Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Match Report: Spurs 0 Man U 1

Manchester United followed up their Monday night win over Liverpool with a passionate 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane as Sir Alex Ferguson's team finally claimed their first away win of the season - and sent Spurs to their first defeat under Jacques Santini.

Ruud van Nistelrooy beats Paul Robinson (JamieMcDonald/GettyImages)
  • Ruud van Nistelrooy was the matchwinner in United's 700th top-flight game under Ferguson, firing home a penalty four minutes before halftime after Erik Edman tugged back John O'Shea, the Dutchman's first league goal of the season.

    That made it six points from two games since Rio Ferdinand returned from his eight-month ban for failing to attend a drugs test, and this was United signalling to Arsenal and Chelsea that it will be a three-way fight for the title this season.

    United came out of the traps flying and Spurs were fortunate not to concede a penalty after only three minutes as they were spared by the honesty of Gabriel Heinze.

    The Argentine defender found space on the left, just inside the penalty area, when Mbulelo Mabizela slid in with a reckless tackle.

    Heinze went down but jumped up immediately to try and play in the cross, and had he remained on the floor referee Pete Walton would surely have awarded a spot kick.

    Spurs hit back after seven minutes when they won a free kick on the right, level with the 18-yard box following a handball by Heinze. Keane curled in the cross and Noureddine Naybet headed wide at the near post.

    It was fast and furious and two minutes later a low Ryan Giggs free kick into the Spurs box was met with a stooping header from Alan Smith, but it lacked the power to trouble goalkeeper Paul Robinson and he made a simple save.

    It was van Nistelrooy who caused the next problem after 26 minutes. The Dutchman's low drive from the right deflected off Ledley King and Robinson had to pounce on the ball at his near post. A minute later a Giggs curling effort was not too far over the Spurs bar.

    Spurs made a change with Fredi Kanoute being replaced by Davies after 29 minutes. Perhaps it was Santini's way of trying to stem the tide, although the Frenchman left the field holding his hamstring.

    Spurs were reduced to the odd long-range effort but a 25-yard half-volley from Mendes almost caught out Carroll after 38 minutes as he was forced to push the ball around his right post for a corner.

    Spurs were rocked after 41 minutes when Edman tugged back O'Shea and this time the referee's assistant signalled for a penalty. Van Nistelrooy fired the ball into the left corner to give United a deserved lead.

    United picked up where they left off after the break - dominating possession - and Smith might have done better when creating a chance for himself after 47 minutes.

    The England striker cleverly chipped the ball over Naybet on the edge of the box but then snatched at the ball and screwed it wide with only Robinson to beat.

    As if not to be outdone, Defoe created a chance of his own three minutes later by nicking the ball away from Roy Keane, but was unfortunate to be just off balance as he took his shot and he too screwed the ball wide.

    Spurs won a free kick on the right after 57 minutes when Heinze climbed all over Jamie Redknapp but such was United's desire for the win, they had three defenders trying to head the cross clear as only King challenged.

    The first booking of the game arrived after 59 minutes and it went to Mendes for a trip on Ronaldo.

    Two minutes later United had the ball in the net again as Ronaldo crossed low from the left and van Nistelrooy guided the ball home, but Spurs were saved by an offside flag.

    That gave United fresh impetus and after 64 minutes Ronaldo skipped easily past Edman and drilled in a low shot which Robinson saved well at his near post.

    United screamed for another penalty after 67 minutes but the referee was spot on to ignore the pleas as Noe Pamarot played the ball and not the man.

    It almost got worse for Spurs following a United corner after 72 minutes, but Keane bravely put his body in the way to block a point blank shot from Silvestre.

    Spurs rode their luck one more time after 88 minutes when Ronaldo crossed from the left and substitute David Bellion saw his diving header hit Robinson's body - a save the England goalkeeper knew little about.

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