It’s Manchester City who will advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup after they finally expelled their Tottenham Hotspur Stadium woes with a hard-fought 1-0 victory in North London.
The match started at a furious pace, and City were made aware that their hosts were going to play with a far more positive and expansive style than they had on any previous visit to this stadium – although it was the Blues who thought they had taken the lead within five minutes.
Kyle Walker advanced to the edge of the Tottenham penalty area and took advantage of a slip from Destiny Udogie, firing a great cross over for Phil Foden to draw a top save from Guglielmo Vicario.
Oscar Bobb was on hand to finish the rebound, but was denied City’s first goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium by an offside flag which was eventually confirmed after a lengthy VAR check.
The first 15 minutes was breathless viewing, with Spurs struggling to find an answer to Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden’s orchestrating of play – although that old threat of the counter-attack still lingered.
Despite the Blues’ good play, opportunities were at a premium for both sides, with Stefan Ortega and Udogie both doing well to snuff out half-chances on the break for their respective sides.
It opened up a little on the stroke of half-time; Nathan Ake was on hand to prevent Richarlison from opening the scoring, before a lightning-fast City break saw chances for Rodri, Mateo Kovacic and Bobb all heroically blocked by the Spurs backline.
City started the second half just as quickly as they had the first, winning the ball back with a high press and seeing Micky van de Ven somehow get a toe to divert Julian Alvarez’s point-blank shot.
Spurs’ threat didn’t waver though, and Ortega was again required to get out at the feet of the onrushing Brennan Johnson.
The second half never entertained in the way the first did in truth, with the only clear openings coming in the 81st minute; Bernardo Silva could only shoot straight at Vicario, then Kevin de Bruyne of all people put a golden chance wide after good pressure from Foden drew the opportunity.
The game opened up and, ironically, City seemed unaccustomed to having so much space to operate in; they did manage to spring Jeremy Doku in behind though, but his effort didn’t trouble Vicario.
In the end, the only way that City were going to end their duck in this stadium was in the most un-City way possible, and that’s what transpired in the 87th minute.
Kevin de Bruyne swung a corner right onto Vicario, who punched tamely under pressure from Ruben Dias and allowed Nathan Ake to stab in a priceless winner for City.
Spurs complained of a foul on their goalkeeper, but it was cleared by VAR and the Blues finally, FINALLY, had their first goal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – only took 102 shots.
The final whistle was greeted with jubilation by City’s huge and noisy away end, with the boys in blue delighted to see their team through to the fifth round at the expense of a team who it had seemed they would never work out how to beat.
Stefan Ortega – 8
Displayed Ederson-like confidence when playing from the back, and did the conventional side of his job when necessary too.
Kyle Walker – 7.5
Had one or two lapses in concentration when the ball was on the other side of the field, but was largely better on the ball than he has been of late and proved his worth with excellent defending late on against Timo Werner.
Ruben Dias – 7.5
Really active in his defensive work, getting a head or a toe to any loose ball which required his attention and grappling hard with Richarlison.
Nathan Ake – 8 (MOTM)
Sprayed the ball out from the back confidently and used his pace to cover to good effect. Was on hand to prod home the winner.
Josko Gvardiol – 7.5
Continued his trend this season of looking a little suspect in wide one-on-ones, but excelling with his incisive passing in advanced zones. This guy is a centre-back.
Rodri – 7.5
Didn’t seem to have his usual knack for perfect positioning, often just missing an interception on the stretch. Had no problems with his always-exceptional ball-playing.
Mateo Kovacic – 7.5
Struggled a little with the defensive side of the game but his driving runs through the midfield were a joy to watch.
Bernardo Silva – 8
Vital to the structure of the team by stepping inside from the right wing to make space for Walker on the flank, and never stopped running throughout.
Phil Foden – 8
Operated tantalisingly between the lines again. Not everything he tried came off, but some of his play was just so stylish.
Oscar Bobb – 6.5
Looked lively in the opening stages and was very unlucky to have a goal just ruled out for offside, but he faded as it went on and was withdrawn just after the hour.
Julian Alvarez – 7
Dropped into deep positions and linked play quite nicely, despite not offering much of a direct threat prior to his substitution.
Kevin de Bruyne – 6
Never quite found his radar and missed that clear opening. Did force the goal with his corner.
Jeremy Doku – 6
Ran dangerously at the Spurs backline but couldn’t make anything of his scenarios.
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