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Tottenham Hotspur's hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League received a huge shot in the arm after they staged a stunning comeback which left Manchester City on the brink of relinquishing their Barclays Premier League crown.
Samir Nasri looked as if he was going to inflict defeat on Andre Villas-Boas' men when he put City ahead in the first half. Despite the return of Gareth Bale, Spurs struggled to get in to the game, but they scored three goals in seven minutes to claim a victory which means Manchester United will win their 13th Barclays Premier League title on Monday night if they beat Aston Villa at home. Clint Dempsey equalised for Spurs before Jermain Defoe marked his return with a goal and Bale rounded off the win with his 23rd goal of the season in the 82nd minute.
Roberto Mancini will find the trip back up to Lancashire difficult given that his team dominated the majority of the game. Andre Villas-Boas, on the other hand, can reflect on a much-needed win which puts his team back in the hunt for UEFA Champions League qualification. The Spurs head coach’s second-half substitutions, and a change to 4-3-3 in the final stages, proved to be the catalyst for the victory.
Spurs remain in fifth, but their match in hand gives them an advantage over Arsenal, who play United next Sunday while Spurs face Wigan Athletic. With Bale back in the ranks, the Spurs faithful seemed optimistic about their chances of pulling off a much-needed victory.
The early signs were good. Amid a vibrant atmosphere in North London, the Welshman jinked past two defenders and fired a swirling shot which Joe Hart needed two attempts to gather.
The atmosphere quietened when City opened the scoring. With just over four minutes on the clock, Carlos Tevez stretched the Spurs back four and picked out James Milner on the right byline. Milner fed Nasri and he slotted home with a cushioned volley.
A period of scrappy play followed. Kyle Walker needed treatment after a rash challenge from Nasri while Jan Vertonghen needed a change of shirt after being caught by Edin Dzeko's flying arm in an aerial challenge.
Spurs started to come in to the game more, but could not test Hart. The England goalkeeper was only called in to action once in the first period, saving well from Kyle Walker after he collected Dempsey's reverse pass. At the other end, Dawson and Vertonghen threw themselves in to the path of Nasri to force the Frenchman to shoot wide.
Hugo Lloris had to be at his best to deny Dzeko and Tevez in quick succession, but Spurs then went up the other end and thought they should have had a penalty when Michael Dawson's header struck Gareth Barry's arm, but referee Lee Mason waved play on. Dempsey had a golden opportunity to equalise just before the break but he headed over from Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner.
Yaya Toure stung Lloris's palms with a rasping drive and it took a brilliant tackle from Vertonghen to stop Tevez from racing clear. Villas-Boas brought on Tom Huddlestone and Lewis Holtby and switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Bale at the centre of the attack.
The change paid off in the 75th minute as City backed off Bale and he whipped a low teasing cross which Dempsey converted from close range. The goal lifted Tottenham's spirits and they threw everything at City. Defoe, who had been on the pitch for just seven minutes, latched on to Holtby's through-ball and curled a brilliant shot past Hart.
A carnival atmosphere broke out inside White Hart Lane and it got better moments later when Bale killed the game off by lifting the ball over Hart after a brilliant through-ball from Huddlestone.
Aleksander Kolarov curled a free-kick over, but City knew their chance of taking anything from the game had gone and it was Spurs who were rejoicing at the final whistle.
Tottenham Hotspur head coach Andre Villas-Boas: "I must praise the team for their fighting spirit and it was great to see them turn it around in the second half because the first half was not to our level.
"We improved dramatically and the players were fantastic to get this result. It comes down to the character of the players. All three that came on showed that desire and ambition to help the team, and in the end we were able to punish them.
“We can't say how significant [the win] will be until the end of the season. It is very competitive and will probably go down to the wire.
"It was important for us to win today. Arsenal play Manchester United next week and that is an important fixture. We have to continue getting as many points as possible and see if the decisive fixture is that game against Chelsea."
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: “It is incredible that we lost this game because we had everything under control for 80 minutes. We had a lot of chances to score a second goal, but this is football. If you don't close the game it can happen like today.
“The championship was finished three or four weeks ago. They [Manchester United] deserve to win this championship.”
|12 May 2013||v Stoke (A)|
|19 May 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|04 May 2013||v Southampton (H)|
|08 May 2013||v Chelsea (A)|
|27 Apr 2013||v Wigan (A)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Leicester (A)|