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Finally, Manchester City breaks the curse and eliminates Tottenham from the FA Cup

Manchester City

At last, the curse was broken. Although Manchester City is a fantastic team and the legitimate winners of both Europe and the world, they have performed terribly, unimpressively, and hilariously badly on this rectangle strip of turf in north London. They had played five games at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium before now and had lost each one, failing to score a goal even though they had an xG of roughly 375. Here, history rhymed for eighty-eight minutes until Nathan Ake’s late goal, won in an extremely non-Cityish manner.

Pep Guardiola was booked for mockingly applauding referee Paul Tierney during the second half of this FA Cup match because he had been growing more agitated.

He would have recognized some recurring themes in previous games played here, where City generated opportunity after opportunity but was unable to change the score. The slimmest of margins allowed the early goal to stand; Julian Alvarez, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and Jeremy Doku all squandered excellent opportunities.

However, unlike the defensive groups that Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo, and Antonio Conte had purposefully put up to irritate Guardiola in the past, this Ange Postecoglou squad was never going to play that way. Tottenham made an effort to play their style, but they were never able to take the lead, and in the end, after having put in a great deal of effort, their open gameplan fell short at a corner. The reigning champions will be in the hat for the fifth round after City’s 1-0 victory.

Tottenham’s center was built of mush without Yves Bissouma and Pape Matar Sarr, who were both absent at the Africa Cup of Nations, making it simple for City to play through. Occasionally, Alvarez and Phil Foden would enter the hole to spin and attack the Spurs defense, but Mateo Kovacic was the one who carried the ball most of the time, dribbling between Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur’s feeble challenges as he moved from one box to the next.

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City nearly got off to the ideal start. Only five minutes had passed when Oscar Bobb’s close-range rebound put the ball in the net, but assistant referee Adrian Holmes rightly called that Bobb was offside as he pounced, a little infraction.

As City created beautiful passing patterns around them, Spurs were experiencing the unusual feeling of being behind at home. Jokso Gvardiol creeped up the left touchline into some dangerous positions, but City was too frequently hindered by his lack of talent to muster anything like a lethal ball.

Tottenham played excellent last-ditch defending during City’s finest moments. When Foden entered the box sniffing for a goal, Destiny Udogie ran back to strip the ball from his toes. Later, Pedro Porro, another Spurs full-back, pushed himself in front of Bobb’s low shot to block it before yelling at the audience like a champion boxer on the corner ropes.

Spurs enjoyed satisfaction when they periodically ventured forward themselves, usually on the counterattack while City was stretched. This was usually behind Gvardiol. Halfway through the first half, Brennan Johnson and Porro sprinted down the right in quick succession, but neither player was able to find the coming Richarlison with their cross.

At the beginning of the second half, City created their best opportunity of the game when Bobb sent a cross from the left for Alvarez at the back post. He took a touch before attempting a shot from maybe ten yards out, but once more a Spurs defender—this time center-back Micky van de Ven—threw himself in the path of fire.

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The game became increasingly tense and acrimonious after that. Venom instantly filled tackles. Udogie was booked for raking Silva’s ankle, Kovacic was booked for hacking at Udogie’s standing leg, and Guardiola was also awarded the yellow card due to frustration. The audience’s emotional engagement increased as the slightest suspicion of a penalty or an inaccurate flag by an assistant propelled them out of their seats.

Although City was still in the lead, Spurs were now putting on a show. When Timo Werner dribbled past Silva and slipped Johnson past the City defense, it was a rare reminder of his presence; but, backup goalkeeper Stefan Ortega came out quickly to block at the winger’s feet.

With the passing of time, eyes started to dart down to the dugouts in search of ideas. De Bruyne and Doku were introduced by Guardiola. Oliver Skipp and James Maddison were introduced by Postecoglou, with the latter receiving raucous cheers from Tottenham supporters. It was his first public appearance since November 6th, and the optimism was palpable.

However, City had all of the late opportunities. A tempting half-volley that was sitting up 15 yards from goal was missed by Silva, who could only shoot it low into Guglielmo Vicario’s hands. Shortly after, Hojbjerg experienced a mental lapse and proceeded to run straight into Foden while dribbling within his own box. In an attempt to end the match, Foden squared for De Bruyne in space, but the Belgian managed to miss the mark.

Doku had an even better opportunity as he raced through on goal against Vicario one-on-one. Because of his initial heavy touch, Porro was able to approach close enough to throw him off balance. As a result, his final attempt was scuffed and easily saved.

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But Ake, who was only a yard away, managed to do what the offensive stars were unable to do: poke a mishandled ball home. Vicario was the target of a Spurs request for a foul, but VAR produced no results. Finally, City had scored at the end of their sixth game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

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