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I’ll take it. (Spurs 0, City 0)

14 August 2010

Joe Hart was handed the No. 1 shirt by Roberto Mancini and responded with a sensational performance.

Glockner took issue with me saying in my preview that a draw at White Hart Lane today would be “slightly disappointing.” I clarified for him that I recognized that it would be a decent result, but that I just really wanted to see City beat Spurs and put down a marker for the season.

As it turned out, I’m more than happy with a point, though deeply disappointed in City’s performance in the first 35 minutes. Roberto Mancini’s men looked nervy as only a masterclass in goalkeeping by Joe Hart kept the home side off the scoreboard. Repeatedly.

In a scene that reminded me of Manuel Almunia stonewalling a rampant Barcelona attack in last season’s Champions League tie at the Emirates, Hart made no fewer than four sensational saves in the first half-hour. Throw in a save by the woodwork and a nice stop by Vincent Kompany’s chest, and City easily could have been down 4-0 at the intermission.

At The Phoenix, the mood amongst the Blues in attendance was one of bewilderment. We had just watched our team get badly outplayed, yet we were sitting there even after 45 minutes. Frankly, I’d be shocked to see City play another half as bad as the first half today.

The good news is that whatever Mancini did or said at half time seemed to work, as his side came out looking completely different. After looking clueless and jumpy with the ball in the first half, they calmed it down and controlled possession after intermission. Spurs managed to create a few threatening chances, but between some more nice saves from Hart and some inaccurate shooting — especially from Gareth Bale — we escaped with a point.

Given that Spurs were slight favorites going in, I’m looking at this as two points dropped at home by a potential Champions League rival. It would’ve been so, so sweet to walk away with all three points after such an awful first-half showing, but a share of the spoils was pretty generous to City, all things considered.

Hart was the most obvious Man of the Match in the history of the honor. Shay Given had to feel a mixture of relief at seeing his club keeping the opponents off the scoresheet, but dread over the future implications of Hart’s ridiculously impressive display in goal. Adam Johnson managed to impress after coming on for Shaun Wright-Phillips in the second half. I understand why Mancini went with Wright-Phillips, with Bale marauding down the left side for Spurs and Micah Richards lacking in defensive technique, but SWP really didn’t distinguish himself in his time on the pitch. Kompany also had a good match, despite picking up a first-half booking and nearly talking his way into a second yellow after another foul late in the half. He had some crucial blocks and tackles deep in his defensive third.

Carlos Tévez worked hard as always, but didn’t seem to catch any fortunate bounces while trying to squeeze through the Spurs defense. The newcomers were largely invisible. Aleksandar Kolarov had a few moments, but his delivery on crosses and set pieces was much poorer than when I’ve seen in him previously, so it made sense when he went off at half time with an injury. Yaya Touré’s shooting touch was off and he didn’t control the midfield like he should’ve against lesser Spurs players. David Silva didn’t do much of anything.

So we go into the mid-week away leg of our Europa League playoff tie feeling disappointed about the start, but relieved about a decent result.

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