Yes. The specialists of late goals were undone by one this time. Tottenham Hotspur managed to grab a late equaliser against Manchester United at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
It was a chilly evening in London as the snow came down heavily. But the match referee Chris Foy decided against cancelling the match. Sir Alex Ferguson made 9 changes to the side he put out against West Ham on tuesday. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic partnered in the defence for only the 8th time in 18 months. Accompanying them were Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra. Phil Jones and Michael Carrick were elected to fill in the midfield while Tom Cleverly and Danny Welbeck took to the flanks. Shinji Kagawa played off the lone striker Robin van Persie.
Both the teams started the game cautiously, trying to retain possession. Within 5 minutes Defoe pounced on a long pass but Vidic cut the move short by tripping him over (this might not sound very important right now, but it is. Read on!). The first chance was created by United as Shinji Kagawa crossed the ball in for Robin van Persie who couldn’t do much more than get a shot on target. A routine save for the French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Things panned a little differently in the 25th minute though. 🙂
United conjured up a quick counter attack through Welbeck. Welbeck found Cleverly in space at the edge of the box who crossed the ball in for van Persie to head his 18th league goal of the season. Soon enough Tottenham started piling up the pressure on United. Aaron Lenon got into space and fired a grounded shot from the edge of the penalty box. De Gea managed to parry it away with Defoe reacting to the loose ball first, but was rightfully flagged offside. United had a few chances of their own post the goal but failed to materialise any of them. Tottenham had their best chance of the first half on the 40th minute with Gareth Bale volleying the ball straight towards the goal but De Gea was up for the challenge and made a brilliant save with his leg (for the hundredth time this season!). United looked to end the half on a high when Welbeck ran half the field into the box, but wasnt able to deliver the final ball.
Tottenham started the second half on the front foot looking to equalize, and they had their chance when Defoe was put in the box with just De Gea to beat. But the goalkeeper stood firm and denied him a chance to make things even (again with his legs this time). Wayne Rooney was introduced near the hour mark in place of Kagawa to stabilize things a bit. The most controversial, perhaps match altering too, decision came when Rooney was clipped by Caulker in the penalty area and Man Utd were denied a clear penalty. The same tackle had been dubbed a foul by Vidic on Defoe in the beginning of the game.
Tottenham kept the pressure on United for most parts of the second half by pumping ball in the box with every chance they got but the Red Devils kept hitting them out everytime. Defoe again got a glorious opportunity to equalize when he slipped away from United’s back four and only had to place the ball past the goalkeeper. But Rio Ferdinand came back in time and deflected the shot out for a corner. Clint Dempsey, who had a quiet game for most of the time, had his chance but De Gea was there again to deny him.
The way they were defending, United looked set to get away with all the three points. Unfortnately, Dempsey finally took his chance and equalized in the 92nd minute. Heartbreak for United as all their defending went in vain, celebrations for Tottenham as they are the only team in the top 5 who have managed to take points off them.
Sir Alex Ferguson sure made his views clear about the referee’s decision to not award United a penalty during the post match interview. Apparently, it didnt go down too well with the FA and it might land Ferguson in hot soup.
This leaves Manchester United’s lead on the top of the table cut down to 5 points. Nevertheless, they still have a lead! 🙂
Glory Glory Man Utd!! 😀