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Title race almost over as City collapse at Spurs

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Sun, Apr 21, 2013 18:08 hrs
Mancini

London: Manchester City's slim hopes of retaining the Premier League title were all but extinguished as they collapsed to a 3-1 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Leading 1-0 through Samir Nasri's early goal with 15 minutes left, City seemed set to prolong the title race for another week at least but Tottenham scored three times in seven minutes to breathe life back into their bid for a top-four finish.

With five games left, City are 13 points behind Manchester United, who will seal a 20th English title if they beat relegation-threatened Aston Villa at home on Monday.



Clint Dempsey levelled for Spurs after 75 minutes before substitute Jermain Defoe curled a superb second four minutes later to turn the match on its head.

Gareth Bale's chip in the 82nd minute completed the comeback for the hosts, who moved level on 61 points with fourth-placed Chelsea, who face Liverpool later.

Third-placed Arsenal, who have played a game more than Spurs, have 63 points.

City manager Roberto Mancini was mystified by the defeat but said the title race had been over "three or four weeks ago".

"For 80 minutes we didn't concede a chance and we had two or three chances to score, it was all under control," he told reporters. "We lost because of two big mistakes."

Even his Tottenham counterpart Andre Villas-Boas admitted that defeat had looked the likely outcome.

"In the second half we found our rhythm," he said. "When we managed to score the first goal it was the key. We gained the momentum and the confidence and the emotions in the stadium changed and helped the team."

For much of the afternoon City looked comfortable against a Tottenham side whose season has hit the buffers of late, but they were guilty of sitting back after the break and were punished as Tottenham roared back to life.

Both sides needed a victory for differing reasons, although Tottenham's need was perhaps the greater as barring a calamitous United collapse the title already looked beyond Mancini's City side, who reached the FA Cup final last week.

Tottenham began brightly in the spring sunshine, with Bale, back after an ankle injury, in the thick of the action.

The home crowd were silenced when City took the lead with their first foray forward, however.

Carlos Tevez did well down the right to hold the ball up and, after occupying two Tottenham defenders, he slipped a clever pass for James Milner, whose low cross from the byline was prodded past Hugo Lloris by former Arsenal player Nasri.

Tottenham responded with Kyle Walker, who was lucky to escape serious injury from a rash tackle by Nasri that went unpunished, wasting a chance for Spurs when he was played in by a neat pass from Dempsey.

Nasri was inches away from making it 2-0 to City, who were dangerous on the break, while Lloris also saved his side when he plunged to keep out a Tevez header.

Tottenham enjoyed more of the ball after the break but with former City striker Emmanuel Adebayor almost anonymous in attack, a comeback did not look likely until manager Villas-Boas made some substitutions.

With time running out, however, a moment of hesitation by Vincent Kompany allowed Dempsey to slide in and convert Bale's low cross into the area.

Energised, Tottenham were ahead four minutes later when Lewis Holtby played a diagonal pass to fellow substitute Defoe on the left and the England striker cut in to fire a right-foot shot past the dive of Joe Hart.

Three minutes later Tom Huddlestone, another substitute, played in Bale, who produced a crafty chip to complete a remarkable victory and leave City crestfallen.

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