Ruben Dias and Erling Haaland vent their relief after the second goal. Alamy Stock Photo

City endure Spurs fans' bizarre and petty atmosphere to put one hand on the title

It wasn’t until Erling Haaland’s second goal that Spurs fans could breath easily: their side weren’t going to go and accidentally beat City.

IT WASN’T UNTIL the fourth official flashed up 10 minutes of added time and Erling Haaland slammed a penalty into the net that Spurs fans could exhale and breathe easily.

It was only then that they knew their side weren’t going to go and accidentally avoid defeat against Manchester City. 

Spurs fans have spent so long suffering they have now come up with new, novel means of torture: tonight was probably the first time Tottenham have been haunted by their own quality. 

It would have needed a rewriting of the dictionary definition. 

Spursy (adj.): to have failure in reach but to ultimately chuck it away.

Ange Postecoglu’s side were smartly set-up; they pressed with zest and carved out enough chances to take at least a point, but it wasn’t until they were secure in defeat that their jittery fans stirred to support them. 

“Are you watching Arsenal”, rang around the ground, Spurs fans happy to swallow their Champions League failure with the sweet, sweet chaser of Arsenal’s crushing disappointment. 

And this was a night of cruel and unusual punishment for Arsenal. 

It’s one thing to be crushed by another slick and remorseless City performance, but this will feel worse because they were awful. They were slow and sloppy, jittery and jangly; their passing was sclerotic and their movement was stodgy.  

Perhaps they were spooked by the sheer weirdness of the atmosphere. Spurs fans curbed their own instincts in service of their local rows, constantly checking their natural behaviour like they were having dinner with their in-laws. 

There was an instructive moment early in the first-half. The game was burbling along in obedient silence until James Maddison wasted a glorious counter-attacking opportunity by delaying a pass through to Son. The stadium instantly groaned: proof that frustration is the most primordial instinct in all of football. But aside from those momentary emotional lapses, Spurs fans largely held it together. They dutifully kept quiet and didn’t dare to be seen doing something as crude as encouraging their team in public. 

But ultimately the game swung on two Christian Romero challenges. He recoiled from the one into which he should have steamed, and steamed into the one from which he should have recoiled. 

First he diffidently lost a 50/50 with Phil Foden, who skated down the touchline and then pulled a pass across the pitch for Bernardo, who poked the ball through for Kevin De Bruyne, who in turn gave Erling Haaland a tap-in. For all of Pep Guardiola’s machined learning, City would achieve nothing without the independent thought of De Bruyne. The title race may have been settled weeks ago had he not missed half the season with injury. 

Later in the half Romero then charged into Ederson in pursuit of a cross, bashing the goalkeeper’s face with his hip. Ederson was forced from the field against his own will, throwing a teary-eyed tantrum that has aged poorly, given the introduction of Stefan Ortega salvaged City’s title. 

He quickly made a splayed save from Kulusevski before taking centre-stage five minutes from the end. City, utterly inhibited by their own nerves, tried to kill the game through aimless passing until Manuel Akanji had his Steven Gerrard moment, robbed by Brennan Johnson just inside his own half and left in Son’s slipstream.

There came four seconds of frenzied emotions. City fans drew their picture of disaster, Arsenal fans held an unbearable breath on the threshold of bliss, Spurs fans filtered quickly through their bizarre and tangled emotions. 

Guardiola fell in sync with each of Son’s strides clear, watching agog at the drama’s crescendo in pose for a glute activation. Ortega actually got his arse in gear. 

He ignored his manager’s example and didn’t go to ground, waiting for Son to pick his corner before jutting out his leg to deny Son save City, shatter Arsenal, and leave Spurs fumbling about in their confused emotional state. 

tottenham-hotspur-stadium-london-uk-14th-may-2024-premier-league-football-tottenham-hotspur-versus-manchester-city-ederson-of-manchester-city-kicks-a-cool-box-after-he-is-substituted-credit-ac Ederson's reaction to being taken off. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Five minutes later Doku was felled by Pedro Porro and the referee pointed to the spot in a moment of mass catharsis. Doku celebrated the penalty award like he had scored, and then Haaland smashed the ball into the net to liberate City into glory and Spurs fans into their petty consolations. 

City must merely beat West Ham on the final day to win the league: a West Ham side bidding a bitter goodbye to their manager who have nothing to play for and have beaten only Luton and Wolves in the last 10 weeks. 

So consider this as the night the title was won.

And consider it a muted, fraught, conflicted, utterly bizarre night. 

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