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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Conflicted Spurs fans enjoy bizarre sensation of relishing defeat that paves way for Man City title




Tottenham Hotspur (0) 0

Manchester City (0) 2 Haaland 51, 90+1pen


Well, what did we really expect?


Four wins in their four previous home league games against City. Plus a Champions League win over them. No goals conceded. No defeats in the league to City at the new stadium. A cast-iron home win if ever there was one.


Only kidding, of course. No-one expected that record to prevail against a City side homing in on a fourth Premier League title in a row. Spurs made a decent fist of it - briefly worrying those home fans desperate to see their own side lose - but once Erling Haaland had given a low-key City the lead at the start of the second half, all bets were off.


It means Arsenal will have to beat Everton in Sunday's final round of fixtures and hope that West Ham somehow avoid defeat at the Etihad in order to claim a first title in 20 years. It feels like the longest of longshots now.


By any standards, this match was played out against the weirdest of backdrops. How many Spurs fans really wanted their team to win, when it would mean ushering their bitter north London rivals towards glory?


We have been here before. In 1999 - the year of the Man United treble - Spurs could have handed the title to Arsenal with a win at Old Trafford. They led at half time but ended up losing and there was probably relief all round for the regulars of White Hart Lane.


In front of their own fans on home soil, the feeling was magnified. The roar that usually accompanies the arrival of the team was conspicuous by its absence. Perhaps Spurs fans were fearful of revving up their own team too much. It would be fair to say the atmosphere was pretty subdued for such a big game. Eerily so at times.


At least there was more of a partisan feel once we were under way. 'Stand up if you hate Arsenal' chants were followed by Rodrigo Bentancur firing in the first telling shot, that Ederson had to tip over and fans seemed to summon up genuine groans of disappointment.


A sliced clearance by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg gifted Phil Foden a volleying chance that Guglielmo Vicario was equal to and that reprieve allowed Spurs to grow into the contest even more - with Brennan Johnson having another shot at goal from an angle that the City keeper had to block.


An astonishing headed clearance from Radu Dragustan, who was the only man standing in the way of Bernardo Silva drive, ensured parity at the interval and Arsenal fans perhaps dared to dream a little.


And yet we all knew Pep Guardiola's men were bound to go up a gear or two now and they were soon rewarded.


Vicario's excellent spring to his left denied Kevin de Bruyne at the start of the second half when the Belgian's shot on the turn looked destined for the net, but the breakthrough was not long in coming.


Haaland was on hand to tap in a low cross from De Bruyne, who had been fed by Silva - although the attack began with Foden bursting through Cristian Romero's challenge to whip in a cross that left the home rearguard exposed.


"Are you watching Arsenal?" chanted home fans after their team fell behind. A world briefly turned upside down.


Dejan Kulusevski came on and rode a challenge to get in another shot from a difficult angle - the keeper doing the saving this time being Stefan Ortega, who replaced Ederson after the Brazilian was clattered by Romero and had to go off.


There would be one more chance before the end, as Heung-Min Son sprinted through after a City lapse and Ortega's outstretched foot was needed to deny the Spurs captain.


On the sidelines, Pep fell over backwards at the horror of nearly conceding what would have been a momentous goal. The reaction of home fans and Gunners supporters watching at home would have been much the same, for very different reasons.


At the death, Jeremy Doku sprinted onto a Foden pass and induced a foul from Pedro Porro to win a penalty that Haaland put away. Game, set, match and very nearly title.


Defeat confirmed Spurs miss out on the Champions League next season. Many of their fans will see that as a small price to pay if it means they don't suffer the sight of Arsenal winning the league.


Spurs: (4-3-3) Vicario - Pedro Porro, Romero, Dragusin, Van de Ven - Bentancur (Kulusevski 55), Hojberg (Skipp 85), Sarr (Lo Celso 85) - Johnson, Son, Maddison (Moore 90+2)


City: (4-2-3-1) Ederson (Ortega 69) - Walker, Akanji, Dias, Gvardiol - Kovacic, Rodri - Silva, De Bruyne (Doku 69), Foden - Haaland (Alvarez 90+4)


Attendance: 61,065

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