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Spurs v Man Utd, 16.01.11

(4.10 P.M)

Attendance:- 35,828

Referee:- Mike Dean
Assistants:- Mr S. Child & Mr S. Long
Fourth Official:- Mr A. Marriner

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Hutton, Gallas, Dawson (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Modric, Palacios (sub Defoe, 78), Bale; Van der Vaart; Crouch

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Corluka, Bassong; Jenas, Kranjcar; Pavlyuchenko

Booked:- Van der Vaart (Dissent), Palacios

Man Utd (4-4-2):- Van der Sar; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic (Capt.), Evra; Nani (sub Anderson, 61), Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs; Rooney, Berbatov (sub Hernandez, 78)

Subs not used:- Kuszczak; Smalling, Evans; Scholes; Owen

Booked:- Rafael (foul on Palacios), Fletcher (foul on Bale), Evra (foul on Lennon), Rooney (Dissent)

Sent off:- Rafael (73) – second yellow – foul on Ekotto

Magic Modric unable to conjure up a win

If, like many Spurs fans, you are disappointed that we failed to beat Manchester United, look on the bright side and consider the following facts:-

1. You are disappointed because we failed to beat the unbeaten Premier League leaders and title favourites.

2. In Luka Modric, Spurs clearly had the best player on the pitch yesterday. The man simply gave a master class, and I swear did not put one foot wrong in a performance where he passed to the left, passed to the right (chance for variation on a Mitchell Johnson song here) and simply dazzled in white. His performance was a sheer pleasure to witness.

3. We kept a clean sheet for the fourth time in five games, and in for the third time in three Premier League games.

4. The common factor in those clean sheets, and the last 0-0 of the season on Day One at home to Man City, has been skipper Michael Dawson. Dawson has his fallibilities, but he gives 100%; gets behind the ball more often than not, and clearly inspires those around him.

5. Benoit Assou-Ekotto gave a performance that surely put a sock in Alan Hansen’s heavy criticism of the player after the Everton defeat. Ekotto was not perfect, but he did all the things defensively and going forward that have excited Spurs fans not only this season, but for most of his Spurs career so far. It was Ekotto who was fouled desperately by United’s young right back Rafael for a second yellow card after 73 minutes. United connections claim this was an accidental trip, but it looked deliberate and cynical to me, like so much of United’s play, too much of which went un-punished by yet another referee who might have been wearing the United red.

6. From an early stage in the second half, United players (chiefly Van der Sar and Evra) were content to waste as much time as possible to help their cause in keeping Spurs at bay.

You may have additional factors you can add to the list, but there are enough there to be going on with!

Both managers were able to field strong sides. In Harry Redknapp’s case he chose Crouch above Defoe, no doubt for the extra height in both penalty areas, as well as for his successful partnership with Rafa van der Vaart who played “in the hole”. Gallas partnered Dawson and Wilson Palacios had one of his better games beside the maestro that is Modric. Modric’s work rate and success rate is simply phenomenal, up and down the pitch, both offensively and defensively. David Beckham, who is training with us, and was apparently watching in the stands, and Van der Vaart keep hogging the Spurs headlines, along with Bale, but Modric out-shone them all in this game, and out-shone the best that Sir Alex Ferguson could field, which included Rooney and Berbatov up front. Ryan Giggs was making his 600th League appearance for United yesterday, but he too was put in the shade by little Luka.

Spurs even snatched the ball from the United kick-off and Bale went down the left channel on a run which ended with a cross that tested the veteran Van der Sar within seconds. United responded through a threaded pass by Berbatov to Rooney on the right of the area. His shot went wide across Gomes’ goal. The stage and pattern was set for the game to come, which, in the first half at least, had plenty of tempo and action, with a few chances at either end. Spurs were playing some clever and entertaining football, with plenty of their training ground flicks and touches paying off.

Palacios played a full part in Spurs’ forward play, with plenty of good linking and passing play. His let-down was his poor shots, but he won a free kick after 7 minutes, leading to Van der Vaart’s shot – saved by his countryman. At the other end, Alan Hutton was defending well, making a vital headed clearance from Berbatov. Everything went right for Hutton today, but there was a nagging worry that if just one of his clearances had failed, United would have taken a big advantage. But then, that’s the risk of being last man so often! After that clearance, Rooney had a shot held by Gomes.

There were only 8 minutes gone, and so much was happening already. Spurs’ quality play led to one of their best chances, when Van der Vaart touched the ball back to Modric who spread the play to Hutton. Hutton crossed to the near post, where Crouch frustrated by putting the ball just on the wrong side of the post. Ten minutes later, Palacios and Modric played well to carry the ball out of defence and it was Palacios’s ball that sent Bale away. Bale beat Rafael, but his cross beat everyone.

Van der Vaart got a needless yellow card for kicking the ball away when upset with a decision, and Palacios got his fifth Premier League booking for a foul on Rafael, who got his first card for a foul on Wilson. Rooney had a shot from 25 yards that Gomes saved comfortably, low to his left, and Dawson’s shot passed wide after a short corner. Spurs had had the better of the play, but just could not make it happen and stretch the United keeper. Our other best chance came from a Dawson ball to Bale, who crossed to his near post where Van der Vaart stooped and headed into the side netting.

The second half was more like a chess match, with both teams matching each other, and having little success in penetrating the respective defensive walls. Spurs fans got more and more upset with referee Mike Dean who gave no foul when Luka was sent flying on a midfield advance, and later when Vidic blatantly tugged substitute Defoe’s shirt. Space was opening up for Rooney after 51 minutes, when he advanced from a deep position. His shot was deflected for a corner. Evra got booked for his unfair challenge on Aaron Lennon who was more involved in the second half. Van der Vaart’s free kick went straight to the keeper.

Sir Alex replaced the ineffective Nani with Anderson and after 73 minutes had to re-shuffle his side when Rafael saw a second yellow when he sent Ekotto flying in front of the dug-outs. Fletcher was drafted as the emergency right back, and United typically managed to hold Spurs at bay, having to settle for the occasional counter-attack. Defoe replaced Palacios, but didn’t make headway, and Berbatov was replaced by little Hernandez. Spurs were often favouring short corners today, and with 10 minutes left, Van der Vaart had a half chance which United defended well. Crouch and Gallas tried headers after a free kick from the right, but neither carried any power or direction.

United did offer a couple of dangerous moments in the 4 minutes of added time, and Gomes had to be out sharply to the feet of Giggs in the most threatening of these chances.

United regained the leadership, and Spurs are held in fifth place behind Chelsea, with whom it is looking more and more like we will have a battle for fourth place. However, there is still a long way to go in this fight to retain our right to play in the Champions League for a second season.

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