BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 25TH APRIL, 2009
MANCHESTER UNITED 5 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2)
Man Utd scorers:-
Ronaldo, 57(pen), 68
Rooney, 67, 71
Attendance: - 75,458
Referee: - Howard Webb
Man Utd (4-4-2):- Van Der Sar; Rafael (sub O’Shea, 70), Ferdinand (Capt.), Vidic, Evra; Nani (sub Tevez, 46), Fletcher (sub Scholes, 61), Carrick, Ronaldo; Rooney, Berbatov
Subs not used: - Foster; Evans; Anderson; Macheda
Booked: - Tevez, Scholes, Ronaldo,
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King, Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Palacios, Modric (sub Bale, 86); Keane (Capt.) (sub Huddlestone, 87), Bent
(Armband to King)
Subs not used: - Cudicini; Chimbonda, Hutton; Bentley, Zokora
Booked: - Woodgate, Jenas, Gomes
I had a dream!
I had a dream – that Spurs might spring a surprise and come away from Old Trafford with a league win for the first time in nearly twenty years.
I had a dream – that Spurs not only took the lead, but a two goal lead for the first time in a similar period.
I had a dream that I saw Spurs score two league goals at Old Trafford for the first time since 1989.
I had a dream that Spurs were not just winning at half-time, but deservedly so; that we fans were hugging in the concourses, grinning and laughing, almost forgetting what happened to us at White Hart Lane when we were three up in September 2001.
I had a dream that we would see a fair and impartial refereeing performance by Howard Webb. I can forgive him the erroneous penalty decision that swung the game back in United’s favour. That was human error. What I could not forgive was the fact that Mr. Webb booked Woodgate and Jenas in the first half for what he considered crucially unfair fouls in the Spurs half. Yet, time and time again, when the likes of Lennon and Modric were unfairly halted just in their own half, Mr Webb consistently “had words” with the United offenders. Rafael in particular was one such red-shirted person not deemed worthy of a yellow card for more than one occasion of cynicism. Such events lend weight to the suggestion of others that Mr. Webb did more than get the penalty decision wrong, but that he showed the traditional undue favour to the home team at Old Trafford.
My dreams became a nightmare of course as the penalty saw the start of a simple onslaught upon the Spurs goal, with substitute Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo and Berbatov in full flow leading to five goals in 22 minutes that made everyone at Old Trafford and at home (barring the Spurs fans of course) happy with a fantastic match and goals galore – all scored in front of my very eyes from my vantage point in the East Stand.
Jermain Defoe had not travelled due to the tragic death of his half-brother, and with Pavlyuchenko injured, that left Spurs with two strikers in the 18 man squad, both of whom started with Keane as usual playing behind Darren Bent. Ledley King was deemed fit enough to start this one, as was Jermaine Jenas, so it was pretty much a first choice eleven that faced United. Perhaps the only nod that Sir Alex Ferguson made towards next Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final was to start Nani and leave Tevez on the bench. Tevez coming on in place of Nani at half-time was to prove crucial to the United success. Rafael started at right back, with Gary Neville unfit after last Wednesday’s win over Portsmouth.
Presumably Robbie Keane won the toss, as Spurs played towards their own fans in the first half, giving Van Der Sar the sun to face as well as the Spurs attack. Fletcher sent an early ball down the right channel for Berbatov to chase, but Gomes was alert and claimed the ball off the Bulgarian’s feet. Berbatov was clearly booed by the travelling fans, and thus had no reason to expect any respect when their former striker scored and was at the centre of the goal celebrations in the second half.
Spurs started confidently, but were not using Modric down the left side in the early stages. Keane was dropping back and took the ball off Ronaldo, following which the ball went to Lennon on the right whose cross to the back post was headed well by Bent and saved by Van Der Sar to concede a corner. Ronaldo hit a 20th minute free kick to the right of Gomes who saved and cleared the ball. A Nani cross from the left was headed wide by Rooney. After another United free kick and the cross from the left reached Rooney who fired over from beyond the back post.
Spurs forays down Lennon’s flank paid off with two goals in the space of three ecstatic minutes for Spurs fans. Firstly, after Lennon’s work, Corluka crossed and Bent met it with his head getting the benefit of ball retention enabling him to fire home with his right foot for a one goal lead! Three minutes, Lennon crossed to the back post, where Modric was in space and allowed a touch before he too beat Van Der Sar with aplomb.
It was Rafael who offered the first United attempt on goal after falling two down, when he moved inside and tried a left foot shot that Gomes held with ease. Gomes was more stretched a minute later after Ronaldo’s free kick was blocked before the Portuguese star hit the rebound over the wall towards Gomes’ left corner. The keeper flew to his left and pushed the ball round with a touch of his right hand for the save of the game. Spurs had a half-chance just before the break, after more Corluka/Lennon work, ending with a Palacios shot over the bar.
Once again in a match against United half-time was to prove the threshold between the dream and the nightmare. In my view, Harry Redknapp made a tactical error in clearly deciding to fall back and try to defend the two-goal lead, rather than keeping the same shape and style as had succeeded in the first half. In the second half, Keane was miles away from Bent. Gomes had made one save from Tevez, before the controversial penalty incident. Former Spur Michael Carrick rushed through to the penalty area, and Gomes raced out, clearly getting his hand to the ball to push it away before Carrick fell. Mr Webb was a good 20 yards away from the play, peering through legs, but decided he had seen enough to not only give the penalty but also to book Gomes. Ronaldo made no mistake from the spot, although he kindly did not make his usual hesitation on his run-up.
Tevez got an early booking for a foul on Palacios, and Scholes also saw yellow soon after replacing Darren Fletcher. United drew level in the 67th minute on the break with the ball moving from right to left through Tevez and Berbatov to Rooney, who was giving Corluka torrid time. Rooney got the better of Corluka and managed to squeeze a shot beneath Gomes into the bottom right corner. A minute later Ronaldo gave United the lead as he dived to meet a cross from the left to head home. Ronaldo got booked for waving his shirt in celebration too.
Three minutes later Rooney scored again, with a shot that Woodgate desperately tried to clear off the line but just failed with the ball clearly over the line, but not as far of course as Mendes “goal” in the same net in January 2005. (No, we’ll never forget that one United fans).
Bent did then get in a good effort with a shot from the left side of the box that passed just outside the post, but with 11 minutes to go it was Berbatov who completed the rout, meeting Rooney’s cross. Berbatov’s first effort was saved by a combination of Gomes and Jenas’s desperate effort, but the striker got a second shot that almost trickled over the line.
Spurs tried to attack more now (too late of course) and Keane had a shot saved after Jenas’s pass. Ronaldo threatened at the other end but failed, and Spurs made two very late substitutions, more for damage limitation than anything else, I suspect. Ronaldo had one more attempt go wide, and Lennon hit the side netting after Bent’s pass from a Spurs free kick.
United march on towards yet another Premier League title, whilst another dream of mine (possible qualification for the Europa Cup) remains still possible but less tangible
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