Sunday, March 04, 2012

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 3

Spurs horrendous record against Manchester United continues and with it the gap between third and fourth is reduced to just four points.  Tottenham were looking to show a positive reaction to last week's defeat but having dominated United for much of the match, gave away three goals with poor defensive work.

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 3
Scorers: Defoe                                Rooney, Young (2)
Team: Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto; Lenon (Rose), Sandro (Kranjcar), Livermore, Modric; Saha (Defoe), Adebayor  Subs: (unused) Cudicini, Dawson, Nelsen, Giovani

Tottenham, The Glory-Glory Game

Available now: from the Spurs Writers' Club 

Cost £15.00 (+ p & p) Use Code LH1

For the second week running, Spurs have spent the last twenty minutes of a game trying to avoid a three goal deficit turning into a nightmare result.  At least today, Jermain Defoe managed to pull one back but it was way too late to make any difference.

Once again, Spurs started an important game without key players through injury or illness.  Scott Parker was suspended but Jake Livermore and Sandro worked hard and did well to dominate United's experienced partnership of Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick.  Rafael Van der Vaart was injured and Gareth Bale having been passed fit was absent through illness.  Obviously, with Bale out, Spurs had lost one of their main threats and United will have smiled with satisfaction.  Aaron Lennon returned and certainly was a constant problem to the United defenders - Phil Jones doesn't look as composed at full-back when faced with a pacy winger, just how would he have coped with Bale?

Manchester United opened in a composed fashion but Spurs quickly showed they were looking to improve on last week's result and performance in a controlled way, gradually building up possession and pressure.  For much of the half United were hemmed back into their own half.  Louis Saha and Emmanuel Adebayor tried shots from distance but lacked power.  A poor kick out by the goalkeeper presented Adebayor with an opportunity to run at the defence and he forced the goalkeeper to atone for his error with a good save low to his left.

United struggled to cope with Lennon and when Jones failed to get in a tackle in the area, Lennon progressed from the left and found Saha whose shot was goalbound but hit Adebayor standing on the goal line with two defenders on the ground.  As the ball fell it hit his arm before he back heeled it into the net.  The referee disallowed the goal for handball.  In the strictest sense that was correct but Adebayor hadn't used his arm to control the ball and he couldn't get out of the way of it.  Another unfortunate decision for Spurs but a let off for United who then took advantage of poor marking at a corner in the final minute of the half to take an undeserved lead.  Kyle Walker who was marking Rooney gave him too much time and space to get in  front of him to head the ball in.

The second half continued much as the first with Spurs building up the pressure on United.  Livermore had a good shot which took a slight deflection off Saha saved by the goalkeeper low to his right.  A United defender hacked the ball away for a corner.  A free-kick by Benoit Assou-Ekotto clipped the top of the crossbar and Ferdinand put in a last ditch tackle on Adebayor in the penalty area.

Almost immediately, on the hour, at the other end, Modric lost his man at a throw in and the ball across goal was hammered back into the net, through a ruck of players, by Ashley Young from an acute angle.  Spurs had gifted United another goal and eight minutes later it was three as Young was allowed to run at goal and line up a shot which he curled into the net from twenty yards with no-one closing him down.  All three goals came about through poor defensive play by Spurs and should have been prevented.

For the rest of the game Spurs were again trying to avoid embarrassment. There was no indication of a comeback and Defoe's goal came from a misplaced pass by a United defender.  Defoe picked the ball up and shot home from twenty yards with two minutes remaining.

United again punished Spurs for defensive mistakes and claimed their three points.  Spurs have no idea how to cope with United's winning mentality.  It is not a great United team this season but they certainly know how to win games.

Spurs have a number of failings which is making it very difficult for them: 
  • the inability to capitalise on corners and free-kicks
  • the inability to mark at set-pieces
  • the ability to make players look good - Young has only scored two PL goals this season, yet scored twice today, Walcott hadn't scored at the Emirates in fourteen months but scored twice last week and similarly, Rosicky hadn't scored for ages but also managed to get one last week. 
As expected, these last two games have had a major bearing on determining Spurs focus for the rest of the season - third place in the Premier League which guarantees a place in the group stages of the Champions League and a win in the FA Cup.

It was at this time last year that Spurs season tailed off so it is essential that the same isn't allowed to happen again.  Last year, the excuse was made that the players were exhausted from too many games but this year they have been used very sparingly in both Europe and the Cup competitions.  Harry Redknapp needs to put thoughts of England out of his mind and ensure a result against Stevenage and at Everton next weekend to put Spurs exceptional season back on track.


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