was a fine first half for Tottenham and seemed to be setting them on the
way to bringing something home from the usually unhappy hunting ground
of Old Trafford was whipped away from them by an incompetent decision by
the match referee - one of the supposedly best in the Premier League.
The penalty awarded when Heurelho Gomes knocked the ball away from
Michael Carrick running into the box, was a false one and led to a
revival by United that looked less than forthcoming and ended up with a
5-2 score-line in their favour.
that there can be any complaints about the way they played after that,
but all the complaints will be about the shoddy display by Webb, who
failed to give decisions at crucial times ... and frankly, if he cannot
do that, what is he doing on a football pitch ? Waving play on
when Modric was clobbered on the side of the head was a strange one and
lead to the second United goal, while he booked two Spurs players in the
first half for their first tackles and allowed Ronaldo an all too
familiar petulant swipe that saw his studs catch Aaron Lennon's ankle
without any sort of reprimand. Even Palacios' two footed challenge
on Ronaldo that the Portuguese winger managed to avoid should have
brought a yellow, but Webb once more ignored the severity of the
But the way Spurs played in the first half
barely deserved the treatment handed out by the referee. Some
flowing football, with hard work caught a stilted United side on the
hop. Even if Gomes was alert to a slick passing Man U passing
movement inside the first minute that lamost reached Berbatov were it
not for the keeper's intervention, Spurs settled well and passed more
effectively than the home side.
Much as Tottenham did in the League Cup Final,
the thrust of their attacks came down the United left, with Aaron Lenon
causing untold problems for Patrice Evra. One early ball was put
too far ahead of Robbie Keane, while another in the seventh minute
leanded on Darren Bent's head at the far post and he forced van der Sar
to save at his near post, while he might have had more joy by heading it
back the way it had come.
With Ledley King back in the middle of defence,
the back four worked hard to block United on the edge of the box, while
Gomes was keeping out anything that got through the defence. His
save from Ronaldo's free-kick that reared up at him off the turf came
just before the flashy winger nearly headed one in, but took it off
Berbatov, who was better placed, and put it wide. Rooney took a
shot off Benoit Assou-Ekotto's block and it fizzed over the bar.
But then, in the 29th minute, Spurs moved the
ball around well on the right wing and Corluka crossed to the centre of
the penalty area, where Bent rose between Vidic and Ferdinand, but
didn't get a good contact, although the first man missed it and
Ferdinand was too far off the forward, leaving him the opportunity to
smash it past the United keeper from a couple of yards out. It was
a most unexpected state of affairs, but not one which was undeserved.
Two minutes later, it was 2-0. Another
good piece of possession on the right lead to Lennon crossing over the
defenders, who had been drawn into the middle of the box to deal with
Darren Bent, but left Luka Modric free at the back post and he took a
touch and shot in at the post leaving van der Sar diving in vain to
prevent a 2-0 score in Tottenham's favour. It was nothing more
than Spurs' play had earned, as they had not been playing at much more
than the tempo Manchester United had employed, but their movement and
some lax defending had let Tottenham take their chances.
The Spurs keeper came to the rescue with a save
in the 37th minute from a long range Rafael drive, getting forward after
having a tough time at the back, then Gomes kept out Ronaldo's second
effort following blocked free-kick was agile and used all his height in
tipping the dipping ball just over the angle. Just before the
break, some good play in front of the penalty area, the ball was played
for Wilson Palacios to have a shot just over the bar of the United goal.
At 2-0 down, you expected some comeback from
United and the removal of Nani to be replaced with Tevez was intended to
not allow Spurs time on the ball in defence, with Rooney being shifted
out to their left wing to thwart the movement of the ball up that side
of the pitch by Spurs. Rooney had the first effort on goal of the
first half, with a shot across the goal and then Tevez forced a save
from Gomes with his legs, as Ronaldo played him in.
Then in the 57th minute, Webb gave United a
penalty that never was, but Ronaldo converted it after Gomes got a
caution just to add insult to injury, which cannot be appealed.
The penalty not only gave United the momentum, but upset Spurs and they
lost their shape allowing the home team to capitalise on the head of
steam they built up.
Aaron Lennon was put in on the right by some
good passing by Jenas, putting a cross over everyone in the box, when he
had more time and space to provide a better ball or even a shot himself.
Within a minute, United were level. Modric was clattered in the
battle for a ball in the air and Webb waved Unite don and they took
advantage by working the ball wide to Rooney on the left of the D,
putting in a low shot through Corluka's legs and past the unsighted
Gomes. With the way United were playing, Woodgate was being pulled
out of the centre of defence, while Corluka was getting sucked into the
middle, thus leaving Rooney free to cause havoc.
68 minutes and it was 3-2. Rooney got
away on the left and Ronaldo came in to head it with Ledley King getting
under the ball. It was 4-2 on 70 minutes, as Ronaldo found Rooney
free inside the box on the left and the England striker shot past Gomes,
with Woodgate just unable to stop the ball on the line and it just went
over the line as the defender lay on the ground trying to keep it
out with his stomach.
The scoring ended in the 79th minute, when
another Rooney left wing cross was met by Berbatov's head and although
he failed to make a decent contact, the lack of power confused Gomes,
who saved the ball, but it got away from him and the former Spurs
striker got the ball into the net with a follow-up shot.
Tottenham hadn't given up and Modric slipped
Keane through, only for him to try and dink the ball over van der Sar,
but the keeper got his body in the way. Ronaldo had a chance to
complete his hat trick, but pulled his shot across Gomes' goal from the
left and at the end, Bent was put in on goal, but he dragged his shot
right across the area to find Lennon coming in at the far post on the
right and his shot was fired into the side netting, but he was given
It was not a foregone conclusion that Tottenham
would have gone on to win after leading 2-0 at the break, but it
certainly doesn't help when United are given a big hand, not only in
winning this game, but in taking a big step towards retaining the
Premier League title.
If these things even themselves out, I look
forward to Mr. Webb gifting Spurs three points with some controversial
decisions against United at Old Trafford in the future
... but I won't hold my breath.