's centre half converted, but didn't get his reward. It really has been one of those evenings.
87 min: City should really have made it five. Navas was set clear down the right. In the middle, attempting to turn the resulting low cross home from six yards, the increasingly hapless Dzeko falls over. As his teeth sink into the wet turf, Jovetic, cutting in from the left, attempts to hack the loose ball into the right-hand side of goal, but he's off balance and the ball flies wide right.
84 min: Forgot to mention that Dzeko has taken another shot at goal. It's currently sailing over Tottenham Hale tube, on its way to Pimlico. Someone ring Spurs, tell them I'll pick it up on my way home and drop it in tomorrow.
83 min: Holtby comes on for Eriksen, who has been highly impressive tonight despite it all. His set piece deliveries were as good as any the Premier League's seen all season. He should probably have an assist to his name, too, but Dawson's strike was ruled out, and this is where we are.
82 min: Spurs are utterly defeated now. They're all over the shop at the back, and had Jovetic not still been dreaming about his first goal in English league football, would surely now be 5-1 down. Dzeko slides a pass down the inside-right channel that begged for Jovetic to romp clear on goal. But no, the striker's back on his heels.
80 min: Silva is replaced by Kolarov.
Fernandinho slides a ball down the left for Jovetic, who cuts into the area and aims for the bottom-right corner. The ball takes a huge deflection, and as we've already ascertained, this isn't Tottenham's night. The ball, despite taking a wicked clank off the leg of a Spur, is threaded into the net anyway.
76 min: Zabaleta comes through the back of Adebayor, then hoofs the ball high into the stand in a fit of pique. He's shown the yellow card for the petulant one-two. "Took a bath, then came back to find that unbelievably a Spurs player has been sent off (when Aguero and Toure should both have been off) and that one of those players had 'scored' a penalty," begins Tracy Caton. "Your weasel words in support of the linesman just doesn't wash. It seems to me that commentators on football are becoming less and less knowledgeable and more prone to ridiculous pronouncements and meaningless parrotting of fashionable trash." Oh dear. Well, I'm sorry you're upset. Not least because baths are supposed to help you relax, no? You should think about suing Radox. They've done a right number on you tonight.
73 min: City are pinging passes around the middle of the park hither and yon. It's a fine display of control, making good use of their one-man advantage. If you wanted to set this particular 978-pass move to music, this would be the best track to choose:
70 min: Jovetic goes on a rococo ramble down the right, reaching the byline, and pulling back for Dzeko on the spot. The big striker should score, but he lets the ball clank around between his legs in the Heskey-Carrollonian style, and squirts a miserable effort weakly out of play to the right of goal. He could easily have scored more than the one he's got. It's been a real mixed bag.
68 min: Capoue uses his twinkle toes to deedle down the left wing. He so nearly breaks into the area, but a stop's put to his gallop by Zabaleta. Spurs have responded to their setbacks really well, and even if more pain is heading their way, Tim Sherwood can be proud that his side haven't immediately crumbled or lost the head.
65 min: Clichy makes good down the left, and swings a glorious long ball into the centre for Dzeko, who chests down and hacks wildly over the bar, missing on the left to boot.
64 min: Naughton is booked for a crump on Navas. "The pub you mention had a toy train running above the bar at the time," writes Julian Menz. "How could I resist."
63 min: Nastasic comes on for Toure. The big City midfielder takes an age to walk off, and so Adebayor comes over to bundle him off the pitch. For a second, it looks like turning into a ludicrous rumble, but it all calms down quickly enough.
61 min: Fernandinho considered handling that Capoue shot on the line, by the way, his right arm wagging like a chicken's wing at the flying ball. If you still need a sign that the footballing gods are looking kindly on City tonight, it's that he didn't connect. For if he'd stopped that, it'd have been a red card, and suddenly the picture would have been slightly different.
If there's been one thing that should cheer Spurs up tonight, it's been Eriksen's brilliance from set pieces. He whips one in from the right. There's a minor melee on the penalty spot, and Capoue batters the loose ball into the net! There's still hope for the home side. Spurs may recall the time they lost a three-goal lead against ten-man City in 2004, and wonder whether it's payback time. They couldn't, could they?
58 min: It's a pretty quiet White Hart Lane right now. The home fans have had the fight sucked out of them by the recent chain of events, and you can hardly blame them. But hold on! Lennon scampers down the right to win a corner, from which ...
55 min: Naughton has come on for Sigurdsson, the home side in damage-limitation mode now. "I have lived at seven different addresses in London, and have always managed to avoid the Victoria Line. Can anyone beat that?" asks Julian Menz. "I once lived in Archway, and had the choice between the Northern Line and the bus. You can guess the rest." You sacked off work and spent the day in the pub in the middle of the big roundabout?
Forget the injustice of the penalty and the sending off for a minute; this is a majestic team goal. Navas, on the right-hand edge of the area, slips a ball forward to Zabaleta on the overlap. He rolls a low cross inside to Silva, who drops a shoulder and hammers a shot towards the Spurs goal. Lloris turns the shot onto the left-hand post, stunningly so, but it rebounds to Dzeko, who flips a sidefooter into the right-hand side of the net. This is over. City have been the better team, but you'll be hearing some chit-chat about the officials.
Toure sidefoots confidently into the right-hand portion of the net. Calm as you like. Spurs are beside themselves with rage: the injustice of the Dawson "goal" was one thing, but that was never a penalty kick. Rose didn't come through the back of his man to poke that clear, but he's been sent packing. Spurs have a job of work on now.
49 min: Penalty to City! And a red card for Danny Rose! Fernandino powered down the middle of the park, and slipped the ball forward for Dzeko, who crumbled pitifully over the outstretched leg of Rose, the full back poking out for a corner. The referee wasn't going to give the penalty, but the linesman insists, and as a result he's got no option but to send the man off. That's a dreadful decision, though.
48 min: Dembele's got an ankle injury, incidentally. Meantime this half hasn't quite got started, but then you're probably all watching the ride on the Victoria Line, so. Has anyone got to Highbury & Islington yet?
46 min: City got this half started, while I was droning on there. Capoue replaces Dembele, and his very first contribution is to stamp on Silva's boot. That looked clumsy rather than malicious, but he's lucky to escape a yellow card.
We're off again! The good folk at BT Sport, who have cameras and tape machines and a fancy electronic ruler which they use to draw a line across the pitch, have replayed the Dawson "goal", and he's clearly not offside. Or he's onside, to utilise the parlance in a less useless way. Having said that, the ball was whipped in at such speed, it's an understandable mistake to make. And, as John Hindmarch is about to point out, there were other factors involved: "Adebayor was clearly in an offside position, standing right in front of the keeper, went for the ball and was inches away from getting a touch. Surely that's enough to be interfering with play?" Yes, I'd go with that, certainly. Though the linesman has told BT Sport that he thought Dawson was offside, so that's why the decision was given. On balance, I'd say the officials got it right, even if their working out is all wrong. But I could see why Spurs will be enraged, too. Like I said earlier, who'd be a ref?
Half-time entertainment: It's the entire journey from Walthamstow Central to Brixton on the Victoria Line. Enjoy, everyone, enjoy! AVB gets on after 3m 56s, rubbing his sore buttocks, wincing, and looking sadly at his broken chalkboard.
The quiet Lennon dances down the left and threatens to break clear into the area. But he loses control and Hart comes out to smother. And that's that for the opening period. City deserve their lead, and indeed could be much further ahead, but Spurs dug in well, defended desperately when they were required to, could easily have equalised if the linesman was in a more generous mood, and by the half-time had turned this into a contest again. Perhaps too much of a contest: Demichelis is right up in the referee's grille demanding a philosophical exchange of views regarding the Adebayor challenge. Don't go flipping, this could be some second half!
45 min: We move into first-half injury time, and there's a free kick to City down the right. Navas hoicks the ball onto the noggin of Demichelis, who guides over the crossbar from close-enough range.
44 min: And there's Aguero limping off down the tunnel. Jovetic comes on in his stead. "I used to live in the 'Stow," writes Jevon Hall, "and would walk home from White Hart Lane on a route eschewing the urban decay of Seven Sisters and taking in the canal and a nature reserve instead. Mind you, that still only got me to Blackhorse Rd, not Wathamstow Central." Thanks for the info. Here, you don't happen to know the quickest way back to Finsbury Park from Pimlico on foot, do you?
43 min: Aguero, chasing a ball with Dawson, grabs the back of his leg and goes down on the halfway line, his hamstring seemingly the problem, writes Dr Murray, who doesn't actually know, he's a complete quack. My fellow medical professionals are on dealing with the patient.
41 min: Aguero's been booked for making conversation with the ref. Demichelis's knee is now a fetching red colour, and made of liquid to boot. Dembele whistles a shot wide right from the edge of the City box. A little bit of heat has been applied to this game. We could have an interesting second half on our hands here.
39 min: Dawson goes up with Aguero, and clatters the striker with his arm, but it was totally accidental. City's mood isn't improved a couple of moments later when Demichelis slides in on Adebayor. It's a foul, but Adebayor then plants his studs on the prone Demichelis's knee. Ooyah, oof. The big defender gets booked for complaining, adding insult to injury.
35 min: ... Spurs have a goal disallowed! Eriksen, whose set piece deliveries have been excellent tonight, whips another one in here. The ball, from outside the area to the left, ten yards from the byline, is swished to the far post. Hart's out of the game. Dawson steams in and volleys high into the net! He wheels off to celebrate, but the flag goes up for offside. That was very tight, with Zabaleta hanging back near the right-hand post, but it'll not been given. First look suggests the decision was correct - just - but the replay suggest Zabaleta might indeed have been behind him. Who'd be a ref, huh?
34 min: Adebayor gets the ball down the middle of the park and strides towards the City area. The away side are light at the back, but Adebayor clatters straight into Kompany, and the chance is gone. The ball breaks to Rose on the left wing. Rose heads for the area, between Zabaleta and Toure, and wins himself a possibly cheap free kick. From which ...
33 min: Toure is booked for a fairly unpleasant rake down the back of Dembele's leg. "Why would AVB go to Walthamstow Central when Seven Sisters and Tottenham Hale are just down the the road?" asks Audrey Stuart, with reference to the dismissal of AVB as described in this report's preamble. I'll be straight with you, Audrey, I was thinking about the Victoria Line, and got confused. The clue's in the name with Tottenham Hale, isn't it. What an eejit. I've got to head towards Finsbury Park later, too. I bet I end up in Pimlico.
31 min: A good jig by Rose down the left, and a ball fired low and hard into the City mixer. Kompany does extremely well to hack clear from a dangerous position. Corner on the left, which Eriksen again whips in with extreme prejudice. Bentaleb finds the ball with his neep this time, but heads high and wide right. Better, much better, from the home side.
29 min: It's still all City. Navas, to the right of goal, takes a whack. Deflected. Corner. From the set piece, Dzeko has a dig from 12 yards, and his shot is charged down by Bentaleb. The ball clanks between the young man's arms, and City claim a penalty. You've seen them given, but he was so close to Dzeko, the shot was a real pearler, and he wasn't waving his arms about. It would have been a harsh decision, though City may mention that if Spurs get back into this game.
25 min: It's relentless. It's relentless! Even when passes go astray, brilliance isn't far away. The ball breaks to Zabaleta on the right-hand edge of the Spurs box. He takes a first-time swing at the ball, looking to curl one at pace into the top left. He's inches away, with Lloris beaten all ends up. That would have been one of the goals of the season had it gone in, but then we could say that about the first Aguero effort too.
23 min: Spurs are holding on here. Navas whips a cross in from the right. It's hacked clear for a corner on the left. Kompany sends a header whistling towards the bottom right, but Rose hacks off the line. City come straight back at Spurs, Silva slipping Aguero free down the inside left. He takes a step into the area and whistles a shot inches over the bar. This is an attacking masterclass.
20 min: Spurs have their keeper to thank for still being in this game. Silva slides a ball down the left for Clichy, who shimmies to the byline before dinking a delightful cross onto the head of Aguero, on the left-hand corner of the six-yard box. The cross is floating gently through the air, so Aguero does amazingly well to stretch his neck and power a header towards the bottom right. It's in all the way, but Lloris sticks out a strong arm to parry clear. A stunning save!
19 min: Spurs finally show up front, and it's all about Adebayor, who bustles down the inside left channel and opens his body with a view to sidefooting home into the bottom right. His shot is deflected wide left. And from the corner, anything could have happened. Eriksen whipped the ball in, it clanked off Kompany in the six-yard box, and into the grateful hands of Hart with Adebayor lurking.
16 min: There's a strange symmetry to this game already. While Aguero has been wreaking havoc down the inside right channel, Dzeko has been lumbering around along the inside left. Here he is reprising his act of 10 mins, with another aimless skelp at goal. He needs to take some notes on what's going down across the road.
This had been coming. Kompany, in his own half, slides a ball down the inside right for Silva, who shuttles it further down the channel for Aguero. The striker takes a step into the area, draws Lloris off his line, and dinks a gorgeous finish across the keeper and into the bottom left. So simple, but rather brilliant as well.
13 min: It's all City. Navas and Silva nearly combine down the right, but Rose stands firm and Chiriches is over quickly to blooter clear. The home fans try their best to get a few songs going, but the heart doesn't seem to be quite in it yet. After what happened earlier this season, you can understand a smattering of nerves about the place.
10 min: Dzeko takes up the ball down the left after a clever one-two with the busy Aguero. He enters the area and lashes a wild shot into the crowd behind the goal from a tight angle. What a business. He had men in the middle there.
7 min: Spurs can't quite get going. Eriksen, like Sigurdsson before him, takes up possession in the middle of the park and looks up for Adebayor, but you can't hesitate for a second against this City side, and he's soon got a swarm of blue shirts around him.
5 min: Oh my word! Fernandinho slips a clever ball forward to find Aguero to the left of the Spurs D. He's got his back to goal, so turns to his left, heading for the right of the D. Then he turns on the burners down the inside-right channel and into the area. When he reaches the corner of the six-yard box, he belts a stunning shot across Lloris and onto the left-hand upright. That was hit with such ferocity! The frame of the goal took an almighty battering there. City so unlucky not to be in the lead.
2 min: Sigurdsson attempts to set Adebayor clear down the inside right after breaking up some City tiki-taka in the middle. But his rake forward is too heavy, and the ball skids off the greasy turf towards Hart. It's pelting down in north London, by the way, and some of that rain's found its way inside the stadium.
And we're off! Spurs get the ball rolling. Cracker, please! This is on! Not the craziest atmosphere you'll ever hear, the home support perhaps going into this game with some trepidation after what happened at the City of Manchester Stadium, but give it time to bubble up.
The teams are out! Tottenham are in their famous white shirts (pictured here in black and white) ...
... while Manchester City have – and they should be highly commended for not doing the modern thing and needlessly changing into a shocking away kit of neon pink with gold epaulettes – are in their famous blue shirts (pictured here, if you squint hard enough).
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Walker, Dawson, Chiriches, Rose, Bentaleb, Dembele, Lennon, Eriksen, Sigurdsson, Adebayor.
Subs: Soldado, Holtby, Capoue, Naughton, Defoe, Chadli, Friedel.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Jesus Navas, Toure, Fernandinho, Silva, Dzeko, Aguero.
Subs: Lescott, Negredo, Kolarov, Rodwell, Pantilimon, Nastasic, Jovetic.
Referee: Andre Marriner (W Midlands)
Strange old team, this Tottenham Hotspur. Accordingly, they've had a strange old campaign. They've had a fair bit of the badge-split-down-the-middle club-in-crisis treatment this season, which isn't that outrageous when you consider they've lost one home game 5-0, another 3-0 against Sam Allardyce's West Ham, been knocked out of one cup by Arsenal and another by Sam Allardyce's West Ham, and been battered 6-0 by tonight's guests only a couple of months ago. Their manager got sacked. And nobody's quite sure yet whether all the money the club got for the loss of their best player in the summer was spent wisely or foolishly wasted. Jury's out there.
Then again, even in the aftermath of Tottenham's season nadir - that humiliating Christmas capitulation against Liverpool, which saw Andre Villas-Boas sent skittering down the road towards Walthamstow Central tube on his backside with his chalkboard and bits of chalk whistling after him -, the team were still only eight points off the top of the Premier League. Five points off the Champions League spots. And safely through the group stages of the Europa League. If that was crisis, there are plenty of clubs who would willingly have grasped it with both hands.
Villas-Boas and Spurs weren't quite clicking, though, these things happen. And in the wake of his departure, new boss Tim Sherwood has steadied the ship, not that it was rocking particularly dramatically in the first place. They've won five out of six in the league since his manly hand started gently caressing the tiller, and are currently only three points behind fourth-placed Liverpool with a game in credit. That Champions League place isn't quite within their grasp tonight - a 26-0 win over Manchester City would tie Spurs with the Reds on points and goal difference, but leave them behind on goals scored - but they're in the mix when you look at the bigger picture all right. For both a Champions League place and - hell, it's still on, so why not go for it? - the title.
City will have other ideas, obviously. They're scoring like madmen - their goals-for total in their last six matches is 6,2,5,4,3 and 4, though in fairness two of those games were against Sam Allardyce's West Ham - and have won their last seven in the league. They'll go top tonight with a victory, whether they win 1-0 or 26-0. (They won't win 26-0.)
This could be a classic, though. A rejuvenated Spurs against a rampant City, with both teams having plenty ambition, with plenty to play for. Anything could happen, if the last four head-to-heads here are any guide: 3-1 and 3-0s to Spurs, a 5-1 to City, and a 0-0. Please not another 0-0. I've tempted fate here, haven't I. Blame me if it's boring (on the condition that I'm taking all the credit should someone win by 26).
Kick off: 7.45pm.