Man City 1 Spurs 0: Crouch own goal seals fourth for City
City secure Champions League spot thanks to own goal from the man who ended their Euro dream last term
Manchester City have their place in the Champions League after a Peter Crouch own goal gifted them a decisive win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Crouch, the man who sealed Spurs’ spot in Europe’s premier club competition in the same fixture last season, inadvertently diverted James Milner’s cross past Carlo Cudicini in the first half.
The FA Cup finalists were the deserved winners of a tense encounter which leaves Harry Redknapp’s Spurs facing a fight with Liverpool for fifth place, and Europa League qualification, on Sunday.
Roberto Mancini’s men pressed for an early goal to settle an anxious home crowd. An excellent exchange between David Silva and Edin Dzeko carved open Tottenham’s defence but the Bosnian striker saw his attempt easily deflected away by Cudicini.
Milner, eager to highlight his credentials for a place in Mancini’s plans for Saturday’s FA Cup final, then had his protests for a penalty turned down by referee Mike Dean after a collision with Michael Dawson in the Spurs area.
City made their breakthrough on the half-hour mark. Milner’s cross from the right was met by Crouch, whose attempted clearance sent the ball past a despairing Cudicini.
In contrast to their memorable performances earlier in the season, Spurs rarely threatened. The visitor’s top goalscorer Rafael van der Vaart endured a muted night, the Netherlands international unable to dictate play from his midfield role behind Crouch.
Luka ModriÃ„”¡ wasted Tottenham’s best chance just before the break when he fired a right-footed shot wide from close range after excellent work from Aaron Lennon.
And moments after the interval winger Lennon darted past the stationary Pablo Zabaleta and clipped a cross to substitute Steven Pienaar, whose header was denied by an athletic save from Joe Hart.
The introduction of Carlos Tevez, who was returning from injury, late in the second half helped nudged City over the finishing line.
With a place in the Champions League qualifying rounds secure, Mancini’s men can still seal a spot in the tournament proper if they can snatch third place from Arsenal.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said:
“Congratulations to all my players. They’ve had a fantastic Premier League season. We have achieved fourth position and we have another two games left to push for third.
“For me, it is an important moment. We have been working for this very hard for a year and we are very happy for the supporters. Anything is possible but we want to try [to catch Arsenal].
“It is important we recover our strength in the next few days for the FA Cup final now. We stayed between first and fourth position for a long time and I think we deserve it.”
Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart said:
“It means the world. We’ve still got a couple of games to go and we are going to hunt down third spot. We’ve got some big you-know-whats in this side and we showed that tonight.
“No [Champions League qualification is not like winning a trophy]. We need a trophy and that’s Saturday [in the FA Cup final]. We need to give the fans something they can hold on to.”
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said:
“I look at this season – and tonight’s performance – with great pride. I thought we played ever so well. It’s hard to get in the Champions League and, to be fair, we just had a bad run at the wrong time.
“Overall, I enjoy watching us play and that’s the most important thing for me. With a bit of tweaking to the squad in the summer we will go for Champions League football again next season. I’m looking forward to it.”