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Spurs v Manchester United, 20.01.13

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 20TH JANUARY, 2013
4 PM
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) MANCHESTER UNITED 1 (1)

Spurs scorer:-
Dempsey, 90

Man Utd scorer:-
Van Persie, 25

Attendance:- 35, 956

Referee:- Chris Foy
Assistants:- Mr. S. Beck & Mr. M. McDonough
Fourth official:- Mr. L. Mason

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson(Capt.), Caulker, Naughton (sub Assou-Ekotto, 64); Lennon, Dembele, Parker (sub Huddlestone, 80), Bale; Defoe, Dempsey

Subs not used:- Friedel; Vertonghen; Sigurdsson, Livermore, Townsend

Booked:- Dawson (foul on Evra), Dempsey (Goal celebration)

Man Utd (4-3-3):- De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic (Capt.), Evra; Jones, Carrick, Cleverley (sub Valencia, 74); Welbeck, Kagawa (sub Rooney, 62), Van Persie

Subs not used:- Lindegaard; Smalling; Anderson, Giggs; Hernandez

Booked:- Carrick (foul on Dempsey), Evra (foul on Lennon), Rafael (foul on Bale), Rooney (foul on Lennon)

Dempsey scores in Fergie time!

Just when we were ready to accept a "We played well but lost" situation, up popped Clint Dempsey two minutes into "Fergie time" to score a much-deserved equaliser that keeps Spurs secure in fourth place, seven points clear of Arsenal (mind that gap, gooners!), and ahead of Everton, whatever they should do in their game at Southampton tomorrow (Monday) night.

There had been a little tension and drama around The Lane regarding the issue of whether the game would be played, due to persistent falling snow in the area today. For some reason referee Chris Foy's final inspection was left until 2.50 PM. TV pictures showed the pitch to be perfectly playable, thanks to the under-soil heating system, and the final "Game on!" announcement came as no surprise, but welcome relief to the many fans of both teams who had been gathering in the area for an hour or two already.

Snow did continue to fall throughout the afternoon, but it was not really any more of a factor than a reasonable rainfall.

The Spurs team news carried one surprise, with Jan Vertonghen left on the bench, and Steven Caulker given the nod to partner skipper Michael Dawson. I did hear some suggestion that Vertonghen might not have been too well, but he did make the bench. Benoit Assou-Ekotto was also on the bench, with Kyle Naughton retaining the favour of head coach Andre Villas-Boas. "Benny" did take Naughton's place after 64 minutes, and hopefully did enough to convince AVB of his worth in that position. He certainly showed me enough for me to maintain my belief that he is the best left back at the club.

With Sandro now confirmed as being out for the season, Scott Parker slotted in comfortably, but he was replaced late in the game by Tom Huddlestone.

Sir Alex Ferguson's United team showed plenty of respect to Spurs, with his two best centre-backs (Ferdinand and Vidic) starting, and a midfield clearly designed to stem the flow of Gareth Bale.

United were initially set up in a 4-3-3, with Jones, Carrick and Cleverley across the middle from right to left, and Welbeck, Kagawa, and Van Persie in front of them. There was some fluidity to their specific positions though, and after a while, Cleverley turned up on Bale's side. Mind you, Bale often disappeared towards the middle to escape such attention, but he never shone or had as much effect upon the game as did Aaron Lennon, who became more and more influential as the game progressed.

Over the course of the game, Spurs dominated possession, chances and corners. United committed more fouls, and had more bookings. Yet they took a 25th minute lead as a result of being more lethal when it counted. That lead was not surrendered until that late, late equaliser.

Whilst it was never a boring game, and the second half was highly entertaining, the first half rarely energised the passions, apart from much venting of anger by the home fans towards referee Chris Foy, and his assistants, whose decisions were often viewed as perverse. I can recall Mr. Foy having his back to the play at one stage, when a Spurs man was fouled behind him, and on another occasion, he ignored a United man lost tearing Dembele's shirt. Mind you, in the second half, on one of those rare United attacks, Mr. Foy will have upset Sir Alex when he failed to award substitute Wayne Rooney a penalty when he clashed with Caulker.

After a Spurs free kick, taken by Kyle Walker after 4 minutes, both Parker and Dempsey had shots blocked and cleared. Parker intercepted the ball in midfield after 10 minutes, and took it forward, hitting one pass which was blocked, before he tried a shot in self, which passed several feet wide.

At the other end, Jones chipped a cross from the right, which Van Persie headed goalward. Lloris held the ball in front of his line.

Lennon cut in from the right side and hit a shot which De Gea had trouble saving. Defoe sought to follow up, but was ruled offside.

Spurs had had the better of the early exchanges, but United took the lead after a move in which they managed to out-number the Spurs defence. The move ended with a Cleverley cross from the right, which Van Persie headed inside Lloris's right post. Make no mistake, this man Van Persie is still a gooner at heart, as he celebrated with glee in front of the Paxton Stand. How some of my super league members can include this man in their fantasy team is beyond me.

Defoe had a shot from a sharp angle on the right, which De Gea was happy to see go out for a corner, and after 39 minutes he was nearly caught out by Bale's driven shot, following Lennon's cross. De Gea ended up saving with his feet.

Spurs upped the tempo after the break, forging some good chances.

Lennon crossed for Defoe, whose shot passed just outside De Gea's left post, and Spurs had a good spell, winning two quick corners. Bale tried a right foot shot that curled across the far post. Then Spurs had their best chance yet, when Dembele battled his way into the edge of the box, feeding the ball to Dempsey, who might legitimately have gone down in the box under a challenge, but tried a shot, which the keeper saved.

It wasn't all one-way traffic though, and Van Persie was always a threat, given half a chance.

Things just would not go Spurs' way though, and the home crowd bawled at the officials over some of their decisions.

Rooney replaced Kagawa, and Assou-Ekotto replaced Naughton within three minutes.

Following a Spurs free kick on 65 minutes, Dembele and Dempsey combined to give Defoe a shot on goal, but again, De Gea pushed the ball out for a corner. Lennon showed great skill near the half-way line and with his back to goal, received the ball, turned and made a bee-line towards goal. Defoe probably should have scored from Lennon's pass, but somehow the ball was deflected for a Spurs corner.

Defoe had another effort on target, but held by the United keeper, and then Gareth Bale had a right footed pile-driver deflected for another corner.

It took until the 93rd minute for Spurs to get the goal they so richly deserved. It came after De Gea's relatively weak punch to clear a cross by Assou-Ekotto. Lennon picked it up towards the right flank, and quickly passed the ball across the defence to Dempsey, who fired home from the back post. Now that was a goal celebrated with glee by 9/10 of the gathered throng!

The elusive league "double" we hoped for had not been achieved, but Spurs have taken 4 points off United this season. They remain five points above City, but I wonder if those lost points will prove expensive at the end of the season?

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