Desperate Pellegrini Clutching at Straws

Published: 04th May 2015 08:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th May 2015 08:18 AM   |  A+A-


Tottenham Hotspur 0 Manchester City 1

The Stamford Bridge celebration party was already in full swing by the time of kick-off across London at White Hart Lane but Manuel -Pelle-grini still made a futile attempt to pour cold water into all the -champagne being drunk in Chelsea.

Asked about the distance between Manchester City and Jose Mourinho's new champions, Pellegrini opted against any words of congratulations and instead comforted himself with a pointed and rather sour reference to last season. "I'm not thinking about the gap," Pellegrini said.

"Chelsea did what we did. They won the Premier League and the Capital One Cup. We did the same with more goals in another style. It is important for the Premier League and the fans to play attractive football. We scored 158 goals. We scored 102 in the Premier League. We are still the top scoring team this year. I hope we can continue as we have."

Pellegrini then recalled how -Chel-sea had shipped five goals on this ground earlier in the season and repeatedly complimented Tottenham Hotspur's attractive style of football.

The attempted comparison with Mourinho's pragmatism seemed obvious, as did the sense that -Pelle-grini has been emboldened by the now virtual guarantee of -Champions League football next -season. His clenched fists inside the away dugout on the final whistle -certainly suggested this was far from an unwanted consolation prize and perhaps also hinted at a personal lifeline.

A season of underachievement -cannot be disguised simply by a top four finish but there has been a school of thought inside the Etihad Stadium that, having won the Premier League last year, Pellegrini deserved another chance as long as City achieved the bare minimum of remaining in Europe's elite. This 1-0 win means that this is certain, barring the near impossible scenario of City losing their next three games and Liverpool winning theirs while also reversing a 24-goal swing.

With Manchester United losing on Saturday, City actually now ought to go at least one better by finishing in the top three to ensure they will also avoid an unwanted Champions League play-off in August. They are also certain to be active this summer in the transfer window.

"Congratulations to Chelsea," Joe Hart, City's goalkeeper, said. "It was well deserved to win the league. They know we'll be back next year, we'll get stronger, they will get stronger, other teams will get stronger."

City's first priority should be to ensure that Sergio Aguero does not get any serious thoughts of a better future elsewhere. He was the -outstanding player on display here and, in scoring a brilliant winner, also won the individual battle between the league's two leading goalscorers.

Aguero has now scored 28 goals in 30 games this season and has also opened a two-goal lead over Harry Kane in the race to be the Premier League's golden boot. Yet while Aguero provided the decisive cutting edge, City's spine did look fragile in the absence through injury of both Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure.

Eliaquim Mangala has rarely remotely looked like a pounds 42 million centre-back this season and his -positioning twice almost cost City in the opening minutes. First Eric Dier -completely evaded his attention from a corner before wastefully guiding his header wide and then Kane exploited space in City's defence only to also drag his attempted finish off target.

City were absorbing plenty of -pressure and possession but their pace and precise passing on the counter-attack still meant that they were soon creating the better chances. A cross by Aleksandar Kolarov was met with a first-time volley by Aguero that whistled only a few feet above the crossbar. City's winner soon followed direct from a Tottenham corner, with Hart quickly clearing to David Silva whose perfectly weighted through-ball released Aguero. Without -Tottenham's defence caught square, Aguero simply finished brilliantly into the top corner of Lloris' near-post.

Tottenham maintained their high intensity at the start of the second-half but still lacked City's guile in the final third. Tottenham fans did at least find one small reason to rejoice by the end of a frustrating 90 -minutes.

Samir Nasri, formerly of Arsenal, had been greeted by jeers when he came on as a substitute and was to depart literally seconds later to -gleeful cheers after suffering a groin injury. With Chelsea dominant at the top of the league, it had been a day for straw-clutching.

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