With the leading team in the league visiting the Lane, we hoped for a
spectacle worthy of the event, with something approaching last week's
fare. What we got was a snarling, snivellingly cynical performance
from the League champions as you could say "United are Back" in a late
scramble to grab an equaliser and an undeserved point.
The last gasp goal was a blow to Tottenham,
who had played the more expansive football, while United struggled to
keep away from the Spurs players, who were literally, all over them.
Never allowing them the opportunity to settle on the ball, United failed
to pass the ball effectively and Ronaldo was frozen out of the game, as
Ramos' tactics paid off for a second week against the renowned
deployment of the United manager.
But this was not just about the result,
although it would have been a great boost to the Tottenham side to have
beaten United. The performance said a lot more than the one point
we came out of it with. The new players slipped into the side
seamlessly and the team as a whole looked more athletic and determined.
The chances were there to extend the lead and perhaps put it beyond a
lacklustre Manchester team, but one lapse at the death cost us two
points and yet another set-piece and yet another last minute goal let us
Dawson and Woodgate had dealt with
everything that came their way, while Chimbonda had a storming game and
Hutton played faultlessly on his debut. The midfield swarmed all
over the red shirts and while they may have used the ball better on a
few occasions, they saw three of their opposite numbers substituted, as
the United midfield misfired. Robbie Keane ran across the back
four, hustling them into getting rid of the ball and Berbatov scored.
It was almost the ideal performance, but not quite.
While United were hampered by the
energetic performance by the Tottenham players, the Spurs side found it
to their liking and they attacked United with verve and vigour.
The breakthrough came on 20 minutes, when Jenas appeared to be felled in
the area, but I would like to think that Clattenburg played advantage,
but I am not sure he is aware of what goes on around him half the time.
The ball found it's way out to Lennon, who beat Evra and played a near
post ball in that van der Sar spilled and Berbatov stuck back past him
to make it 1-0.
I think van der Sar was indicating that
Jenas touched the ball with his arm in the build-up to the goal, but
when it should have been a spot-kick, his argument seemed trivial and
when he started rolling around on the floor to convince the officials,
he got a yellow card for his troubles. He was lucky he didn't get
a straight jacket !!
The only worry Spurs had up to that time
had been an "after you" between Malbranque and Chimbonda and Brown stole
between them to take the ball on the edge of our box, but he fired well
It was weird that Ronaldo committed an
obvious handball, which Clattenburg did spot, but he only whipped out
his yellow card when the Portuguese winger showed dissent. Two
goals last time out and he had a chance to score again, but his weak
header did not test Cerny.
The cautions were starting to come
quicker and the ref was rapidly losing control of the match. He
allowed abuse from United layers, but when Ronaldo dropped to the floor
when he couldn't get past Woodgate, the card was flashed in the
direction of the new Tottenham defender.
Berbatov hurried a volley as Ferdinand
closed him down and from around the penalty spot, he fired over and then
he was nearly through again, but a Hargreaves handball stopped the
progress and after a long chat by Clattenburg, the Man U man strolled
off unpunished. I fail to see what there was to talk about, as it
WAS a handball, even the ref saw that, so why talk to him about it ??
When Hud caught Ronaldo, who flicked the ball away from him, he got a
booking just before the half-time whistle.
Carrick came on after the break, but
failed to make much of a difference to the United forward movement.
In fact Spurs looked more likely to add to their lead, as Tom bombed in
a long range shot that Ferdinand blocked, but deflected and had his
keeper scuttling across to make sure it went wide and then Keane should
really have doubled the lead, when Berbatov controlled a kick out that
Rooney left. Tight to the line, he brought it down sublimely, beat
three men as he ran infield and played Keane in on the edge of the area
and Robbie took the effort early and failed to get either enough power
or directions away from van der Sar.
Just after Anderson and Nani had come on
for Scholes and Giggs, Steed flicked a ball up 20 yards out and volleyed
at goal, but it went straight at the keeper. Two cynical fouls -
one a late studs into Chimbonda challenge by Nani and a crude bundle
over of Jenas as he raced past Vidic - brought only yellows and failed
to help Spurs with their forward momentum. but they pressed on and
Hutton's shot was cleared up into the air and as the Scot went for the
ball, Tevez nudged him out of the way, which would have been a free-kick
anywhere else on the pitch. Another penalty shout came when a long
cross by Malbranque hit Evra on the arm, but his back was to the ball,
so I wouldn't have thought it would ever have been given.
With 15 minutes left, at last United
forced a decent save from Cerny, as Anderson hit a 25 yard shot along
the floor and the Tottenham keeper had to shift his feet and dive to tip
it wide. From the corner, Dawson blocked Carrick's shot. As
United sought an equaliser, Cerny saved a regulation shot at the near
post from Nani and Chimbonda appeared out of nowhere to make an
important tackle as the Argentinian was about to shoot from close range.
Things were getting desperate for the
visitors. Following Cerny's booking for time-wasting, Rooney flung
himself down in the box as Dawson positioned himself to make sure that
the ball ran away from the dumpy England forward. Thus he became
the seventh United player cautioned. An indication of their being
Where Spurs had done really well in not
giving away free-kicks around the penalty area, Boateng caught Ronaldo
and down he went with Clattenburg buying it. The ball was squared
to Rooney, but Spurs were out quickly to block it and when Huddlestone
lost the ball as he tried to dribble the ball out on the 18 yard line,
Chimbonda had to defend it for a corner. Leaving Tevez unmarked at
the near post, the header flew straight at Cerny, but it was not a
lesson Tottenham learned.
Woodgate had to stop Nani and at the
expense of a corner, it proved more expensive than that. Nani hit
it into the near post in the six yard box and with two United players
there, Dawson flew in to try and stop it, but diverted it past Cerny for
a heart-breaking equaliser with virtually the last kick of the game.
The zonal marking had fallen at the last and so went two points, but
then I suppose before the game we might have welcomed a point.
However, leaving the ground, it felt like two lost rather than one
gained and that shows some progress.
There is still much to play for in the
remainder of the season and the new players will integrate even further.
Some games might not go to plan ... nothing goes right all the time, but
with Ramos at the helm, more will go our way than not. Today, his
substitutions did not help the side shore up their lead and taking
Lennon off might have given the advantage to United, as he was so
influential in the latter stages of other games recently. He gives
us an out ball and can threaten the opposition defence with his
blistering pace if played in properly.
Still, it was a game in which we
dominated apart from the closing stages. The fitness of the
players seems to be paying off and their belief in themselves also is
becoming evident. It will be an interesting few months I think.