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Match Reports
Manchester United v Spurs, 04.01.05


What the officials did not see. Roy Carroll reaches a yard into the goal to paw the ball back into play Referee:- Mr. M. Clattenburg

Attendance:- 67, 962

Man Utd (4-5-1):- Carroll; P. Neville, Ferdinand, Silvestre, Heinze; Ronaldo (sub Spector, 83), Fletcher (sub Miller, 75), Scholes, Keane (Capt.), Giggs (sub Bellion, 36); Smith

Subs not used:- Ricardo; Djemba-Djemba

Booked:- Neville

Spurs (4-5-1):- Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King (Capt.), Edman; Ricketts (sub Gardner, 89), Marney, Carrick, Mendes, Ziegler; Keane

Subs not used:- Fulop; Ifil, Bunjevcevic; Yeates

Booked:- Pamarot, Marney

Pedro Mendes produced a touch of Nayim-type magic in the closing minutes of this game, and United Goalkeeper Roy Carroll managed a blunder exceeding Seaman proportions to give an injury-decimated Spurs side a win of monumental proportions.

Well, that's how the report should have started, and you will all have seen the historic error made by the officials (Referee Clattenburg and Linesman Lewis), as Carroll blundered when Mendes hit a fantastic effort from half-way, and the keeper let the ball slip out of his hands like a bar of soap to fall AT LEAST ONE FULL YARD over the line. Carroll pawed the ball back into the field of play, but he looked crest-fallen initially until he realised the goal had not been given. All he had to do for the closing minutes was hide his embarrassment, as the Spurs fans chanted "1-0 to the Tottenham". The officials were oblivious though to what they had missed, and Spurs nearly suffered the ultimate injustice as Robinson had to make a great save to keep out Heinze's free kick on the edge of the area, where Rio Ferdinand had fallen under Edman's challenge.

Sir Alex Ferguson claimed after the game, that Ferdinand should have had a penalty and that this decision balanced out the "goal" not given. Rubbish! Spurs were cheated out of a goal, and this was not the only incident of cheating by the home side, who failed to follow the usual drill of throwing the ball back to Spurs after Robbie Keane had hit the ball out of play from an attacking position, when a team-mate was down. Add to that at least one forceful elbow to Keane from Heinze, and Spurs can safely take the moral high ground after what was still a great result.

Both sides were missing key players, and it was a big disappointment that Spurs were unable to field Defoe, Kanoute, or Brown. With United missing Van Nistelrooy and Rooney, both sides played a lone striker, but the United midfield each had license to get forward in full support of Alan Smith. Spurs, featuring youngsters Dean Marney and Rohan Ricketts in the midfield, and of course, 18-year old Reto Ziegler, matched the United formation, but for much of the first half failed to make use of what little possession they did get in the United half, with Ricketts in particular struggling to make an impact.

Both sides also had more or less their first choice defences out, with the exception of Phil Neville playing at right back for the home side. Robbie Keane was given the difficult task of trying to hold the ball up against Ferdinand and Silvestre, and in the circumstances he did a magnificent job over the 90 minutes, running himself into the ground for the cause. Marney played inside the wide men, with Carrick and Mendes, but Dean had the instructions to support Keane whenever possible, which was not often! In the second half, Ziegler provided Spurs best outlet, with some great passing runs, and with his assistance to Edman in defensive positions.

The first threat from the home side came after 7 minutes, when Giggs crossed from the left just in front of Smith in the 6 yard box. Three minutes later, Spurs registered the first shot on target, after good play by Mendes in the middle sending a ball that Keane snatched off the defence, and hit a quick shot low to Carroll's left corner. It was easy meat for the keeper. A minute later, a Giggs corner reached Roy Keane beyond the back post. He chipped the ball back into the centre, where Ronaldo pushed the ball to Smith, whose flick was just reached by Robinson for another corner.

United were on top, but Spurs were holding out well, but there was danger after 26 minutes, when Smith got behind the defence. A cross was half cleared by Naybet, and Roy Keane hit a shot from 25 yards just outside the post. Scholes later got the run of the ball, which fell to Smith, forcing another great save from Robinson with his legs. Giggs had to be replaced early by Bellion, and just before the break, Carroll made his first error as he let the ball run free in his area, with Robbie Keane at his heels. Robbie fed the ball via Ziegler to Mendes, who hit a good effort falling on Carroll's net.

After the break, Robinson had to save from Ronaldo's low shot from distance, as Smith passed to the left, but Spurs showed signs of taking the game more to their opponents with a foray from Ricketts and Keane where the ball passed just ahead of Ziegler. Robinson then had to be sharp to Bellion's advance, saving almost at the youngster's feet. One lucky escape for Spurs came when Pamarot's attempt at a back-pass or clearance beat Robbo and rebounded off the post out of danger.

Marney went down in the United area after good play by Robbie Keane, but it was the United skipper who successfully and lawfully challenged Marney. Spurs were now getting more and more possession, and their confidence was building. There were no more clear chances though until that incredible incident in the 88th minute. Carroll had just raced about 35 yards out of his goal to make one clearance, and had only just made his ground when Mendes saw the opportunity and hit a fantastic "up and Under" shot that has led to one of the greatest controversies in football in recent years. Sky News has rightly been giving blanket coverage to the Tsunami disaster in Asia, but even in these circumstances, Sky gave space to the "Spurs goal" in their headlines.

It's an incident sure to be spoken about for ages. I do remember another "goal" in the Seventies, where a rocket shot hit the stanchion inside the goal, and bounced back into play, un-noticed by the officials. If players can be suspended due to "Trial by television" after the game, then why can't Spurs have their three points?

Nonetheless this was still a great result for a Spurs side now unbeaten in 8 successive games, and provided we can get our key strikers back, we should be able to match Chelsea on January 15th.

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