That End of Term Feeling

Posted by Simon Curtis

School's about to break up for the summer. To be frank, lessons have become a bit of a drag. You're not going to finish top of the class but you have secured your place in the high grade for next term. You will once again be spouting poetry and firing pellets amongst the clever fellows with the slick partings and the shiny shoes. The sun is shining down on you and your attention is beginning to wander to those lazy days of July chasing girls across flower-adorned meadows and watching seagulls circle over the local rubbish dump. Hopes of warm sips of lager top and the odd love bite here and there drift in and out of your shimmering consciousness.

- Martin: Spurs stage epic rally
- Delaney: Gone in 360 seconds

Then bang, quicker than Luis Suarez can sink his teeth into a six-foot Serbian, three goals flash by your nose and a walk in the park down in London suddenly melts in your cupped hands. As this melting sensation takes a hold, you realise that none of this really needed to have been this messy after all.

Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesJust like that, City and Joe Hart found themselves the victims of a flurry of Spurs goals.

City's season has been cantering gently toward this kind of denouement for several months now. The shortcomings have been aired time and time again -- the reasons, the excuses, the stale air and the disgruntled burps of frustration. This has been the soundtrack to a season of missed opportunities in the sky blue camp. Still trundling, still free-wheeling toward a possible end of season decorated with silverwear, there is a distinct second-place feel to City this April.

At White Hart Lane, an early lead perhaps was the last thing they needed. A sloppy Spurs, out of sorts and wayward in its passing, seemed too good to be true, Nasri's early volley was delicious in its precision and the Frenchman, in newly rejuvenated guise, could have had a second when Tevez's delightful cushioned pass on the volley put him through. As a slick shimmy and a swivel carried the Frenchman into a face-to-face confrontation with his countryman Hugo Lloris, the two could see the whites of each others eyes, as Nasri's toe-poke put the ball just wide of the far post.

Two-nil at that stage would have killed the game stone dead. However, a slender 1-0 half time lead felt a little precarious and -- although it took an increasingly bold Spurs most of the second half to wake up to the reality of what possibilities the game might still offer them -- this was eventually proved by a three-goal blast in the final 15 minutes.

It is hard to remember the last time a City side capitulated quite so spectacularly. The mind wanders back to the gory days of Mark Hughes and an inept, limp performance at White Hart Lane, of all places. A 3-0 defeat then felt like a solid blow between the shoulder blades. This one, enabling United to secure the title as early as Monday night against Aston Villa, felt like someone inexperienced with knives was attempting to remove your kidneys.

In amongst the fun there had been some slices of tactical jiggery pokery to sway things one way and not the other. Both changes, by either manager, one chosen the other forced, seemed to work irrevocably in Spurs' favour. The first half had seen City boss things comfortably without putting the game to bed. The depth and desperation in the two squads had been ideally portrayed by an immediate return for Gareth Bale (who was anonymous for most of the first half) and a continued recuperation for Silva and Aguero, despite the latter making the bench.

Villas Boas eventually changed the shape of his side to go 4-3-3, with Defoe finally coming on to show Adebayor what a sharp and interested striker should look like. The long thin man from Togo had earlier told anyone who was prepared to listen that City was a team of individuals and he spent some time here displaying what he meant by this. City's change came when the energetic Milner did not return for the second half, leaving Mancini to fling on the slightly less dynamic form of Aleksander Kolarov instead.

The game turned on 75 minutes with Kompany twice the nearest man to the mess as first Dempsey was allowed to score at the back post as the captain stopped moving, then Defoe did the business with a swerve past the Belgian and an unerring finish past Joe Hart. It felt a little like three points thrown to the four winds, but, in truth, more important points had gone west much earlier in the season, when the race for the title was still an open competition.

With the school bell ringing time in the background, it was clear that this time the game was up. The end of term report will read, "the student's standard of work remains high, but he has dropped somewhat from last term's excellence. He should take time this summer to recharge the batteries and strive to reach the levels that we all know he is capable of...".

ESPN Conversations