Offshore drilling, England: at Manchester City 2, Tottenham Hotspur 1
After 45 minutes of control that lacked ambition, Manchester City reversed a 1-0 halftime deficit Sunday at Eastlands, getting second half goals from Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko en route to a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
The win came after City went into halftime down one despite controlling the first half, Joe Hart’s error on a Steven Caulker header allowing Spurs to grab a 21st minute lead.
After switching to a 3-5-2 formation near the hour mark, Roberto Mancini’s men got a 65th minute equalizer through Sergio Agüero. The defending league champions continued to press over the match’s final 30 minutes, with David Silva eventually crafting the winning goal for Dzeko.
The win keeps City undefeated and, for the moment, vaults them into second. Spurs stay sixth.
Man of the Match: David Silva, out since Oct. 6 with a hamstring injury, showed what City missed in his absence. Starting on the right, Silva was able to cut in onto his better left foot, frequently testing Tottenham’s high line with a game-high five balls played through the defense. In the 88th minute, Silva went over the line to create the winning score, his adroit chip from 22 yards leaving Dzeko a perfect ball to volley past Brad Friedel.
Threesome of Knowledge: What we learned
Possession is still a better description than indicator.
It took Manchester City over 40 minutes to register their first shot on goal despite possession that stayed between 63 and 65 percent. Part of that number was due to Tottenham’s willingness to absorb their play, but that willingness was permitted by City’s passivity. The Citizens lacked guile in the final third.
In the second half, City’s attitude changed, but their possession number was largely the same. At match’s end, City had 62 percent of the ball despite their drastic change in aggressiveness.
On Sunday, as it is most days, the possession number was a better description of the match’s character than an indicator of one team’s dominance. In the first half, City controlled the match. In the second, they dominated.
Joe Hart is fallible.
This seems as good a time as any to offer that the common English soccer media refrain that Joe Hart is the world’s best goalkeeper may not be true. The world has a lot of great keepers, both renown (Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon) and overlooked (Samir Handanovic, Igor Akinfeev). Mr. Hart has a lot of competition.
Today, we were reminded many of Hart’s accolades may be exaggeration. When Steven Caulker came free of Matija Nastasic on Tom Huddlestone’s 21st minute header, his redirection bounced to an easy height for Hart to handle. For whatever reason, the ball got through his hands and into the lower-right corner, giving Spurs the lead on their first shot.
Mixed day for Mancini’s 3-5-2.
In the second half, the inclusion of Maicon (on at 57' for Nastasic) allowed City to shift gears. Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta became central defenders, Aleksandr Kolarov dropped to left wing back, and Maicon was handed the right side, where his crossing and (surprisingly) strong defense helped City turn control into dominance. It was a point in the plus column for Mancini’s much-maligned 3-5-2 formation.
But the easy switch to the new setup was only enabled by starting Kolarov at left wing, a decision influenced by the injury absence of Samir Nasri. Having a defender in an attacking position may have contributed to the stall we saw from City over the first hour. It also created a situation where a switch to a 3-5-2 was bound to work, Mancini already switching to a formation that better suited the personnel he started.
Packaged for takeaway
- On the surface, Emmanuel Adebayor was impressive in his second start of the year, providing Spurs with an outlet from the back as City came into the match. Unfortunately, he failed to put a shot on goal and created only one chance for this teammates. He needs to convert the little things (aerial presences, hold up play) into something dangerous.
- Clint Dempsey continues to struggle. While he provided a decent defensive presence today, he made no contribution in attack. It’s a description you can apply to most of his Spurs starts. He has yet to find a way to be dangerous for André Villas-Boas.
- Brad Friedel, on the other hand, had a good day, though he is still tentative coming off his line to claim balls played through (or behind) his defense. Today, apparent miscommunication with Caulker nearly cost Spurs.
- One explanation for Manchester City’s late match surges continues to be Yaya Touré. Today, we saw City’s habit of releasing their best player to be a more attacking presence when needed. Touré's probing passing and forays forward wilted Spurs’ defense, his deft touch out to Agüero providing for the first goal. Touré is so consistently effective in this role, it’s a wonder he’s not allowed to fill it from minute one.