Goalscorer: Peter Crouch 82
Manchester City: Marton Fulop, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Kolo Toure, Wayne Bridge, Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry (Patrick Vieira 57), Adam Johnson (Shaun Wright-Phillips 71), Craig Bellamy (Roque Santa Cruz 84), Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor
Tottenham Hotspur: Heurelho Gomes, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, Younes Kaboul, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric (Wilson Palacios 88), Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon (David Bentley 71), Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe (Roman Pavlyuchenko 81)
Referee: Steve Bennett, Attendance: 47,370
This was effectively a shootout for a UEFA Champions League qualification spot. Tottenham Hotspur travelled to Eastlands for their penultimate game of the season knowing that a victory would clinch their place in Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since the Champions League had been reformed in 1992. A win for their rivals Manchester City would put them into the driving seat for fourth place going into the final day. The prize was estimated to be worth £30 million.
Roberto Mancini had to rely on ex-Spurs shot-stopper Marton Fulop as his goalkeeper. Injury to Shay Given and with Joe Hart unable to be recalled from his loan period at Birmingham City, it meant the cash-rich club had been forced to ask the Premier League to use the emergency loan system to bring a goalkeeper in. Fulop had been made available after being deemed surplus to requirements by Sunderland.
He would have a busy evening. Tottenham started the brighter and were by far, the most threatening side. Their first opportunity came in the 18th minute. Peter Crouch smashed a header off the crossbar having met Gareth Bale’s free-kick. Moments later, the visitors’ thought they had taken the lead when Ledley King connected with Bale’s corner and headed home. However, referee Steve Bennett had spotted King was stopping Gareth Barry from jumping fairly, so correctly disallowed the goal.
By contrast, City looked flat. Heurelho Gomes made an early save from Carlos Tevez and also reacted well to his left-hand side when Bale almost inadvertently turned Craig Bellamy’s cross over the line. Into the second half and the pattern didn’t change. Bale was causing huge problems for City’s full-backs in Pablo Zabaleta and Wayne Bridge. He played Jermain Defoe in on 58 minutes but Fulop came to the rescue with a fine save. By this point, Barry had been forced off the pitch by an ankle injury and former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira was brought on as his replacement.
Fulop was in great form. He denied Crouch from close-range, saving his header with his legs. As the game entered the last 10 minutes, it looked like the match was destined to finish goalless when Tottenham finally got the crucial breakthrough. Younes Kaboul made a run into the penalty area, skipping past Craig Bellamy. He fired a shot in from a tight angle. This time, Fulop parried the shot but only into the path of Crouch who was in the right position to head home and send the travelling supporters into exultation.
Spurs had done it. Harry Redknapp had guided them into the UEFA Champions League for the first time. Defeat for Manchester City meant their expensive squad would have to spend the 2010-2011 season playing in the UEFA Europa League. Redknapp’s only final worry was to get soaked with a bucket of water whilst finishing a post-match television interview. It will always remain one of the finest nights Tottenham Hotspur ever experienced in the Premier League.