FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 21ST SEPTEMBER, 2002
MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Van Nistelrooy, 63 (pen)
Referee:- Rob Styles
Man Utd (4-4-2):- Barthez; P. Neville, Ferdinand, O'Shea, Silvestre; Beckham (Capt), Butt, Veron (sub G. Neville, 75), Giggs (sub Pugh, 84); Solskjaer (sub Forlan, 75), Van Nistelrooy
Subs not used:- Ricardo; Stewart
Booked:- Van Nistelrooy
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Davies, Richards, Doherty, Thatcher; Iversen (sub Ferdinand, 75), Redknapp, Bunjevcevic, Etherington; Sheringham (Capt) (sub Acimovic, 84), Keane
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Henry (no. 37), Ricketts (no. 27)
Despite having a team and a half out through injury, Spurs improvised and gave a very creditable performance at "The Theatre of Dreams" today. Simon Davies had to play at right back, with Steffen Iversen just in front of him. Man Utd were really only missing Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, and charged at Spurs as relentlessly as any "Reds" team seen in recent years. Kasey Keller was once again a hero for Spurs, with a fine repertoire of saves, whilst Doherty and Richards, and even Simon Davies, got some saving tackles in as the red horde came at us.
However, for all our efforts, we did go down, albeit to a penalty given after Gary Doherty (having got away with a similar foul against Van Nistelrooy a minute before) was adjudged to have brought down Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as he threatened Keller's goal. The second half until that point had been as exciting as any football seen by Spurs fans this season, with the visitors genuinely threatening to score, never more so than when Dean Richards struck straight at Barthez from close range.
Ronnie Henry (the great Ron's grandson) and Rohan Ricketts were drafted onto the bench, but never got an appearance. What an introduction it would have been, especially for Henry, who last week played for the under 19s in front of about 30 souls, and today limbered up in front of over 67,000!
United's first threat came after just three minutes, when Phillip Neville got to the bye line on the right, and crossed back towards Van Nistelrooy, who was thwarted by Doherty and Keller. Then Solskjaer was heading the ball into the path of Veron, whose low shot went wide. Spurs were on the back foot for much of the opening spell, but forced a great save from Barthez after 13 minutes, when Etherington made a typical run, cut inside to feed Jamie Redknapp, who passed back to Bunjevcevic, about 28 yards from goal. Bunjee's left foot shot was just tipped round for a corner by the keeper.
Simon Davies got a vital boot in against Van Nistelrooy before Iversen sent a great long ball to Etherington who again provided a good ball for Robbie Keane who tried an overhead kick, but which was comfortable for Barthez. On 22 minutes, Beckham broke through the defence, but Kasey was well-positioned on his 6 yard line to save the England Captain's low shot. Beckham collected the rebound, but could only scoop the ball over. Spurs broke out, and there was an off the ball incident between Van Nistelrooy and Dean Richards leading to both of them getting booked.
Robbie Keane gave Iversen time and space on the right after a Spurs throw from the left, but despite having time to measure a shot, Iversen sent the ball high and wide. Spurs, under plenty of pressure were making some mistakes at the back. First Dean Richards seemed to hesitate to go for a ball, leaving Solskjaer to break through with only Keller to beat. Our Kasey made a great diving save to his right to deprive the striker, who had hit a powerful shot. Then Matthew Etherington gave the ball away in a dodgy position, and Gary Doherty had to make a saving tackle when Van Nistelrooy took advantage.
Keller has made many crucial saves this season, and will take some ousting from goal when Neil Sullivan regains fitness. Kasey was soon in action after the break. First he had to stretch to his right to save again from Van Nistelrooy, then to his left to parry a 30 yard free kick from Beckham. Spurs fans will say that Beckham was lucky not to get booked for scything tackle on Etherington in the middle, but "The Theatre of Dreams" seems to be about dreaming of getting a decision in your favour. Spurs had a couple of handball appeals turned down, and one or two blatant corners given the wrong way by Styles. You can guarantee that any decision against Man Utd is challenged with the relevant official, and that really winds me up!
Barthez must have been in danger of handling the ball, when he raced 40 yards up field to smother Robbie Keane. Back in the Spurs goal, Kasey made a great save with his feet from Van Nistelrooy again, who had been teed up by Solskjaer. The Spurs crowd hit a crescendo as their best chance came after 58 minutes. Following a corner on the left, Robbie Keane lifted a ball to the back post, where Iversen headed back for Richards to finish off with a shot from no more than six yards. Barthez was in exactly the right place to clear the ball, but Deano should have directed the ball over or past him.
Then came the two penalty incidents, and Van Nistelrooy made no mistake sending Kasey the wrong way, and slotting the ball to the keeper's left corner. Spurs took the game to United, but the cutting difference between the sides was the hosts ability to find their men from any position, and at speed, whereas Spurs (especially Bunjevcevic) wanted too much time on the ball, and showed panic at the back, when composure was an option. Bunjevcevic is very keen to get the ball onto his left foot before moving the game on.
Spurs did win a free kick down the right, which Redknapp took quickly. Richards rose to meet the ball, and headed way over the target, when he should have hit the target. Giggs found Van Nistelrooy who left Doherty in his wake, but could not beat Keller in open play. The game lost some of its rhythm, due to the substitutions. Acimovic won one or two free kicks. Keller made a cosy save from Beckham, receiving the ball from Forlan, and Spurs could have had an equaliser in the closing stages, when Barthez could only parry a low cross/shot from Etherington, but there was no white shirt following up.
The away support was marvellous today. We were rightly proud of our boys today, and mutual appreciation was shown at the end of proceedings. So - Man Utd start their drive to return to their usual spot in the league, whilst Spurs - still above Man Utd - dropped to third, and could drop lower after the remaining matches this week-end. Despite the result, it was a good game, and a great day out.
Chant of the day:-
1-0 and you still don't sing!
1-0 and you still don't sing!
· Index to the Spurs Odyssey Premiership Review and League Table
· Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here
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