65 minutes and 0-1 down against Manchester City, Andre Villas-Boas had some decisions to make to try and turn the game back in favour of Tottenham.
The stakes for this game were far greater for the north London club and that showed with Tottenham keeping the ball relatively well however, they did not look threatening.
In fact Man City could have been 0-2 up had Samir Nasri taken his second chance of the game. Then step forward AVB with his game changing tactics.
Scott Parker and Gylfi Sigurdsson had been very quiet and not had a great influence on the game. They were hooked on 65 minutes for Tom Huddlestone and Lewis Holtby who immediately added more zest to the team.
Huddlestone bringing a calming influence and a superb eye for forward passes which Spurs lacked in the first half, and Holtby bringing drive, determination, high pressure and also an eye for a pass.
This led to the use of a 4-3-3 system with Huddlestone holding behind Moussa Dembele and Holtby with Gareth Bale on the right and Clint Dempsey on the left with Emmanuel Adebayor through the centre.
However, the lack of energy and enthusiasm up front meant that one final change was inevitable. On 71 minutes AVB brought on Jermain Defoe to replace Adebayor and the crowd reaction said it all.
The huge cheers for Defoe shows who the Spurs fans want to try and fire them to fourth for the rest of the season. Immediately Spurs showed more guile and cutting edge, keeping the ball well and straight away started probing further forward up the pitch.
Manchester City had no answer to this and were being overrun by Tottenham with Dembele influencing the game around the edge of the Man City area.
Bale, so mercurial throughout the season had a quiet game but the sign of a great player is that even during a quieter game they still have a major impact.
Bale, played in by Kyle Walker, laid a beautiful ball across the box, just out of the reach of Vincent Kompany to give Dempsey the easiest goal he will score this season.
The second goal was vintage Defoe, who if he didn’t go through drought spells or suffer periods of injury would be a top class striker. A lovely ball from substitute Holtby down the channel left Defoe one-on-one with Kompany, with Defoe cutting inside and firing a powerful drive past Joe Hart into the far corner.
Within four minutes the game had been turned upside down. Before Roberto Mancini had time to react, Huddlestone weighed a through pass to Bale perfectly allowing him to cut across Gael Clichy and delightfully chip the ball over Hart and into the net. Mancini’s answer was to chuck on Scott Sinclair and Joleon Lescott up front. Desperation? It would appear so.
On a pivotal day in Tottenham’s season, AVB showed that he does have the tactical nous to change a game when it is not going to plan and left Mancini wondering what had happened. The battle for the Champions League is not over yet.
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