United rally at White Hart Lane, Jol lights up the Cottage
Tottenham 1 – 3 Man United
A day is a long time in football, a week an eternity. Incidentally, a victory today would have banished the doom and gloom of a nightmare week for the Lily Whites of Tottenham Hotspur.
Three points against the champions (some argue the champions elect), a convincing performance of high quality football; a brave show of character, fighting against the odds while missing two or three key players, such as a certain Master Bale, would have gone a long way to proving this Spurs side was one of serious intentions, substance and mettle. A 1-0 this Sunday would have wiped the slate clean of the 5-2 of last Sunday. Sadly for Tottenham, in spite of the stats (14 attempts on goal to 6 attempts on goal; 53% possession), in spite of a hardworking first half, and in spite of a controversially disallowed goal, Manchester United extended their tradition of enjoyable afternoons at the Lane.
Spurs began the game well, attacking their opponents, giving them little time on the ball and squeezing out space. They nullified Manchester United so completely, one might have had to sit down and really consider which side had been beaten 5-2 just seven days ago. Despite losing Gareth Bale, Scott Parker and Rafael Van der Vaart, Tottenham’s midfield of Lennon, Sandro and Livermore impressed to the point of dominating Scholes and Carrick, leaving Rooney little time or space to operate and wreak havoc.
An intriguing affair, it was a game of few chances but plenty of quality; one of those matches of engrossing viewing made a spectacle by the tactical conflicts and the context of the tie. Tottenham would have Adebayor’s backheeled effort disallowed for an apparent hand ball; though it seemed a ball-to-hand, and would also go on to have penalty appeals waved away, only for United to take the lead against the run of play.
In the last minute of the first 45, an Ashley Young corner was not adequately dealt with by the Spurs defence, allowing Wayne Rooney to pounce, putting United ahead. This was a major blow to the home side, especially before the break.
Only 1-0 down, and with the history of this season’s clashes between the top six being one inexplicable score lines, Spurs would and should still have fancied their chances. To their credit, they managed to thwart United for large periods of the match, throwing them off their game. The Mancunians were inaccurate with their passing, at times laboured in their build up, and sometimes too deliberate. Scholes and Carrick often looked crowded out by the drifting Modric and central pair of Livermore and Sandro. To Tottenham’s dismay, what could also be said for the away side is that they are a very ruthless team.
As soon as Ashley Young shaped up to lash home a delightful volley, the outcome was predictable. A goal seemed inevitable, and a goal it was. A wonderful finish to a neat move.
Although Jermain Defoe came on to rifle home a consolatory goal, United’s number 18 scored the goal that most fans would have left the stadium reflecting on. Having picked up the ball on United’s left wing, Young moved in on his right, curling a delicious shot past Friedel to bring in another long week for Spurs.
Newcastle 1 – 1 Sunderland
Another weekend, another two days of stunning football and high octane action. Newcastle and Sunderland kicked off the day’s programme of footballing events with a typically tense derby replete with goals, controversy, dismissals and furore.
Having defeated the Black Cats in the corresponding fixture at the Stadium of Light, the Toon Army were looking to complete a satisfying double over their rivals, adding more joy to a successful season. The away team, however, had other ideas.
Both sides huffed and puffed from the get go; both sets of players diving into fifty-fifty challenges with 100% commitment. While Newcastle hoped to capitalise on their home advantage, Sunderland sought to frustrate and ruffle their opponents. When Mike Williamson appeared to have tugged on Michael Turner’s shirt in the Newcastle box, they did just that. Mike Dean awarded a penalty, and a masked Nicklas Bendtner dispatched the resultant spot kick with aplomb.
Unsurprisingly, the decibel levels rose as a result, and so did the home team’s performance. Newcastle dominated possession and pressed in on their opponents, but Sunderland, reinvigorated by the staunch Martin O’Neill, fought off their advances and did so diligently.
Newcastle sought to breach the Sunderland defence, and with the magnificently gifted Hatem Ben Arfa causing all sorts of trouble, an equaliser seemed increasingly likely.
Creating a sense of symmetry, Newcastle were awarded a penalty after some nifty work by the enterprising substitute, Shola Ameobi. Up stepped Demba Ba; the number nine proceeded to miss.
As both managers began exchanging insults and almost, on one occasion, blows, it became clear the opposing coaching staff would not be sharing any refreshments after the game. Luckily, for the neutrals, Shola Ameobi stepped up in the dying minutes to finish coolly for the home side, providing a headline end to another refreshing episode of the Tyne derby.
Fulham 5 – 0 Wolves