What was an even encounter turned on a long ball and a handball, that
saw United go ahead from the spot and saw Michael Dawson take the long
walk to the dressing room. However, even then, Spurs still
attacked and could have got an equaliser rather than concede another to
end the game defeated 1-3, but not without giving the Champions some
difficult moments on their own ground.
In fact, had Tottenham taken their
opportunities, then the game might have been very different.
With Ramos making an interesting
selection, with Chimbonda suspended and Ledley rested after Tuesday,
Jamie O'Hara lined up at left back, with Lee switching wings to the
right. Teemu Taino retained his place in midfield to add some bite
in that area against the United midfielders.
The game was very open right from the
start and became an end-to-end cup tie. Lee nicked the ball off
Rooney's toe, then Jenas got in on the right, but pulled the ball back
behind all the Spurs players in the box. When Giggs got into a
similar position, he picked out Wayne Rooney, who struck the ball first
time at the near post into the side netting.
Spurs were working hard to shut United
down and when Ronaldo got possession, O'Hara was helped out by Steed
Malbranque to deny him space and time on the ball. From
Tottenham's first corner, Lennon's ball was met by Berbatov's head and
Rooney was on the far post to head the ball away from the line in the
14th minute. Five minutes later Cerny was in action with a falling
save to take Rooney's low shot.
With 23 minutes on the clock, Tottenham
went ahead. A fine move starting with Cerny throwing the ball out
to O'Hara ended with Dawson drilling a pass out to Lennon on the right
wing. The little winger took on Evra and pulled the ball across
the six yard box, cutting out van der Sar, leaving Robbie Keane the
simple task of getting a touch on the ball to guide it into the net from
two yards out to make it 1-0. It was a well crafted goal and was a
bit of a surprise, although the attacking style of play is the best way
for Spurs to approach games these days.
Lennon's pace had United struggling and a
break away in the 32nd minute took hi to the edge of the home team's
area, but he opted to shoot instead of looking to put Dimitar in and the
chance was easily thwarted by van der Sar. Then the play moved to
the other end and a corner for United saw Cerny having to reach over
Tevez's shoulders to beat the ball away as it looked like the goal might
be under threat.
Cerny enhanced his reputation in the 37th
minute with a regulation tip over the bar from a rising Giggs shot and
when the corner was cleared, it was worked back from the right and a
high ball into the area was mis-headed by Dawson, with the ball falling
to Giggs, who held off Lee, allowing the ball to drop for Tevez to sweep
in from the left side of the area from about 10 yards out. The
ball flew across Cerny and the error by Dawson allowed United to get
back into the game when they hadn't seriously threatened the Tottenham
When Tevez blazed a shot from 25 yards
over the top, it looked as though United were getting a grip on the
match, but in added time, Jenas made a great run on the blind side and
was clean through on van der Sar, who managed to get a hand on the
midfielder's low shot across him to keep it out.
The half time talk was about the way the
team had denied United the opportunity to play, but also the expansive
way the side had been playing to attack the Red Devils on the break.
That was proved just after the interval when Lennon's trick left Evra on
the floor and with players at the far post to pick out, Aaron mis-hit
his cross, but it nearly went in; just landing on the roof of the net.
Eight minutes into the half, a foul from
behind on Keane by Brown gave Tottenham a 25 yard free-kick, which Jamie
O'Hara stepped up to bend around the wall, but not enough to convince
van der Sar that it was going to hit the target. One minute later,
Spurs should have been ahead again. A throw-in was flicked on
Gilzean-like by Berbatov. The ball dropped and was hooked on by
Keane over the defence, leaving Jermaine Jenas the opportunity to run
past them and clear once more, he failed to hit the target, as he got
his shot all wrong and side-footed well wide, when he could have even
passed sideways to give a chance to a supporting team-mate.
Just before the hour came up, Ronaldo
finally got some joy against O'Hara and worked a shooting chance, but he
hit the side netting. Lee picked up a knock and Gunter came on to
replace him and did not look out of place in the line-up, with Paul
Scholes coming on for the disappointing Michael Carrick. Scholes
immediately got involved with a set-up for Tevez to shoot over and then
Scholes did the same himself.
67 minutes saw the incident that turned
the match. An innocuous incident saw United get a free-kick on the
edge of their own box as Robbie Keane was adjudged to have fouled Wes
Brown. Interesting as many similar incidents with Keane being the
victim had gone unpunished by ref Walton. van der Sar raced past
the intended taker and hoofed the ball straight down the middle of the
pitch, landing it in the Spurs penalty area. Dawson got under it
and Rooney took it down with one touch. Trying to get back to
prevent a goal, the falling Dawson knocked the ball away with his arm
and conceded a penalty and got a red card for his troubles.
Ronaldo converted and the game was
virtually over. Tottenham sacrificed Aaron Lennon with Boateng
coming on, taking the side into a 4-3-2 formation. It seemed to
work as Kevin got away on the right corner of the penalty box and fired
a shot on goal, but it went high into the Stretford End. Ramos
still was going for the game, when he took Tainio off and brought on
Jermain Defoe, but it looked as though his touch was not at it's best
today and too often the ball got away from him.
With a 3-3-3 formation with Berbatov,
Keane and Defoe leading the side up front. And it very nearly paid
The ball was worked on the left to
Malbranque and he played a neat ball into the area. It missed the
first man and with Berbatov coming in at the far post, Wes Brown just
managed to get in a foot, which diverted the ball towards his own goal.
Four inches was the difference between 2-2 and 1-2 and the ball struck
the upright and bounced out.
Four minutes later, the lack of luck
Tottenham generally enjoy (?) at Old Trafford came back to visit us.
Ronaldo switched to the left and he ran at Gunter, cut inside and his
shot flicked off the underside of Steed's leg and took the ball down and
under the diving body of Radek Cerny to squeeze in to make it 3-0.
The score-line flattered United a little
bit, with the final goal a couple of minutes before the end and a huge
slice of luck assisting them. Had we kept eleven men on the pitch,
it might have been an interesting final twenty minutes.
Jenas' misses might also have made a
difference, with the ball bouncing back off the post another piece of
misfortune. With United the visitors to the Lane next week, the
nature of the game changes, as there are three points up for grabs.
Will it end the same ? And will
there be any new faces in the side come Saturday ? Perhaps Ramos
will spring yet another surprise and finally allay our United hoodoo.