All good things come to an end and our
unbeaten run from the start of the season ended with a narrow loss to
Manchester United, courtesy of a harsh refereeing decision.
Erik Edman was adjudged to have pulled
John O'Shea's shirt, which it appeared he did, but only after the
Manchester United man had done the same initially. The referee
in his debut season in the Premier League and looking like he is due
for retirement, pointed to the spot after not giving the foul, but on
the advice of the linesman, who thrust his flag across his
chest. On a number of occasions the ref got the decisions the
wrong way round and it was on this occasion that the linesman saw what
happened when Edman was fouling and not what went on prior to that.
In my opinion, the referee is one of
the least competent I have seen in the Premier League. His
acceptance that Ronaldo dives (and in the box at that) was not a
cautioning offence. The fact that he was ready to wave a card at
Heinze, but because Spurs took a quick free-kick he did not go back
and book him, astounded this spectator. His lack of awareness as
to the seriousness of an injury to a player meant that the game
continued while they lay on the turf. It is poor when one of the
best leagues in the world has to be ruled by men like P. Walton.
However, he was not the sole reason
Spurs got nothing out of the game. It would have been a good
point earned if not for him.
The defence stood firm once more and
although Manchester United created a few more chances than Chelsea the
week before them, they failed to penetrate the dense Tottenham
defence. Naybet and King were superb in the middle of the back
four and although Edman had a tough time up against Step-Over Boy, he
stuck to his task and came out favourably.
The game started almost sedately, with
a header at each end from Smith and Naybet failing to make the keepers
palpitate. When a long ball through the heart of the Spurs
defence was threatening, Robinson rushed out to clear, but the ball
didn't go too far and fell to Ronaldo, who hit it goalwards, with
Naybet back in place to stop the ball from getting nearer the net than
his position 12 yards from the line.
A slack ball out of defence by Silvestre
was picked up by Mendes who drove a powerful shot over the top and at
the other end Robinson sprawled to stop a van Nistelrooy effort that
shot off Mabizela and then King just before it crept over the
line. The closest the game came to a goal was when Ryan Giggs
cut in from the right to drift a curling shot that missed the far post
Fredi Kanoute had stretched a little
too far for a ball challenging for it in midfield and he was replaced
by Simon Davies on the half hour. Although this added width on
the right (initially, then the left and then the right again), it did
restrict the ability of the team to win any headers up front, with
Keane and Defoe hardly likely to triumph in the air over the returning
Ferdinand and Silvestre.
Tottenham's best effort arrived
courtesy of another sloppy Silvestre clearance which fell again to the
feet of Mendes and his first time dipping shot sent Carroll
side-stepping across his goal and just managing to keep it out at the
post. But three minutes later and three minutes before
half-time, the goal came United's way with Van Nistelrooy converting
the penalty just out of Robinson's reach.
The break surely must have seen Santini
advise his side to push on in search of an equaliser and although that
was their aim, the practicality of doing so was somewhat more
difficult. There were cries for a penalty when Defoe hit a shot
from just inside the box wide under challenge from Silvestre and
Ferdinand, but they did not touch him, just pressurised him into
shooting early. The feckless ref decided to show a yellow card
for Mendes' second foul of the game, while Ronaldo had been flopping
to the surface like gravity was too strong for him and Silvestre took
Defoe down every time he got near the ball.
The linesman at the other end was more
diligent in his duties and rightly waved his flag when van Nistelrooy
converted a low cross from Ronaldo to rule it out for offside just
after the hour and then Robinson made a good block at his near post
when the Portuguese winger cut inside to fire in a shot. The
same player irked the Tottenham crowd when he tried to go past Pamarot
in the area and again fell to earth. While not apparent at the
time, he kicked the floor in his feeble attempt to persuade the
officials to award another spot kick.
Tottenham were robbed of an opportunity
to get back into the game when Defoe chipped the ball slightly
backwards to Keane, who left it for Redknapp, but the lino waved his
flag to signify offside. Simon had another good shot on the
volley on 70 minutes, but it went straight tot he United keeper.
Two minutes later, Keane blocked a dangerous effort from Silvestre in
their own area as a corner fell in a crowd of players, but it sparked
a mini Spurs revival.
Robbie Keane hit a stroked a shot
precisely, but off target, while Redknapp hit a long range effort wide
of the mark too. The save of the match came in the last
minute of normal time when Ronaldo played a low cross into the Spurs
six yard box and Bellion threw himself at it, meeting it with his head.
Luckily for Tottenham, it flew straight at Robinson, who it hit at
point blank range and bounced away as the Yorkshireman had a broad
grin on his face.
Spurs nearly grabbed an equaliser as
Alex Ferguson stood pointing at his watch on the touchline. A
scramble inside the penalty area from a corner saw Defoe nearly nudge
the ball past a defender but Ferdinand stuck out a leg to take the
ball away from danger and the opportunity went begging.
It was another solid performance by
Spurs, but the moment Kanoute left the pitch, this limited the option
for an out ball for Spurs. With Atouba missing too, the lack of
height meant in the first half the ball just kept coming back towards
their own goal. In the second half the same happened, but this
was because Man U closed down our back four quickly, leaving them the
sole option of playing the pass back to Robinson to clear it long
upfield and then it was again won back by a red shirt.
There was a little more adventure when
the full backs pushed on to help add some weight to the attack, but
the close attention the visitors paid Defoe left him without many
chances to show his ability in front of goal.
This was another step in the right
direction, as there was no space ceded by Spurs in the early part of
the match, as they did last year and the team restricted them to a few
shots on goal. In return, there was a bit more forward movement
and as the season progresses, the side will develop, especially when
Davis returns and perhaps Carrick gets into the team to add some more
clinical passing to supply the forwards.
Disappointing, but ultimately, another
learning experience for Jacques' "young team" !!
MEHSTG TOP MAN : - LEDLEY KING