Two minutes cost Spurs the game when a lucky deflection and a
well-crafted goal put Manchester United through to the FA Cup Fifth
Round after an early shock from Roman Pavlyuchenko's goal.
Neither side was quite as weak as the managers had suggested that they
might be and there was a respectable smattering of regular first-teamers
among the 22 taking the field at the start.
With United making an
uncharacteristically sloppy start with Scholes presenting the ball to
Pavlyuchenko, he played in Bentley on the right, but his cross was
blocked away for a corner by young full back Fabio. But in the
next attack, Spurs went against the script for the match with a goal
that stunned large sections of Gold Trafford into silence.
Huddlestone chipped a neat ball down the
left wing to put Benoit Assou-Ekotto away and his low cross to the
middle of the box was cleared away, but only back to Hud. Taking
the ball to the left of the left hand corner of the penalty box, he put
in a left footed cross to just outside the six yard box. Roman had
dropped off Vidic and then, as the ball came in, he darted across the
Serbian defender to glance a header from the near post across a static
Ben Foster in goal to give Spurs a most unexpected lead.
With all the talk about Spurs not being
bothered about going through in this competition, they all looked
pleased enough with the goal and it echoed the goal that Les Ferdinand
scored when Manchester United had to beat Spurs to win the title on the
last day a few seasons ago.
But much the same as what happened that
day, United came back with lots of possession. Firstly, United
manufactured a chance for Dimitar Berbatov on the right hand side of the
box, which he drove across goal and wide of the far post. Then
Dawson threw himself in front of a Scholes shot, the woodwork denied
Tevez a goal when his dipping drive from outside the box beat Alnwick
and Chris Gunter slid in to deprive Welbeck a shooting opportunity as he
pulled his foot back to shoot. Ronaldo hit a shot too high, but
when Fabio pulled a low ball back from the left wing, Tevez struck a
powerful effort that was going into the top corner until Ben Alnwick
rose to get a strong wrist on it and palm the ball over the bar with a
Despite a brief respite from the pressure
when Bale's high looping cross saw Foster some off his line and not get
the ball, the mina action was down the end where Spurs defended
their goal and it was looking like they may get through to the break
with an unexpected lead. However, we should know better, as the
players ignored Paul Scholes dropping off outside the middle of the
penalty area, so when a corner was played back to him, he smashed it
into a crowded penalty area. His shot was going wide, but caught
Tom Huddlestone and the deflection took it on target, confounding
Alnwick, who had little chance to react and stop it as it flew past him
for the equaliser.
Before he knew it he was picking the ball
out of the net again. Less than two minutes later, Carrick played
the sort of delightful first-time pass we know he is capable of to put
Berbatov away, having just stayed onside. He took the ball down,
moved into the penalty area and as Michael Dawson came across, languidly
stroked the ball past Alnwick into the opposite corner of the goal from
a position just right of centre. It was the sort of goal we all
liked to see him score for Tottenham, but it brought boos from the Spurs
contingent and mainly because it hurt that we are in our current
predicament thanks to his (and other players) leaving White Hart Lane.
Added to that, he failed to celebrate a goal he scored for Tottenham in
Leverkusen, but he was happy to extend his arms, rather than walk away
as he did in Germany.
Spurs had a chance to get back into the
game before half time, when Bentley got away and struck a shot that went
comfortably over Foster's crossbar.
At the break, Redknapp removed Modric,
perhaps saving him for Tuesday's match, with Giovani Dos Santos coming
on in his place for a first outing under Harry's management. It
should have added a bit of a spark to the attack, with his more direct
running testing the Manchester United defence. It did on occasion,
but with Spurs not trying to force the game to leave themselves open at
the back and United happy to maintain possession, it became difficult
for him to get too involve din the game.
A minute into the half, Bentley did what
he should do more often, in putting a pacy, deep cross in that picked
out the run of Gareth Bale. Unfortunately, as he got behind his
marker, his shot came off his shin and went wide of the goal as he burst
onto the ball on the corner of the six yard box. It was followed
ten minutes later, when Tom played in Benoit down the left and his cross
was knocked out by Vidic to Bentley on the right side of the box and his
first time shot crashed into the side netting.
It was evident that the game meant a lot
to United, as an incident in the 60th minute showed. Giovani
closed down Vidic and won the ball which bounced into the United half,
but as he ran after it the central defender cynically brought him down,
with the ball well away from him. The foul was perpetrated to stop
Spurs breaking away and unfortunately, the ref failed to see it for the
calculated effect it would have and only produced a yellow card.
it was not a goal-scoring opportunity, but the sheer contemptuous nature
of the foul perhaps should have deserved more.
Anyway, shortly afterwards, it was Vidic who
blocked a shot by Bentley, when Spurs had a five man break on the United
goal and he would have been better crossing it to the far post. It
was a good opportunity and one which Tottenham might have paid for in
the next couple of minutes, as Cristiano Ronaldo produced his one moment
of skill in the game, by cutting in from the left and shooting at goal,
but Alnwick was equal to it and pushed the ball away with a good save.
Harry brought on Adel Taarabt for Bale and
then Defoe for Bentley to try and take the game to the home team in the
closing stages. It worked to a certain extent, but Taarabt failed
to get the ball moving when he got in a good position; either having it
taken off him or his final pass lacked the crispness to make it's final
destination. With Defoe joining Pavlyuchenko up front, he was not
picked out often enough or with the right sort of pass, so his
effectiveness was limited.
minutes from the end, Assou-Ekotto dragged a ball back from the
dead-ball line to the near post, where Giovani met it, but he was coming
onto it quickly and he could only poke it over the bar from close in and
just wide of the goal. it was a good, but hard chance to convert
and although the play was fairly gentle, Spurs did start to push for a
late equaliser as the final couple of minutes approached. It was
all or nothing then.
Tom Huddlestone chucked a long throw into
the box and the ball fell out to Taarabt on the edge of the area and his
shot hit Paul Scholes' hands and then it deflected wide where Benoit
controlled it and was pushed over by Fletcher. As it was going to
be the last action, the ref was unlikely to give a penalty at that
stage, so, when the ball was kicked out of the area, he blew his
whistle. And that was that. Spurs were out of the Cup.
It hadn't been the quite the capitulation
everyone had expected and despite the harsh comments mad eon TV by Andy
Townsend and Teddy Sheringham, the game was controlled by United for
most of the second half and the way Tottenham played was not out of
character with the rest of the season so far. The fact that we
could not break them down was demonstrated in the home league game, but
we did take the lead, but only a couple of minutes in the first half
when they got a flukey goal and a good one saw us defeated. I
guess Harry will demand more effort and attacking in the league game
when we play at Gold Trafford later in the season.