FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 9TH SEPTEMBER, 2006
MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee: - Mike Riley
Attendance: - 75,453 (New Premiership Record)
Man Utd (4-4-2):- Van Der Sar; Neville (Capt.), Ferdinand, Brown, Evra; Ronaldo (sub Silvestre, 90), Carrick (sub Fletcher, 79), O’Shea, Richardson (sub Park, 69); Saha, Giggs
Subs not used: - Kuszczak; Solskjaer
Booked: - Richardson, Evra
Spurs (4-3-2-1):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.) (sub Murphy, 80), Ekotto; Ghaly, Zokora, Davids (sub Ziegler, 56); Jenas, Mido; Keane (sub Defoe, 56)
(Captain’s armband handed to Robinson when King was substituted)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Huddlestone
Booked: - Mido, Ghaly
It was a sucker goal that beat Spurs at Old Trafford in front of the latest Premiership record crowd yesterday. The hyper-active Edgar Davids had been punished about 30 yards out, and boo-boy Ronaldo stepped up to hit the free kick with the low sun behind him, and the ball swerving slightly from left to right. Paul Robinson chose to have no wall, and failed to hold the kick. The ball fell to Ryan Giggs (likely to become United’s second longest serving player this season), whose header bounced down off the under-side of the bar and crossed the line. The ball wasn’t as far over as Pedro Mendes disallowed shot of January 2005, but of course it counted!
Spurs deserved something out of the game. We have learnt since that the reason for the complete absence of Aaron Lennon was a knee injury sustained in Friday’s training, and that was one factor that led to Martin Jol giving Mido’s compatriot Hossam Ghaly a debut in this massive arena. After the first 20 minutes, Spurs settled and managed plenty of possession, with quite a few goal-scoring opportunities, but only one which really tested Van Der Sar, and that came from our central defenders.
Despite the loss of three of our opening four games, there was plenty of evidence in this game for Spurs fans to look forward to next week’s game in Prague, and the remainder of the season. Pascal Chimbonda made an impressive debut, not only defending stoutly, but also threatening down the right flank, and also worrying Van Der Sar with a second half chipped cross near the bar. Didier Zokora got better and better as the game progressed, winning good ball in the middle, under pressure. Ledley King was back, and in his usual immaculate form, although he was taken off just before the end of the game, probably as a precaution as he had gone down with cramp. Michael Dawson and Ekotto also defended well. Indeed Ekotto managed to do just enough against the advancing Saha late in the game to perhaps diminish the strength of shot that keeper Paul Robinson saved.
United were of course missing Rooney and Scholes, serving the last of a three match suspension, but they have won their first four games, and deservedly top the Premiership. They’ve got some tough games ahead including Arsenal next week, and we all wish them well in that one!
Ryan Giggs played in support of Louis Saha at the front, but of course, he and Ronaldo would turn up on the left or right flank at times. The Spurs formation was different, and seemed to feature two banks of midfielders behind Robbie Keane – a lone front-runner. Ghaly, Zokora and Davids played right to left behind Jenas and Mido. Mido was on the left throughout the first half, and only switched roles with Keane in the second half. I thought Jenas had a good start to this game, and he supported Keane well.
Ronaldo gave Paul Robinson a shot after the Portuguese winger cut in from the right and hit a low left foot shot across the goal. This one was held by Robbo, but soon after came that Giggs goal to put Spurs under more pressure than necessary too early in the game. Ex-Spur Michael Carrick teased us with a good ball to Gary Neville down the right channel, and after the corner, Ghaly had to clear the ball in front of the back post. After 21 minutes, Jenas battled for the ball in front of the United defence (he might have even won against Carrick!), and after a one-two with Robbie Keane, Jenas fired his shot over the right corner of Van Der Sar’s goal.
At the other end, Richardson fired wide, before Ekotto got inside the United area after beating Neville, but his cross came to nought. After enjoying a period of possession, Edgar Davids was lucky to get a second chance with a pass, and it was Michael Dawson who tried to lob the ball over the United keeper, who reached up to keep it out. The ball fell to Ledley, who could not get any meat on the shot. Mido won a battle with Ferdinand to feed Davids, but again there was no end product for all Spurs dangerous possession. Before the break, a dangerous cross came from Giggs on the left, beat Paul Robinson, and also beat Gary Neville beyond the goal.
Spurs started well after the break, and Jenas, having won a first corner, had a shot over the top from a second. Then came Chimbonda’s impressive run and cross, tipped over for a corner by the keeper. Martin Jol made a double substitution, with Defoe replacing Keane and Ziegler on for Davids. However, United started to threaten on the break, and Ronaldo had a powerful right footed shot from a sharp angle tipped over by Robinson.
Richardson fouled Defoe near the half-way line, and to his credit, referee Mike Riley saw that Defoe was getting up and with the ball, so he allowed play-on. Defoe continued his run, but sadly didn’t manage a decent effort on goal. Richardson got a deserved yellow when the play eventually did come to an end. A classic Dawson long diagonal ball found Ekotto on the left. He sent over a good cross, and Defoe headed (or should I say shouldered) over from a scoring position. Zokora and Mido started a move which Mido should have ended with a goal, as he tamely headed Ghaly’s cross into Van Der Sar’s hands.
Carrick was substituted to the sound of “What a waste of money”! from the Spurs fans, and Murphy replaced Ledley with ten minutes to go. Then came the Ekotto battle against Saha and the save by Paul Robinson. You know that you’ve done well at Old Trafford when Sir Alex uses up as much precious injury time with a late substitution of Ronaldo, whilst Spurs prepared for a corner, and when you hear the sound of 70,000 (muppets) whistles urging on the referee. In that injury time, Mido had another chance with a looping header that landed on top of the net.
Spurs gave United their toughest test of the season to date, but nil points is no compensation. It is imperative that after Prague, Spurs beat Fulham next Sunday at The Lane. After that, Anfield beckons!
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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