Before I get to the bitterness, let me just qualify something about the Tottenham vs Manchester City game – in the opening half an hour, Manuel Pelligrini’s men played the most impressive attacking football I have ever witnessed and, in particular, Sergio Aguero appeared able to carve through the Spurs defence at will. They did not just deserve their 1-0 lead at that point, it could have been five and should have been at least three: Aguero’s run into the box, reminiscent of his title-winning goal against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the 2011/12 campaign, ended in a shot coming back off the inside of the post; plus Edin Dzeko had a handful of chances that he should have done better with. In the last 15 minutes of the first half however, Tottenham actually showed some fight – something they had completely failed to do in their drubbing at the Etihad earlier in the season – and even found the net from a set-play, but Michael Dawson was adjudged to have been offside (replays suggested at the moment Christian Eriksen took the free-kick, the Spurs captain may have been level, but there was also a slight touch from Emmanuel Adebayor at which point Dawson was clearly offside). Tackles were flying in and for a while, it looked as though City were actually rattled by this approach. At the break, I found myself thinking that even if I still believed we would lose the game, at least Tottenham were not going down without a fight.
Nevertheless, just a couple of minutes into the second period, the challenge facing Tim Sherwood’s side went from very difficult to impossible, as Danny Rose was sent off and a penalty awarded to Manchester City for a challenge on Dzeko in the area. This is where the bitterness comes in – not only was the tackle perfectly fair, with Rose clearly playing the ball and any contact with the striker came after the ball was played, but referee Andre Mariner did not initially award a penalty and only changed his mind and brandished the red card on advice from his assistant. Because of the angle that Rose came in from, the assistant’s view of the ball was blocked by the left-back and Mariner actually had a better view of the incident and his instincts not to award a spot-kick were correct. Now bad decisions happen and like I said before, there was very little chance that Tottenham would have taken anything from the game anyway, but being down a man against the best attacking side in the Premiership era is a recipe for a thrashing. What bothered me most though was the way the incident was dealt with by the commentators – who suggested it was a close decision that could have gone either way but ultimately did not impact the result – and in post-match analysis such as The Guardian Football Weekly podcast, where it warranted nothing more than a passing mention at the end of a discussion about the game. If such a poor decision had been made against other clubs (in particular, City, Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea), then not only would it have been the major talking point surrounding the fixture, there would also have been a question about whether or not it affected the outcome. Last season, Spurs were 1-0 down to City at home and turned the game around to win 3-1 with all of the goals coming in the final 20 minutes – it may not have happened again, but better officiating would at least have given us a better chance. Continue reading