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Man Utd v Spurs, 27.01.08


Tevez, 38
Ronaldo, 69 (pen), 88

Spurs scorer:- Keane,24

Referee: - Mr. P. Walton

Attendance: - 75,369

Man Utd (4-4-2):- Van Der Sar; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Brown, Evra (sub Simpson, 90); Ronaldo, Carrick (sub Scholes, 64). Hargreaves, Giggs (Capt.); Rooney, Tevez (sub Anderson, 80)

Subs not used: - Kuszczak; Nani

Booked: - Evra

Spurs (4-4-2):- Cerny; Lee (sub Gunter, 59), Dawson, Huddlestone, O’Hara; Lennon (sub Boateng, 72), Jenas, Tainio (sub Defoe, 80), Malbranque; Berbatov, Keane (Capt.)

Subs not used: - Robinson; Kaboul

No Bookings

Sent off (deliberate Handball in area):- Dawson, 67

We “handed” it to them!

After taking a sensational 24th minute lead and thereafter putting up a brave fight, Spurs ultimately “handed” the tie to the hosts, who dominated second half possession, and were rewarded with two Ronaldo goals to add to the first half equaliser by Tevez. I say we “handed” it to them, as at 1-1, Michael Dawson stumbled inside the 6 yard box, near Cerny’s right post, and was losing out in his challenge against Rooney. With his back to the referee, Dawson put the ball out with his hand, no doubt hoping not to be noticed, but the home fans behind the goal helped the referee, who had seemed to hesitate for a moment. Ronaldo took a confident penalty and with a second goal that was deflected under Cerny with two minutes to go that was it, and Spurs knew they could concentrate on one domestic cup this year!

The game was not all about the penalty though, and Spurs continue to win acclaim from fans and pundits alike. Juande Ramos’s team selection was intriguing to say the least. He was forced to replace the suspended Chimbonda, and did that by switching Lee to right back. Lee’s place was taken by Jamie O’Hara, and with Ledley King seemingly playing alternate games to be nursed through the season, Tom Huddlestone stepped in again, and to good effect. Once again, Teemu Tainio was given the defensive midfield role behind Jenas, and once again Jenas got forward more often. In fact, Jenas had two excellent chances to score either side of the interval, and Spurs might have been 3-1 up.

O’Hara had been given the task of facing up to one of the world’s best players – Cristiano Ronaldo. Helped by Steed Malbranque on many occasions, O’Hara held out very well, and it was only when Sir Alex Ferguson instructed Ronaldo to move into the middle more after the break, that he started to cause more problems for the Spurs defence. One of Spurs’ problems of course was that if it wasn’t Ronaldo running at the defence, it was Giggs, or Tevez, or Rooney!

In an exciting opening phase, Spurs gave the home side plenty to think about as the game went from end to end. Rooney was chasing a long clearance by Van Der Sar after just two minutes, but Lee did well to get back and make a clearance. Next minute, Robbie Keane threaded a ball for Jenas, who took the ball to the bye line and pulled it back to no-one, when he should have found a team-mate. Many from the home crowd were on their feet when a Ryan Giggs shot hit the side netting, but Spurs had survived, despite affording the United skipper too much space on their right flank. Spurs were defending well, insofar as they smothered the United advances, but they failed to hold the ball and make time for themselves on the ball. This led to times of panic, and gave them too much pressure in return.

Yet, after 15 minutes, Spurs could have taken the lead, when Berbatov headed down a Lennon corner, which was cleared off the line inside the post by Rooney of all people. In this opening phase, Lennon had been very effective, being fed good balls, and getting the better of Evra. Cerny made a clean save from a Rooney shot after 19 minutes, and five minutes later, Spurs were in wonderland. Spurs were playing towards their terrifically vocal 6,000 fans in the first half, and the lead came after good work at the back by O’Hara, who then made himself available for one of Cerny’s throws. O’Hara passed to Malbranque, whose work rate was as relentless as ever. The ball was fed back to Dawson who hit an arrow of a pass that Lennon made his own, sending a quick low ball into the box that beat Van Der Sar, and was prodded in by who else but Robbie Keane. Cue hugs and kisses in the Spurs section, who had yet to wipe off those 5-1 grins from their faces after Tuesday night’s heroics.

As you would expect, United came back with vigour, and Spurs defended too deeply, failing to clear effectively. Cerny had to make a good save from a Giggs shot that was tipped over for a corner at The Stretford End, but Spurs had afforded Giggs too much space again. Incidentally, I felt that Hargreaves was the more effective of the United central midfield, and Carrick was ultimately replaced by home hero Paul Scholes, returning from another bout of injury.

Minutes after that Cerny save, Spurs were under more pressure and they failed to head clear properly, with the ball eventually falling to the deadly feet of Tevez, who fired across Cerny into the bottom corner. Spurs made one or two decent breaks before the interval, and Evra was booked for a forced foul during this spell. Jenas had a great chance just before half-time, after Keane and Malbranque sent him away from the half way line. Jenas had made a run and I would have loved to have seen a dipping shot to beat the keeper, but Jenas chose a low drive across Van Der Sar, who touched the ball out well for a corner.

The struggle for Spurs continued after the break, but Lennon had a good chance, landing his shot on top of the net, after good work by Jenas and Berbatov. O’Hara had a go at goal with a free kick after a 53rd minute foul on Robbie Keane, but the shot was wide. Van Der Sar wasn’t so sure though and made a quite spectacular dive to his right to save. Jenas had another good chance – his time approaching from the left channel. Once again he went for placement, but put the ball wide.

Ronaldo finally got the better of O’Hara after 56 minutes, and his cross passed Cerny. Lee made a great defensive intervention, heading the ball backwards and clear. Lee was then replaced by Gunter.

After 67 minutes, United were awarded their spot kick, after Dawson’s handball, which led to a red card from Mr Walton. Dawson took the long walk to the far corner for the dressing room, and after the delay, Ronaldo paused during his run-up, saw Cerny commit himself, and fired with strength into the net. Despite being down to ten men, Spurs battled bravely. Initially Tainio assisted in the central defence, but then he was replaced by Defoe, as Ramos went for an equaliser. It nearly came too, after 84 minutes, when Berbatov stooped to a Malbranque cross, with Wes Brown in close contact. The ball hit the post and rebounded out of goal. That was to be Spurs last chance as with two minutes remaining, Ronaldo was allowed too much time and space, hitting a shot that was deflected , and which passed under Cerny’s dive. Cerny was unlucky, but it will be interesting to see if that is counted as an error sufficient to give Paul Robinson a chance on Wednesday night at Goodison Park.

This was always going to be a tough assignment, and Spurs became one of fourteen Premier League teams to have exited this year’s FA Cup. United will be strong favourites, not far ahead of the three other “Big Four” sides. The cartel’s hold on the FA Cup is unlikely to be relinquished this season.

Juande Ramos will have Pascal Chimbonda available on Wednesday night (lack of transfer permitting), and as I write it is rumoured that Jonathan Woodgate will sign tomorrow. Today’s team selection is ample evidence of Ramos’s ability to keep the opposition in suspense regarding his strategy for any particular game, and I look forward to the next selection with bated breath!

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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