FA CUP 4TH ROUND
SATURDAY 24TH JANUARY, 2009
MANCHESTER UNITED 2 (2) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Referee:- P. Walton
Man Utd (4-4-2):- Foster;- O’Shea, Neville (Capt.), Vidic, Fabio De Silva (sub Eckersley, 53); Welbeck (sub Fletcher, 86), Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo (sub Tosic, 72); Berbatov, Tevez
Subs not used:- Kuszczak; Chester; Giggs, Possebon
Booked:- Vidic, Tevez
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Alnwick; Gunter, Dawson (Capt.), Corluka, Ekotto; Bentley (sub Defoe, 72), Zokora, Huddlestone, Bale (sub Taarabt, 67); Modric (sub Giovani, 46); Pavlyuchenko
Subs not used:- Gomes; Gilberto, Rocha, Dervite
Bubble of hope burst by former Spurs
Contrary to expectations, both sides were stronger than anticipated, and in particular, the Spurs line-up exceeded by far that which we had been led to expect. Ultimately Spurs gave a good account of themselves in front of an Old Trafford full house of 75,000+, but when they took a surprising fifth minute lead through Roman Pavlyuchenko’s clever header, they filled the travelling fans with hope. That bubble of hope was burst before the first half ended by a deflected Scholes shot, then almost immediately a goal scored through Carrick’s pass and Berbatov’s shot. The involvement of two prominent former Spurs players in the winning goal only served to increase the pain of FA Cup defeat.
United gave a debut to Fabio de Silva at left back, and young winger Danny Welbeck impressed on the right, but otherwise the United starters were all seasoned personnel, although Gary Neville was forced to play in central defence in the absence of so many United defenders. Vedran Corluka partnered skipper Michael Dawson in the middle, with Gunter and Ekotto continuing at full back. With United’s Ronaldo starting on the left, he was covered by both Gunter and Bentley, but I noticed that Didier Zokora had been switched to the right side of midfield, and no doubt was under instructions to keep half an eye on Ronaldo, whichever side he decided to attack.
Spurs had started quite confidently, and got the welcome boost of an early goal, when Pavlyuchenko met Huddlestone’s cross with a clever header across the bows of Ben Foster in goal as early as the fifth minute. Now Spurs only had to hold on for 85 minutes. Sadly, having started with a spirit of more than a little adventure, Spurs did fall back somewhat, falling into the trap of trying to defend that slender lead. This policy, whether deliberate or not, was thwarted before the half was out. Berbatov got an early half chance but pushed his shot wide of Alnwick’s goal, and after 17 minutes, Tevez’s shot was well blocked by Ekotto. Alnwick was subsequently beaten by a Tevez shot that went out of play off the top of the crossbar. Gunter made a great tackle to stop Welbeck’s shot after a useful run inside by the winger. Ronaldo had a pop at goal after 21 minutes, which went over the target.
Alnwick will have done his confidence a world of good with a great save from Tevez, conceding a corner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too long before United got on terms. It was after a corner, taken on the right. Scholes hit a shot which was deflected by Huddlestone and beat Alnwick, who could not be blamed for the goal. The Spurs defence switched off a minute later, when Carrick sent the ball over them for the onside Berbatov to fire low to the right of Alnwick to give United a lead they never lost. Berbatov did not show grace, and simply celebrated his goal as usual against his old team.
Bentley, who had had a useful half, had a decent effort after breaking through two defenders before hitting a shot into the side netting at the Stretford End.
No doubt with half an eye on Tuesday night’s game against Stoke, Harry Redknapp replaced Luka Modric at half-time with Giovani Dos Santos, who started on the right of a 5 man Spurs midfield, leaving Pavlyuchenko to roam up front alone. Bentley put in a good ball for Bale beyond the back post, and Bale’s shot passed wide. Spurs had another good chance after a decent build up after 56 minutes. It ended with a Corluka cross which Bentley hit into the side netting. It was a half of little significant action. Alnwick made a decent save from a Ronaldo shot from the left channel, and at the other end Giovani clipped over an Ekotto cross.
Taarabt replaced Bale and started on the left, but later in the game was to be found on the right. It was difficult to perceive a Spurs game plan, and Taarabt was not the only midfielder to disappoint with his supply. Apart from that early cross, Huddlestone created little, and Giovani was making little headway.
All in all, the result was all too predictable, but on the whole, those who represented us did us proud, and might easily have earnt an (unwanted) replay. Now we only have to fight on three fronts, but the most important of these is of course the Premier League, starting on Tuesday, against Stoke.
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