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Spurs v Man Utd, 04.03.12

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 4TH MARCH, 2012
(4.10 P.M.)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) MANCHESTER UNITED 3 (1)

Spurs scorer:-
Defoe, 87

Man Utd scorers:-
Rooney, 45
Young. 60, 69

Attendance:- 36,034

Referee:- Martin Atkinson
Assistants:- Mr. C. Breakspear & Mr. M. Mullarkey
Fourth Official:- Mr. L. Probert

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King (Capt.), Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (sub Rose, 84), Livermore, Sandro (sub Kranjcar, 80), Modric; Adebayor, Saha (sub Defoe, 80)

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Dawson, Nelsen; Giovani

Booked:- Sandro (foul on Young)

Man Utd (4-4-2):- De Gea; Jones, Evans, Ferdinand, Evra (Capt.); Nani (sub Park Ji-sung, 79), Carrick, Scholes (sub Giggs, 61), Young; Rooney, Welbeck

Subs not used:- Amos; Fabio, Rafael; Anderson; Hernandez

Booked:- Jones (foul on Saha); Evans (foul on Rose)

Spurs need to find the winning way again

The last time Spurs lost two consecutive league games was at the start of the season and Manchester United were one of those victors. Spurs bounced back by going on an 11 match unbeaten run, and that’s just what they need to do now, with 11 premier League games left in which to sew up that third place spot. Anything less will not satisfy this Spurs fan, after the season we have had. Harry Redknapp says that the team performance was excellent, and we did dominate first half possession (58-42%). However, we fell to a crucial goal just before half-time, and felt aggrieved that the goal came indirectly from what was seen as a harsh refereeing decision, when Sandro got booked for an alleged foul on Ashley Young. Just like last week, Spurs folded again, and Ashley Young made them pay with two goals within 9 second half minutes. Spurs heads went down, and it was game over. “Bouncebackability” will have to wait till Goodison Park next week.

Spurs were of course missing key players, with Parker suspended, and Bale and Van der Vaart absent, and not “hopefully fit” as suggested in earlier news reports this week. United are also without key players of course, but they are a team that can not only accommodate such absences, but still choose to leave out players such as Hernandez, who was on the bench. Berbatov was not even listed as injured, but was absent altogether. United still have a stronger squad than Spurs, and they can change personnel without affecting the balance of the side. Harry Redknapp was unable to do this today, with Luka Modric pushed out to a left wing role in order to accommodate Sandro and Livermore, who played in the centre of midfield. Jake Livermore had an excellent game, in my view hardly putting a foot wrong, especially in the first half, when he picked out some good passes too. Aaron Lennon made a welcome return to the right wing, and offered some penetration, but Spurs could not put the ball away until Jermain Defoe got on late in the game to get a consolation goal. It was a typical Defoe goal, and he remains the club’s top scorer in all competitions, but he just can’t get a start these days in Premier League games.

Spurs have to find that “big team mentality”; not drop their heads; and believe they can get something out of the game, in the way Arsenal did last week. If they do succeed in qualifying for the Champions League, the squad will also need developing in my view.

The game rarely set the pulses racing, but Spurs made a good steady start, and had the first shot on target after 4 minutes. Kyle Walker had a one-two with Luka Modric, before sending a good ball in for Saha, who hit the target, but did not make it hard enough for de Gea to collect the ball safely. United responded at the other end after Scholes sent a ball from the right channel to Welbeck, who fired well over. Livermore exchanged passes with Walker, before directing a low drilled pass to Adebayor’s feet. Adebayor was on the right side of the box, and hit a decent shot one yard over the bar. After 8 minutes, Nani won his battle with Assou-Ekotto, passing to Rooney, whose effort was cleared. Spurs quickly countered through Lennon, but his run was thwarted and the ball cleared.

Luka Modric displayed skill and determination in winning and controlling a highish ball down the left touchline, before feeding it to Saha, who hit a good shot just outside De Gea’s post. The goalkeeper held the ball anyway. Sandro intercepted a clearance by De Gea and sent Adebayor away with a well placed headed pass. Adebayor’s shot was well saved. A Spurs corner followed, and Kaboul headed it wide across the goalmouth. Lennon nearly got an incisive ball to the feet of Adebayor in front of goal, but the defence managed to clear. Adebayor did well to deal with a Modric ball, and he sent it into the path of Saha who went on a run and was cruelly brought down by Jones, who go a yellow card, but of course prevented a shooting opportunity outside the box. After the free kick, Kaboul’s shot was deflected for a corner.

Ledley King gave away a quite cheap corner, taken by Young and met by Rooney, but saved by Friedel. Spurs did have the ball in the net after 36 minutes, but Adebayor was adjudged to have handled. The ball followed good work on the left bye-line by Aaron Lennon, after a pass by Assou-Ekotto. As the half was closing, Spurs suffered a sucker punch having really dominated the game up to that point in terms of possession and shots on goal. Sandro was not only adjudged by referee Atkinson to have fouled Young, but he also got a yellow card for his trouble. The goal did not directly follow the free kick, but there was a United corner, taken by Young again, and headed home by Rooney from the middle of the goal area, allowed too much room by Walker.

Spurs went on the attack in the second half, mostly thanks to Lennon’s work down the right. He teed up Livermore for an excellent shot which severely tested De Gea after Saha's involuntary deflection, and won Spurs a corner. This was taken by Modric, and headed over by Kaboul. Lennon and Sandro worked hard to force Ferdinand to concede another corner. By this time, Spurs fans were getting fed up with Ferdinand’s shoving of Adebayor, but the referee seemed to have given United licence to shove. Modric made a desperate effort to reach another ball into the middle, and the ball reached Assou-Ekotto, whose attempted shot went out for a throw-in on the far side. Assou-Ekotto did far better with a free kick after a foul on Modric. The kick skimmed the top of the bar.

United increased their lead and showed their ability to be clinical when given half a chance at goal. The goal followed a throw on the right and a low cross from inside the right of the Spurs area by Nani. The ball reached Young beyond the back post and he fired back across the goal into the far corner in front of his own fans. United fans had been confined to the lower tier, I believe due to their tendency to stand. Spurs don’t seem to monitor their own fans at away games!

Lennon and Modric had a short corner, and the ball reached Assou-Ekotto, who tried a long shot, which De Gea held. Then came the killer goal by Ashley Young. Evra fed him the ball from the left, and given just too much space, Young picked his spot in the far corner with a tasty right-footed shot. Lennon displayed great skill and effort to win a midfield ball and take it on a forward move, before sharing a pass with Livermore, before firing a shot over the bar.

Spurs made a double substitution with Defoe replacing Saha, and Kranjcar replacing Sandro. The Spurs structure was uncertain, but it did mean Modric was able to play in the middle. Lennon went off to great applause and was replaced by Danny Rose. Defoe scored a great solo goal, after picking up a loose defensive ball, and hitting a right footed shot beyond De Gea’s right shoulder.

We are still third of course, and have every reason to be proud and happy about that. The gap between us and Arsenal is only four points though, and if we don’t get back into winning ways, there will be a lot of twitching around White Hart Lane.

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