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Spurs v Manchester United, 12.09.09


Spurs scorer:-
Defoe, 1

Man Utd scorers:-
Giggs, 25
Anderson, 41
Rooney, 78

Referee: - Mr. A. Marriner

Attendance: - 35, 785

Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Corluka (sub Hutton, 69), King, Bassong, Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Palacios (sub Jenas, 46), Keane (Capt.) (sub Kranjcar, 72); Defoe, Crouch
(Armband to King)
Subs not used: - Gomes; Naughton; Bentley; Pavlyuchenko

Booked: - Palacios, King, Jenas

Man Utd (4-4-2):- Foster; O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Fletcher, Scholes, Anderson (sub Nani, 81), Giggs (Capt.); Berbatov (sub Carrick, 62), Rooney

Subs not used: - Kuszczak; Fabio, Evans; Valencia; Owen

Booked: - Vidic (foul on Crouch), Scholes (foul on Defoe)

Sent off: - Scholes (second yellow card – foul on Huddlestone) – 58

Spurs get a lesson

The answer to the question “Can Spurs be contenders” appears to be a resounding “No” after this game, where Spurs had a dream start in the shape of a special first minute goal, but were then ultimately over-run by the clinical, tough and classy Manchester United side that even managed to over-run the home side when they went down to 10 men with half an hour left. It might not be despair yet for Spurs fans, and they have still had a great start to the season, but it could be back to harsh reality especially with a trip to Stamford Bridge looming on the horizon.

Spurs sorely missed playmaker Luka Modric yesterday, and will continue to do so. I think they also missed the best of Wilson Palacios yesterday too. He started well, but took a booking for a foul on Berbatov (who dived theatrically) that led to United’s equaliser. I think that Palacios then looked more and more jaded as the half progressed and of course he has had a long journey home from Central America for his International commitments. Having said that, whilst I expected to see Jermaine Jenas come on at the break, I did think he might replace Tom Huddlestone, who I am afraid saw the United midfield fly past him for too much of the game. Tom has his fans, I know, and I remain a big fan of his creativity and shooting ability, but he failed to make a real mark on this important game.

Palacios was perhaps not the only jaded Spurs star, as virtually all the outfield players had been taking part in Internationals. Harry Redknapp would like the International matches to be played in the early part of the two week break, so that team managers could have more time to prepare their players, rather than greet them on the Friday before the game.

Mind you, United had the same problem, and one man who did not look at all jaded was Wayne Rooney, who scored such a marvellous third goal for United when they were down to ten men, that truly sealed the win. Love him or hate him (and what England fan can hate him?), Rooney is a terrific footballer, although I hated to see him amongst the recurring band of red shirts that would persistently harangue the referee over decisions to the degree that I am sure Mr. Marriner was pressured towards United sympathy for the first half at least. Many tough tackles on Spurs forwards were un-punished and the free kick given for the foul on Berbatov was given all too easily. That’s a biased gripe though, and there is no doubting the quality of the win and its merit.

Cudicini retained his place in goal, despite the return of Gomes to fitness, and Harry Redknapp filled the void left by Modric with Robbie Keane, allowing Peter Crouch his first Premier League start for Spurs. Crouch had a brilliant first half, winning almost everything in the air and having a lot to do with that early goal. However, in the end, I felt that Spurs tactics became a little one-dimensional with too many balls aimed at Crouch by which time Vidic had got his measure (along with being allowed to foul almost at will of course).

That dream start came within the first minute after Ekotto chipped a ball towards Crouch, challenged by Vidic. The ball looped behind Jermain Defoe who scored with a smashing over-head kick that was planted to the left of Foster in front of the Park Lane stand. The Spurs dream was not only alive but kicking.

United responded with patience, seeking to keep possession and pass accurately. Straight from the kick-off they moved forward and Scholes hit a decent shot just wide. A United cross from the left was touched on by Berbatov and Fletcher had a good shot well saved by Cudicini. Sebastien Bassong was looking a little shaky at this stage of the game, I felt. Crouch controlled a long free kick immaculately and took the shooting chance he had created for himself, hitting a good right foot shot, but not scoring.

Scholes uncharacteristically lost the ball, after a spell of United possession, and in return Crouch got another shot, this time on target, and well saved by Ben Foster, whose handling throughout the game was very good. Spurs fans were baying for blood with Robbie Keane on the floor after what appeared to be another missed United foul, but United played to the whistle and got a free kick themselves down the left, taken by the evergreen Giggs, headed by Berbatov and saved by Cudicini.

Palacios and Crouch attacked down the right channel after a Spurs free kick, and their exchanged passes ended with a good effort by Crouch just wide outside the far post. Sadly Spurs’ fans’ feelings took a knock when Palacios was penalised by that foul on Berbatov, gaining the first booking of the match and his first of the season. Cudicini frantically tried to set up his wall, with two red shirts in its midst, but when he took up his position, he was still beaten by a superb placement by Giggs to the top left corner (goalie’s left).

Now United threatened too often. Robbie Keane tried but missed a header from an Anderson ball, and it led to Berbatov getting a chance when in the clear, but Cudicini saved well to concede a corner. Giggs took the corner, and this time Berbatov’s shot was held. Huddlestone did get a shooting chance after a Spurs throw and some head tennis by Crouch and Keane, but the shot was over.

Aaron Lennon was being largely neutralised by the excellent Patrice Evra, assisted by Giggs, and it was after Lennon lost track of a United ball down the Spurs right that the ball was sent in from some high drama in the Spurs goal-mouth. Rooney’s shot was saved by Cudicini, then Berbatov had a shot blocked and final effort go over. Crouch got to a Spurs corner at the near post, but headed wide, and then Spurs had another chance after an excellent break from the back started by Ekotto who won, controlled and passed the ball well. Crouch was then involved again before Defoe’s shot was held by Foster.

United took the lead before half-time following Fletcher’s corner in the north-east corner. The ball was only half-cleared as far as Scholes, whose shot was blocked before Anderson fired home. Fletcher had been booed by the Spurs fans and significantly gestured back towards them in celebration. What with Adebayor’s antics at Eastlands, it seems there was a trend this week-end in antagonising North London fans!

Jenas came on for Palacios after the break, and his passing was spot on for the first 20 minutes or more. Keane was allowed more freedom and got behind the front two more, with Jenas and Ekotto operating down the left flank at times. This strategy very nearly brought an early goal, as Jenas sent Ekotto away. Benoit skilfully got round O’Shea before cutting the ball back into dangerous territory. Jenas didn’t get a touch, but Keane did and his shot was deflected for a corner.

Scholes got his first booking for a foul on Defoe, and Ledley King took an uncharacteristic yellow for a foul in the United half. Jenas continued his good form with a pass to Defoe, who was challenged allowing the ball to run back to Jenas, who hit a great curling shot left of Foster, which the keeper touched round the post for a corner. From the corner, Crouch’s header tipped off the top of the bar. Scholes saw yellow again – this time for a foul on Huddlestone, and as soon as he could Sir Alex Ferguson took off Berbatov, inserting Carrick, playing an effective 4-4-1. United actually looked more and more threatening as the game went on now, with Evra often running forward to support Rooney.

Lennon did get a shot after cutting inside Evra, but Foster saved that with ease. After 66 minutes, Evra defended well against Lennon and sent Rooney away, as well as giving him a supporting run. Spurs were caught on the hop, and Bassong had to cover Evra’s run, whilst Cudicini ultimately saved Rooney’s shot. Jenas sent Ekotto down the flank with another good ball, but the cross was just behind Lennon. Corluka was replaced by Hutton, presumably to give Lennon more pacy support, but United’s response seemed to be to let Evra get forward more. Keane was then replaced by debutant Niko Kranjcar who looked useful, offering a more direct approach running at defenders, and successfully carrying the ball forward.

Jenas took a yellow for a foul on Giggs, and then United scored a great goal from the back. Foster had held a Huddlestone shot and Fletcher sent a great long ball from the right which Rooney chased, collected then got the better of the Spurs defence to finish off beneath Cudicini.

The game remained end to end in true Spurs-United tradition. Lennon passed to Huddlestone, whose low shot was saved. However, Spurs were getting over-run by the ten men, who brought great saves from Cudicini after shots by Fletcher and Rooney, one of which the goalie tipped onto the woodwork. Crouch had one more header from a Lennon cross that went wide, but there was no way through for Spurs, who would have liked the game to have finished 89 minutes earlier.

Spurs must now re-group for next Sunday, and hope that Lennon can return to his usual impactive form. I believe that Spurs need to be even tougher in the middle of the park, besides the presence of Palacios, and that could mean a start for Jenas. We could see Keane and Defoe up front and a start for Kranjcar, with some less obvious tactics involving Crouch.

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