x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Tottenham secure Champions League place next season

Peter Crouch's late game goal earns Spurs a top-four finish in the Premier League at the expense of Manchester City.

Peter Crouch of Tottenham Hotspur beats Wayne Bridge of Manchester City to the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the City of Manchester Stadium on May 5, 2010 in Manchester, England.
Peter Crouch of Tottenham Hotspur beats Wayne Bridge of Manchester City to the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the City of Manchester Stadium on May 5, 2010 in Manchester, England.

MANCHESTER// It was a goal that might not make him too popular at home, but Peter Crouch will be hero-worshipped by Tottenham supporters as he sealed a top-four finish in the Premier League. The big striker, whose mother Jayne is a Manchester City supporter, claimed the crucial winner at Eastlands to confirm Champions League football for the first time in the club's history. Just eight minutes were left when Younes Kaboul made a forceful run down the right and his cross was pushed out by Marton Fulop into the path of Crouch, who nodded home for his 13th goal of the season. It was certainly unlucky for City, whose own European dream died when they were so close. The atmosphere was tense, the football frenetic, but both sides had players who had been in this situation before. None more so than Carlos Tevez, whose four seasons in English football have been filled with emotional and nerve-shredding finales. The first was West Ham's fight against relegation in 2007 and then two title successes with Manchester United before he joined their neighbours last summer. His start typified his performances all season. Just seven minutes had gone when he burst forward from just inside the opposition half and defiantly forced his way into the box, where Heurelho Gomes blocked with his legs. There was more of the same two minutes later, but Michael Dawson was across to stop him. But Spurs were equal to his threat and offered their own up front with Crouch a towering presence. He went so close to an opener in the 18th minute when his header from Gareth Bale's free kick thudded against the post. Three minutes later, Ledley King had the ball in the net from a Bale corner, but Steve Bennett, the referee, ruled he had used Gareth Barry for leverage. City responded to that close call with Gomes twice forced into making fine saves. Adam Johnson tested him with a 20-yard shot that the Brazilian saved well. Gomes then showed little sign of the thigh injury that made him doubtful when he stretched superbly to his left when Gareth Barry's cross struck Bale and looped goalwards. But Spurs always looked dangerous and their three most influential attackers combined for a great chance in the 39th minute. Aaron Lennon showed nice skills and crossed from the right for Crouch to head down to Bale, whose snapshot flew inches wide. Jermain Defoe went even closer in the 56th minute when he burst through and Fulop - who spent three years at Spurs without making an appearance - made a fine save to his left and the ball flew inches wide. The Hungarian, signed on an emergency loan deal from Sunderland, came to City's rescue 12 minutes from time when he brilliantly blocked a Crouch header with his legs. But the striker finally got the better of the Hungarian for the winner. Fulop pushed away Roman Pavlyuchenko's rasping drive just before the end, but it mattered little as Spurs celebrated an amazing 11th win in 12 league games against City. None, though, were as important as this one as it sealed a remarkable rise for the club, who were bottom when Harry Redknapp took over last season. Redknapp said Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, had appointed him because he was scared they were going to be relegated. That fate was avoided and they will now face Europe's finest after coming so close four years ago when a final-day loss at West Ham, amid a bout of food poisoning, allowed Arsenal to pip them to fourth. Redknapp added: "Of course this means a lot to me. I'm delighted, but I know I'm good at my job. I wouldn't have done it if I was a mug. "I'm very pleased. It's great for the club, a good achievement and we have played great football this year. "It was important someone got in from outside the big four I could only see Man City breaking in. "I thought it was going to be really tough. I could only see us finishing in the top seven and getting a European place. That says an awful lot for us. "I took a big gamble and played an attacking team. We went for it. "People will think I'm mad coming away from home like this; all the top teams only play with one up front now." Spurs could still finish third and go straight into the Champions League group stage rather than face a qualifier if they beat Burnley on Sunday and Arsenal lose to Fulham. Redknapp added: "The chairman has just said to me 'who have Arsenal got on Sunday', but I doubt very much whether that will happen. I'm just very happy to finish fourth, that's where we wanted to be." Roberto Mancini, the City manager, was disappointed at missing out on the coveted spot, but hoped he would have the chance to try again next season. He said he was "confident" he would be in charge despite the speculation over his future. "I don't know, but I think I stay here. Why not? "I work here four or five months and I think when you build a house you don't start from the roof, but the basement. We work very well, but we are near the roof. "I am not a magician, I don't have a magic wand. When you don't finish fourth this is football but we did a good job. We must be proud because we had a good season, even if we are not playing in the Champions League next year." akhan@thenational.ae