Crouch nods home to give Spurs all three points at Eastlands
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Eastlands
Tottenham edged out Manchester City in the battle for a place in next season's Champions League as Peter Crouch's late goal gave them victory at Eastlands.
Crouch bundled home a goal that could be worth at least £30m to Spurs with only eight minutes left after Manchester City's on-loan keeper Marton Fulop could only parry Younes Kaboul's deflected cross into his path.
The win that secured a top-four finish in the Premier League for Spurs was no more than they deserved as they emerged as the vastly superior side to Manchester City - who must now continue their expensive refurbishment programme in the Europa League.
And the confirmation of a place at European football's top table is a glowing tribute to the rejuvenation undertaken at White Hart Lane since Harry Redknapp took over early last season with the club languishing in the relegation places.
Redknapp has assembled an attractive side with elements of silk and steel, and they were all on show on a thunderous night when they went in search of the three points they knew would clinch the prize.
It looked like the celebrations would have to go on ice until Sunday's final-day visit to relegated Burnley until Crouch finally took the last in a succession of chances to send the Spurs fans banked at one end of Eastlands into ecstasy.
Crouch had earlier hit a post and seen a header saved by Fulop, who also denied Jermain Defoe as Spurs took a stranglehold on proceedings after the break.
City never exerted authority at any stage, although Adam Johnson forced a fine save from Heurelho Gomes, who also prevented an own goal by Gareth Bale. An added concern came in the shape of a second half injury for Gareth Barry, with only five weeks to go before the start of the World Cup.
And boss Roberto Mancini must now face an uncertain future after failing in his remit to reward the riches of Eastlands and City's Abu Dhabi owners with a top four slot.
Changing room is buzzing - Crouch
City's directors, draped in sky blue scarves, applauded politely at the final whistle - but faces set in stone betrayed the scale of their disappointment. The Champions League was the target when Mancini replaced the harshly-dismissed Mark Hughes, and the question remains whether Hughes would have done any worse than the Italian with the vast resources on offer.
No such problems for Spurs, who can now ratchet up their ambitions, a fact readily recognised by supporters who were happy to be kept in after the final whistle to continue their celebrations.
Great feeling to be in top four - Redknapp
Redknapp demonstrated positive intent with a starting line-up that included Aaron Lennon, with Bale on the left-flank as a supply line for Defoe and Crouch.
And with City knowing only a win would serve their ultimate purpose, the attacking approach of both sides laid the foundations for a first 45 minutes rich in entertainment.
Carlos Tevez made a flying start, driving straight at the heart of the Spurs defence and forcing a crucial block out of Gomes after six minutes.
But Spurs also had their share of possession and threat on a night when the size of the prize on offer was graphically illustrated by the unusually animated behaviour of the normally placid Redknapp in his technical area.
Redknapp was almost up celebrating a goal in the 18th minute when Bale's free-kick was met by Crouch at the far post, but his header slammed against the outside of the upright and away to safety. Spurs were frustrated again moments later when King headed in Bale's corner, but was rightly penalised for holding down Barry.
Redknapp drenched by Spurs squad
City had struggled to test Gomes and, when they did break through the ranks of Spurs defenders, they found the Brazilian erecting a wall of defiance. He did well to block a 20-yard shot from Johnson and then pounced down to his left when Bale almost bundled Craig Bellamy's cross over the line.
Bale should have given Spurs the lead seven minutes before the interval, but he pulled his shot wide from 10 yards after Crouch headed Lennon's cross invitingly into his path.
City had the first sight of goal after the break when Barry met Johnson's cross at the far post, but no-one was on hand to apply the finishing touch as his return ball rolled harmlessly across the face of goal.
It was Barry's final contribution as he appeared to suffer an ankle injury in a challenge on the edge of his own area and limped away in great pain, watched by anxious England coach Fabio Capello. Patrick Vieira emerged as his replacement.
Hard work has paid off - Defoe
City's on-loan keeper Fulop had been well protected by his defence, but he proved his worth after 58 minutes when he saved low down as Defoe looked certain to convert Bale's pass.
As tempers flared, Tom Huddlestone was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after appearing to stamp on Nigel de Jong as he lay on the floor following a melee.
Spurs came agonisingly close to taking the lead with 19 minutes left as Defoe and Crouch slid in on Benoit Assou-Ekotto's low cross, only to both miss out by inches.
It was the signal for changes, as Redknapp sent on David Bentley for Lennon and City replaced the tiring Johnson with Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Spurs were looking the more likely side, and Fulop came to City's rescue again when he blocked Crouch's header with his legs - although the England striker should have done so much better than hit the keeper from another wonderful Bale cross.
Mancini admits disappointment after defeat by Spurs
The goal Spurs' second half performance merited finally arrived with eight minutes left as Crouch made up for his earlier misses with the strike that gives Redknapp's side the chance to earn that Champions League jackpot.
Bellamy was guilty of wretched defending, allowing Kaboul to advance into the area, and when a startled Fulop could only palm out his cross, Crouch was perfectly placed to head home.
Spurs survived to the final whistle without alarm - with the only problem on Redknapp's horizon a drenching from his elated players outside the dressing-room.
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