The FA Cup Fourth Round draw delivered a matchup between two heavyweights of the English football pyramid. Tottenham Hotspur hosted Manchester City at their state-of-the-art home, with ninety minutes of footballing excellence promised for the 63,000 fans in attendance.
Nine-thousand of those fans were there to support the visitors despite Manchester City’s abysmal record at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. In their five previous visits to the ground, Pep Guardiola’s City had yet to do as much as score a goal, and they have lost on each occasion.
TOT: Vicario; Udogie, van de Ven, Romero, Porro; Højbjerg, Bentancur; Werner, Kulusevski, Johnson; Richarlison
MCI: Ortega; Gvardiol, Aké, Dias, Walker; Kovačić, Rodri; Bobb, Silva, Foden; Álvarez
Manchester City, seven-time FA Cup winners (and reigning champions), were the team that started the brightest. Their slick build-up play allowed them to beat Tottenham’s relentless press, and they had the ball in the net after only four minutes.
Last year’s treble winners worked the ball wide to Kyle Walker, who capitalised on a Destiny Udogie slip to advance into the box. After receiving a low-drilled cross, Phil Foden directed a first-time shot towards goal. His effort was saved by the Spurs goalkeeper, with the rebound being tapped home by Oscar Bobb. Unfortunately for the mass away support, however, the young forward was millimetres offside, and the score remained level.Embed from Getty Images
Led by two remarkable innovators, Guardiola and Postecoglou, neither side diverted away from their attacking philosophies. The match was played at a tremendous tempo, with both teams determined to play out from the back and press from the front. Eye-catching, delicate and considered – huge amounts of quality were displayed in the opening 45 minutes, but no clear-cut opportunities were created after the disallowed goal. Neither attack truly clicked into gear, and the first half ended goalless.
Eager to prevent a replay, the two teams returned for the second period with increased attacking intent. Less than three minutes in, a glorious opportunity was presented at the feet of Julian Alvarez. A cross from Bobb curled to the back post, beating the backtracking Spurs defenders and finding the young Argentinian, seemingly unmarked. He fired a half-volley towards goal, but a courageous sliding tackle from Micky van de Ven kept Spurs’ clean sheet intact.
The home team created a clear goalscoring opportunity themselves moments later. Timo Werner found some space on the left-hand side and drove forward. He cut inside, onto his right foot, and played an incisive pass in behind the City defence to Brennan Johnson. The Welshman looked to chip the ball over the top of the onrushing goalkeeper, but Ortega was lightning-fast, smothering the shot.
As the game developed, several potential match winners were brought off the bench to make an impact – inevitably, it was De Bruyne who found himself in the best position to change the game. After dismissing Hojbjerg in the Tottenham penalty area, Foden squared the ball to the Belgian, 15 yards out. He took a touch and wrapped the ball towards the near post, but his effort went agonizingly wide.
There was a feeling of disbelief following the miss, as De Bruyne’s usual ruthlessness deserted him. With only two minutes to go, however, the legendary midfielder made up for his rare mistake. A corner that he delivered was spilled by Vicario, allowing Aké to prod in the rebound from close range. After six years and over 100 shots, Man City finally scored a goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and the proud away following was sent into a frenzy.Embed from Getty Images
Tottenham were unable to respond, and their hunt for silverware took another devastating blow. Manchester City, on the other hand, will move into the Fifth Round draw, hoping to repeat last season’s success.