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Champions League, here we come!

Posted on 5 May 2010  - 12:00

Peter Crouch headed us into the Champions League on a night to remember at Eastlands.

Champions League, here we come!

Peter Crouch headed us into the Champions League on a night to remember at Eastlands.

The striker scored the most important goal of our recent history with eight minutes left to guarantee fourth place in the Premier League.

Younes Kaboul carved out the opening with a dart down the right, his cross was parried out by Marton Fulop and Crouch was in the right place at the right time to nod home from close range.

And it was no more than we deserved on this night of nights in Manchester.

Starting the match a point ahead of City with two games remaining, there was no hint of sitting back and settling for a draw.

Instead, Aaron Lennon returned to the right, Gareth Bale bombed up and down the left and it was Luka Modric and Tom Huddlestone in central midfield, two forward-thinking players to provide the ammunition for two strikers, Crouch and Jermain Defoe.

City had the better of the early exchanges but first Gomes and then Dawson were alive to Tevez breaks from the left channel.

We settled into our play and carved out the first serious opening after 18 minutes. Bale whipped a free-kick to the far post where Crouch climbed above Kompany and with the angle against him, planted a header square onto the post from six yards.

If that was close, it looked like we'd broken the deadlock just three minutes later.

Once again, Bale's vicious delivery caused City problems, this time from a corner, and King rose above Barry to head home from 10 yards.

There were few arguments from the home defenders as King wheeled away - only for the celebrations to be cut short by referee Mr Bennett, the goal chalked off for a foul.

City came back into it and Gomes was forced into two fine saves. The first came after 27 minutes, a full-length parry from Johnson's piledriver and then an even better save to turn the ball away when Bale inadvertently deflected Barry's cross towards his own goal.

The final chance of the half arrived for Bale, who skidded a shot inches wide from Crouch's knockdown.

There were no changes at the break and City started well again, Dawson forced to clear the danger after Barry turned Johnson's cross into the danger area.

Ex-Spur Fulop then produced the save of the match to deny Defoe after Bale's clever pass opened City up on the left of the box. Defoe aimed low for the far corner and Fulop's fingertips managed to divert the ball wide.

Barry limped out of the action replaced by Vieira on the hour as the game became more and more stretched.

The opening goal was within touching distance in the 70th minute when Bale crossed low and first Defoe and then Crouch slid in - the ball must have grazed their studs in front of goal, but somehow evaded both.

Lennon gave everything and was replaced by Bentley in the 71st minute, Wright-Phillips also entering the fray for Johnson.

We then carved out the chance of the night. Bale hit an early cross from the left touchline and Crouch rose majestically to meet it 10 yards out. But just as we waited for the net to bulge, Fulop somehow kept the ball out with his feet.

Then the moment we've been waiting for.

Kaboul took the initiative down the right, burst past Bellamy to the byline and fired in a cross that Fulop could only beat out and Crouch was there to head home from six yards.

The elation was tangible - eight minutes plus stoppage time from the Champions League.

Believe it or not, we actually carried the bigger threat for those final few minutes!

City created nothing and two minutes into added time, Fulop had to be at his best to turn away Pavlyuchenko's effort from the edge of the box.

The final whistle brought sheer elation from players and fans alike, with the whole squad off the bench and straight over to the travelling thousands.

It was our night - one we won't forget in a hurry.

City: Fulop; Zabaleta, Toure, Kompany, Bridge; Barry (Vieira, 60), De Jong, Johnson (Wright-Phillips, 71); Bellamy (Santa Cruz, 84), Tevez, Adebayor. Subs: Richards, Onouha, Sylvinho, Nielsen.

Spurs: Gomes; Kaboul, Dawson, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Bentley, 71), Huddlestone, Modric (Palacios, 89), Bale; Crouch, Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 81). Subs: Alnwick, Bassong, Jenas, Gudjohnsen.