It’s the fine margins that can decide individual games and even titles and there were some very fine margins in today’s game at the Etihad Stadium. Had Webb’s head been facing the right way at the crucial point I believe that he would have had no option but to send Balotelli off. Had Bale either not put as much pace on his pass, or had Defoe been a shade quicker Spurs would surely have been celebrating a win. As it was, deep into injury time King committed an uncharacteristic foul that allowed Balotelli to win the game at the death.
And what a game! After a very cagey first half with both sides probing with very little penetration City, having been allowed too much space in the middle – particularly Silva and Nasri - went two goal s to the good. There was some poor defending involved in both of these goals, particularly from Walker – his inexperience showing but two goals to the good who would have bet against a city win at that point.
This however is not a Spurs team that rolls over and within a couple of minutes a long clearance from Kaboul caught Savic out and Defoe ran onto the loose ball and clinically dispatched it into the net. Within a few minutes it was Bales turn to show city that they are vunerable and a fine strike was placed into the top corner leaving Hart with no chance.
The remainder of the game was frenetic and in my opinion Spurs looked the most likely to snatch the three points. Bales ball across the box near the end of the game was just centimetres away from being perfect. Defoe’s run onto that ball was centimetres away from being perfect. Fine margins and you just knew that City would nick it. And so it was at the death as King brought down Balotelli and conceded the penalty with around ten seconds left on the clock.
But the title may have swung on the earlier Balotelli incident. Replays clearly showed a deliberate stamp on Parkers head right in front of Howard Webb. Normally I would be slating Webb but watching the replays I do not think he saw it. (If he says he did and took no action I agree with Souness in the TV studio who said he should not be refereeing if that was the case.) No, I think Webb’s eyes followed the ball and he will have missed the stamp. What will probably happen now is that Balotelli will be retrospectively punished with a lengthy ban, and rightly so. But that will not help us and City have already bagged three points that arguably they did not deserve. Fine margins.
So what about us now? The bookies have already lengthened our odds for the title as you would expect. No doubt the press will already have written us off but we are still only 8 points behind City . I have seen bigger margins overturned and they will drop points in the run in. We are still 5 points in front of Chelsea so nothing much has changed in my opinion.
There will be a lot more fine margins to come this season. Hopefully some will come our way.
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