City started the new season with an impressive draw against a more than decent Tottenham side, but had Joe Hart to thank for a series of brilliant saves after being forced to weather fierce home pressure in the first half.
Shaun Wright-Phillips had City’s best chance moments after the break, but after a much-improved second half display, the Blues earned their point and partially ended Spurs’ dominance in this fixture in recent times.
Opening day games always seem to be played in bright summer sunshine, played against the backdrop of a colourful, shirt-sleeved crowd, but that wasn’t the case at an overcast, damp White Hart Lane.
This match was always going to be a sell-out with City and Spurs locking horns for the second time in three Premier League fixtures – the previous one ending with a win for Harry Redknapp’s men and a passage into the Champions League.
While the hosts started with ten of the 11 players that won 1-0 at the City of Manchester Stadium, Roberto Mancini handed League debuts to Aleksandar Kolarov, Yaya Toure and David Silva with fellow new signings Jerome Boateng ruled out through injury and Mario Balotelli unavailable.
With Carlos Tevez wearing the captain’s armband for the first time in a competitive game, possibly Mancini’s hardest decision was who started in goal with perhaps the two best goalkeepers in the country at his disposal.
He selected Hart ahead of Shay Given, though it is surely too soon to read anything into the decision at this stage with both men knowing they’ll need to be at the top of their game to keep the other man out.
As it transpired, it was Hart who proved the difference between the two teams in a Spurs-dominated first 45 minutes, with the England keeper making five breathtaking saves as the Blues just about weathered a lengthy storm.
First Hart stretched acrobatically to keep out Jermain Defoe on 11 minutes, then he beat out a Tom Huddlestone volley from 20-yards on 16 minutes out and then a deflected drive from Benoit Assou-Ekotto within the space of 60 seconds five minutes later.
And when Hart was finally beaten on the half-hour, the post came to City’s rescue as Gareth Bale’s low drive struck the inside of the post before being scrambled clear. Two minutes later and Hart was faced with a one-on-one with Defoe and after saving the initial shot, he bravely dived to punch the rebound clear when a goal seemed certain. It was some return to City colours for the 23-yaer-old!
The Blues were reliant on the occasional counter-attack, but Heurelho Gomes was never seriously troubled. A limping Kolarov was replaced by Pablo Zabaleta after the break and within a minute City should have gone ahead
...Spurs v City
Yaya Toure’s lofted ball found Wright-Phillips clear with just Gomes to beat, but he dithered and the chance went begging, much to his manager’s chagrin. City continued to probe forward with more menace as the contest wore on, though still wary of Tottenham’s threat.
With both managers keen to start the campaign with three points, Spurs changed their forward line on 67 minutes with Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Keane replacing Crouch and Defoe while Adam Johnson replaced Wright-Phillips.
If Spurs were the better team before the break, City certainly edged the second and in the final few minutes, Emmanuel Adebayor was sent on to try and find the break through, but with just seven minutes remaining, it was fine defending from Vincent Kompany who made two stunning last-ditch tackles in the space of a minute to keep the scores level and ensure City left North London with what was, ultimately, a deserved point.