FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 27TH APRIL, 2003
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) MANCHESTER UNITED 2 (0)
Van Nistelrooy, 90
Referee:- Jeff Winter (not Graham Barber as per advanced publicity)
Attendance:- 36, 073
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr, King, Richards (sub Gardner, 30), Taricco; Davies, Toda (sub Iversen, 77), Poyet, Etherington (sub Bunjevcevic, 77); Sheringham (Capt), Keane
Subs not used:- Sullivan; Acimovic
Man Utd (4-4-2):- Carroll; Brown (sub G. Neville, 54), Ferdinand, Silvestre, O'Shea; Beckham, Keane (Capt), Scholes, Solskjaer (sub Fortune, 71); Giggs, Van Nistelrooy
Subs not used:- Ricardo; Blanc; Forlan
No Spurs fan really expected anything out of this game did they? I have heard several calls expressing bitterness at the Spurs regime on the way home, which belonged to other occasions, not this one. The fact is that Spurs battled honourably, and thanks to first half man of the match Kasey Keller, they kept the rampant Man Utd attack at bay until mid-way through the second half. We didn't stretch Roy Carroll in the Man Utd goal, but we certainly did our best to keep the opposition out, and no Arsenal fan should complain at the efforts of our team today. However, with Man Utd now 5 points clear at the top, despite the Gooners' game in hand, it was hard to walk away from this game feeling too disappointed!
United lined up with Silvestre in central defence alongside Ferdinand, and O'Shea on the left, whilst Wes Brown took up station at right back, being replaced by Gary Neville after 54 minutes. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played on the left, with Giggs partnering Van Nistelrooy, although Giggs and Solskjaer would swap roles occasionally. Anthony Gardner was left on the bench for Spurs who maintained a two man central defence, giving Toda another start in the middle and playing Poyet deeper in midfield than usual. In fact, Gus played the same role as he did in the second half at West Brom, and he had a pretty good game.
I have to report that off the top of my head I can only recall two good things that Sheringham did in the whole game. One was a great threaded ball to Etherington, the other a chipped ball to substitute Iversen which nearly led to a goal by Bunjevcevic, who replaced Etherington on 77 minutes at the same time Toda was withdrawn for Iversen. Other than that, Sheringham was guilty of numerous misplaced or lackadaisical balls. Toda had another reasonable game, but he too was guilty of several badly directed passes that put the team under pressure.
Spurs were put under pressure from the start as Van Nistelrooy got behind Richards, and Keller made the first of a number of good if not great saves. Next to try it on was Solskjaer cutting in from the left, thwarted by a saving tackle from Ledley King to great applause. Roy Keane started the next attack with a threaded ball to Scholes, who fed Giggs, who shot straight to Keller. The signs were not good for Spurs!
However, it was after 11 minutes that Teddy sent Matthew Etherington away with a great ball down the inside left channel. Matty raced into the box, but was smothered by the advancing Carroll. Four minutes later Davies was fouled out on the right, Etherington took the kick and Dean Richards rose at the back post, but glanced his header wide.
The Reds advanced in force after 20 minutes. Beckham, Scholes, Giggs and Brown combined before Van Nistelrooy got a shot just outside Kasey's left post. Spurs showed they were not just there to defend with a slow build up, as Ledley got forward and passed inside from the right to Gus Poyet. Poyet hit a good right foot shot from 20 yards but straight to Carroll. Giggs got the ball through Ledley King's legs and Van Nistelrooy had yet another chance to increase his tally for the season. Kasey got enough on the shot to take the sting out, and enable the ball to be cleared behind him.
Dean Richards had to be replaced by Anthony Gardner on the half hour, then Beckham crossed from the right, and that man Van Nistelrooy headed goalward, but the ball was tipped over by Keller who has had a great season for Tottenham. But for him, this could have been a rout today. Kasey's next and possibly best bit of work was to bravely dive to Van Nistelrooy's feet at he took time over his shot after Roy Keane had threaded the ball through Spurs defence. Simon Davies had a shot on target from a corner, but it was possibly stopped by one of his team-mates in front of the South Stand.
Spurs had held their own at the interval, and the mood was good. After all, it was an entertaining end to end game of football. (Mostly at our end!) A minute after the break Solskjaer ran into space from the left, hit a shot from 22 yards, which Keller pushed over his bar for a corner. There was a great cameo between the two Irish ex-team-mates Keane and Keane, as Robbie sought to take advantage of a back header from his former International captain, but then Roy recovered with the help of his friends, and enjoyed a tussle on the touchline. Robbie also tried to creep up on Carroll as he did against Birmingham, but Carroll was wise to his ploy.
As the one hour mark approached, Van Nistelrooy had yet another chance, when he headed a Giggs cross wide. Then Solskjaer passed inside to Giggs, who beat King, then shot across the goalmouth. I was just saying how Spurs had done well not to concede a free kick in Beckham territory, when the inevitable happened, but Kasey was able to push the 28 yard effort round the corner.
Spurs attacks were few and far between, but Robbie broke away, and had Etherington available on his left. He chose however to feed Carr who was on the right edge of the area. Carr entered the box, but the attack broke down, then Man Utd countered with another Van Nistelrooy shot across goal - this time from the right. The almost inevitable goal came after 68 minutes, when Beckham sent a long cross from fully 45 yards out; Carr failed to make his header to cut it out (Scholes had headed it on), and Giggs was able to send a short cross onto Scholes head at the back post. The Spurs fans chanted "Are you watching Arsenal". One day we hope to sing of our own glories again.
Hoddle made his double substitution, and Robbie Keane played towards the left, whilst Bunjee took the holding midfield role, and Gus was allowed further forward. Somehow Sheringham had escaped replacement, when surely it was warranted. With seven minutes left, Gus nearly equalised when he headed a Carr free kick just wide. Scholes had been lucky to avoid a booking when he was too close to the free kick when it was first taken, but full marks to referee Winter who kept his cards in his pocket, and chose friendly advice rather than stricter measures. Spurs had one more chance when Sheringham sent that chip to Iversen, who headed down for Bunjevcevic entering the area, only to be deprived of the ball before getting a chance to pull the trigger.
With a minute to go, Gardner fluffed a clearance and Giggs latched onto the ball, only to be thwarted by the dependable Keller. Then in injury time came the coup-de-grace. Carr had his hands in the air appealing for a throw as his ball down the line was deflected by a United player above but not over the line. Fortune raced away, and fed Van Nistelrooy on the right inside the box, who finally found the net with a low drive. The United fans were in raptures, and understandably believe that "their" trophy is on its way back to Old Trafford. Spurs just have to play out the season.
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