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Spurs v Man Utd, 31.01.18

(at Wembley – 8pm)

Eriksen, 1
Jones (o.g.), 28

Attendance:- 81,978 (a new Premier League record)

Referee:- Andre Marriner
Assistants:- Scott Ledger, Simon Beck
Fourth official:- Graham Scott

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Davinson Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Dembele (sub Wanyama, 90+1); Eriksen, Dele (sub Sissoko, 88), Son (sub Lamela, 80); Kane

Subs not used:- Vorm; Rose, Walker-Peters; Llorente

Booked:- Dembele (foul on Lingard), Dele (foul on Sanchez)

Man Utd (4-2-3-1):- De Gea; Valencia (Capt.), Smalling, Jones, Young; Pogba (sub Mata, 63), Matic; Martial, Lingard (sub Fellaini, 63) (sub Herrera, 70), Alexis Sanchez; Lukaku

Subs not used:- Romero; Rojo, Shaw; Rashford

Booked:- Jones (foul on Kane), Young (foul on Son)

Bravo Sensational Spurs!

Words alone cannot convey the superb, sensational nature of Spurs’ win last night against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United, new signing Alexis Sanchez and all. Spurs “owned” the United stars in every area of the pitch, and it all started with lightning speed when Christian Eriksen had the ball in the net after 11 seconds. I’ve heard it may have been 10.56 seconds to be precise, but whatever the case it was equally the third fastest Premier League goal after that of Ledley King and Alan Shearer – level with Mark Viduka. United showed some threat in the first quarter with former gooner Sanchez getting booed with every touch, but Spurs made it 2-0 in the 28th minute courtesy of some slick football, a cross by Trippier and hapless Phil Jones’ own goal. This was simply a bravura performance by Spurs who could, and should have won by a bigger margin. We’ve had some great wins at Wembley this season, notably over Real Madrid (3-1) and Liverpool (4-1), but I think this was the best football I’ve seen by Spurs this season. It was simply poetry in motion. All this was played out in front of a record Premier league crowd of 81,978. Personally, I cannot fathom where there were 8,000 empty seats.

Here we had two top teams, out of the title race with Guardiola’s Manchester City forging onward, but two of the four teams vying for a sacred top four position. (Note I have excluded Arsenal from my calculation here!) Mauricio Pochettino was able to field his strongest team since the 4-0 win over Everton the last time we were at Wembley, with Danny Rose included on the bench and Toby Alderweireld close to a return to first team action. Our one and only signing of the January window, confirmed late yesterday afternoon, was Lucas Moura who was presented at half-time. The game was played on a clear but chilly night with the “blue” super moon shining brightly upon the stadium.

That sensational first goal came direct from Spurs kick-off taken by Dembele, who played the ball back to Vertonghen. The Spurs front four was racing forward in preparation for Vertonghen’s long ball. Kane headed it on; Dele tried a shot which was blocked with the ball running to Eriksen just behind Dele to the left. In one movement, Eriksen swept the ball past De Gea’s right hand with his left footed shot. It was THE dream start. The only United touch had been Smalling’s block on Dele Alli’s effort.

United tried to respond quickly. Sanchez was operating on the left, as he did often with Arsenal. He threaded a ball forward for Lingard, but Lloris was first to the ball. Sanchez saw a fair bit of the ball in the minutes which followed, but there was no end product for the team in red. Spurs had a throw from the right hand side after 11 minutes, and Dele Alli hit a right foot shot which was blocked winning a corner. Dele was back to his best form and integral to virtually every Spurs attack, but it is difficult to highlight an individual player. Dembele was dominating Pogba in the middle. Dele was cheeky. Eriksen was incisive, and Kane was physically on top of Jones, although not at his accurate best with his shooting. Spurs were playing direct football, and it was exhilarating to witness.

Dembele took an early booking for halting Sanchez in his tracks. In the first half, Spurs seemed to be getting none of the decisions by referee Andre Marriner who was cheered ironically when he did award Spurs rare free kicks. That said, we have had three good wins this season with Mr Marriner in charge, at Newcastle (3-0), at home to Liverpool, and now this.

After 13 minutes, Harry Kane pressed De Gea, who rushed his clearance which was headed back into the path of Dele by Eriksen. Dele advanced and Jones put the ball out for a corner. Three minutes later, after a Spurs throw on the left, Son put the ball out to Trippier who went down just inside the box under Young’s challenge but got nothing from the referee. After 20 minutes Martial came in from the left with first Sanchez, then Vertonghen closing him down. Martial hit his shot way too high. Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen were superb all night. Good play by Dembele in the middle gave Eric Dier the opportunity to send a good long ball forward with Dele pulling his shot wide. Dele hit a great ball out to Eriksen on the right, who quickly crossed low to Kane. Harry’s right footed shot from the right of goal was held by De Gea. Dele was involved in a Spurs break down the right side, and passed to Son, but his effort was cleared.

Spurs went two up in the 28th minute. Dele and Eriksen had been involved in the middle, before Eriksen pushed the ball out for Trippier. Trippier’s cross was intended for the lurking Kane, but Phil Jones side-footed the ball high into the net from 8 yards out. It was 2-0 and Wembley was rocking!

Lloris made a save at his left post from Martial’s shot before Spurs raced forward with Trippier pushing a ball centrally to Dele. Dele went down under Smalling’s challenge in the box, but Mr. Marriner waved away appeals for a penalty. Kane passed forward to Son, who took it out to the left of goal, but fired over. Eriksen took a free kick on the right and Eric Dier headed over at the near post. As we entered two minutes of added time Harry Kane had a chance in the middle following a long free kick taken near the half-way line, but he hit his shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Spurs started the second half brightly with Dele and Son getting forward down the right side. Son passed to Kane, but Harry was offside. The Spurs front four was seeking to add to the goal tally, but United managed to clear. Dele put a ball in from the right which Harry dummied to Son, who pulled his shot wide. Ben Davies advanced and passed to Dele, whose screwed ball ran to Kane, but he hit his shot wide across De Gea’s goal.

United had their most threatening moment of the game when Pogba hit a long ball to Lukaku on the left of Spurs’ goal. Lukaku hit a powerful shot but Lloris was equal to it, conceding a corner. Vertonghen was the winner after 61 minutes when Martial threatened, taking the ball off the forward’s feet and bringing it away in style. Mourinho made a double substitution of Fellaini for Lingard and significantly Mata for Pogba, who had made little or no impression against Dembele.

Eriksen had a shot from 22 yards which passed just wide, before Davies had a low shot held by De Gea, after receiving from Dembele after Trippier’s ball. Eriksen ran over son’s ball and Harry Kane had a shot held by the United keeper. After 68 minutes Eriksen pushed a ball to Son who fired straight at keeper De Gea, whose involuntary save led to a corner. Harry Kane had been well placed for a cross to the 6 yard box, and was not happy with Son!

We thought that we had witnessed embarrassment when substitute Fellaini was replaced by Herrera after only seven minutes on the field, but apparently he had suffered a recurrence of an old injury. Harry Ka ne had a good effort go over the bar after Eriksen’s touch, and against a semi-circle of defenders. Another Eriksen-Kane combination led to a corner. Spurs closed out the game in full control, and the United section started to thin out quite early as they lost hope in their men. Kane was fouled on the edge of the box by Valencia and took the kick himself, but hit it well over the bar.

This was a great performance by Spurs, and of course forms the first of three tough games against top six opponents. However, on this form we can relish Sunday’s trip to Anfield, and the visit of sixth placed Arsenal the following week. Incidentally, Arsenal are now six points behind us. This was Spurs’ third consecutive home win against United, and that is a first since the mid-sixties. Talking of threes, Chelsea lost 3-0 at home to Bournemouth tonight, which made the grins on our faces even bigger!

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