Tottenham shared the points with Manchester United in a goalless draw after an eventful encounter at White Hart Lane. Heroics from Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris were enough to keep the United shooters at bay and earn his team an important result in a quest for a Top 4 finish.
The Red Devils will be kicking themselves for not scoring a single goal in the opening 45 minutes after creating more than five clear-cut chances for a breakthrough. The one time Hugo Lloris was beaten by a deflected free kick from Juan Mata, the post came to Tottenham’s rescue. The first half was also highlighted by a bad tackle from Spurs midfielder Benjamin Stambouli on Manchester’s Michael Carrick who was lucky to escape unharmed from the challenge. The home team improved in the second half and had chances of their own to win the game but De Gea had other plans. Tottenham have apparently ran out of goalkeeper socks as Lloris played in the same ones as his team mates, not the traditional keeper ones matching his grey kit, but they brought him luck on a day when he was outstanding in the first half and rarely tested in the second.
This was an encounter of two in-form teams. Louis Van Gaal named an unchanged 11 from United’s previous match with Newcastle on Boxing Day. This was the first time in 84 games the Red Devils have started back to back matches with a same team which is more remarkable considering the players only had one day to rest. His side entered the game in third place after an impressive run of eight games unbeaten losing points only once against Aston Villa. Mauricio Pochettino’s side sat in 7th and came off a 2-1 victory over Burnley two days ago. courtesy of Eric Lamela’s first goal for the Lilywhites and drawing immediate comparison to Gareth Bale’s start to life at the North London club. However the Argentine was dropped to the bench for this game.
Both teams started the game well and made attacking intentions clear from the early stages. The first half chance fell to the home side in the 6th minute. Harry Kane showed great persistence to keep the ball just outside the United box. After several attempts to get the ball off him from the players in red, he spinned around his axis, sent a ball into the box for Mason to chase and Jones did just about enough to put him off leaving De Gea with an easy save at his near post. United had a chance of their own in the next minute on the break when Rooney found Falcao but Chiriches was there to prevent him from shooting.
The Red Devils should have had the breakthrough after 19 minutes. Rooney found Mata unmarked in the middle, the Spanish magician charged forward and teed up Falcao on the edge of the box who escaped Chiriches with a good run and was now running alone at Lloris. The Colombian took a touch and fired as he was being closed down by Fazio but the striker could not get his feet organised and the strike went straight at Lloris.
Spurs answered with a chance of their own. Kane beat Evans to Chadli’s floating cross from the left but could not direct it towards goal. Instead the ball fell through to Townsend on the right who twisted in front of Young before sending in a delightful chip towards goal which Kane threw himself at but again could not get a meaningful touch on it and it was easily saved by De Gea. Kane and Townsend charged towards the visitors goal again just seconds later. This time Townsend cut inside from the right onto his left foot just outside the box and was looking for the far bottom corner but De Gea held it again.
From the resulting United attack, Van Persie was fouled by Vertonghen on the edge of the box in a very dangerous position. Rooney left it for Mata and his shot was deflected onto the post by the ball with Lloris rooted in spot. The ball ricocheted off the post straight to Falcao and Van Persie but the two got into each others way with neither getting enough contact to fire it into the back of the net. Instead Lloris threw himself at it but it was Chiriches who cleared off the line with a vital last second sliding tackle.
Another 60 seconds later, United forced a corner which was taken by Rooney. Carrick at the front post flicked it to Van Persie at the back, the Dutchman in turn sent it back to the front post where Facao and Jones were lurking. The defender got his head to it and Lloris showed great reflex to save from three yards before Vertonghen cleared it off the line. All the excitement was unnecessary however because both Falcao and Jones were in an offside position. Although if they weren’t it would have been ruled a goal as goal line decision system showed that Vertonghen cleared the ball millimeters after it had crossed the line.
Benjamin Stambouli then produced a dangerous challenge on Michael Carrick in which he kicked the United midfielder’s knee. Carrick escaped unharmed and Stambouli escaped only with a booking but players have been sent off for less. This all happened in the space of seven minutes so there was certainly no lack of entertainment for the fans and somehow the game was still at 0-0. 33 minutes into the game, Mata isolated Falcao with Fazio with a long pass. The Colombian cut on his right foot and fired to the far post but his shot wasn’t powerful enough to beat Lloris.
Six minutes from half-time, Carrick brilliantly found Van Persie in the box behind the Tottenham defense with a ball over the top. The Dutchman brought it down with a brilliant touch and was in the small box when Lloris stuck out his foot to miraculously block as the striker was about to score. Another chance fell to Rooney after Young’s cross from the left found him on the penalty spot but the skipper’s header wasn’t powerful enough to beat the Spurs keeper.
Tottenham reminded themselves just a minute later. Townsend’s devilish free kick was only just too far Kane, otherwise the England U21 had a free header. United went close again with the last action of the first half. Young’s curling shot from the left edge of the penalty area was heading for the far top corner if it wasn’t for another tremendous save by the stretching Lloris. So with the scoreline somehow at 0-0, Jonathan Moss ended the very entertaining first half.
The hitparade of United’s wasted chances continued after the break as well, starting with Van Persie who directed Mata’s cross from the right to the edge of the six yard box well above Lloris’ goal. The home team rolled up their sleeves in the second half and were much more worthy opponents, taking the game to United but it was Mata who had the next big chance of the game in the 69th minute. Rafael’s cross from the right fell perfectly to the Spaniard just few yards from goal but he lashed his right footed effort way over the bar when he should have scored.
Two minutes later, Fazio produced a good effort looking for the far corner but De Gea was equal to it and the keeper made the stretching save look easy. Same fate awaited Eriksen’s free kick after the Dane was fouled by Mata 28 yards from goal. His drive was curling into the near bottom corner but De Gea palmed it away. Spurs finished the match strongly in search for a winner and they had their very best chance of the game in the 82nd minute. Kane showed exactly why the Tottenham faithful love him when he robbed Carrick and charged alone at three defenders in red. He slowed down and waited for a great run by Mason and found him with a perfectly weighted pass. With only De Gea to beat the midfielder sent it over the bar from the six yard box. The game was simply not meant to give goals.
It was a very entertaining game of great football and many chances which astonishingly somehow ended goalless. Manchester United have recently taken all three points including some games in which they were not necessarily the better side, namely against Arsenal and Southampton. But today their luck turned against them after they gave whatVan Gaal described as “the best 45 minutes of all season”. The Red Devils should have buried the game before halftime, however Tottenham fought back in the second half and had chances of their own to win the game. With Chelsea and Manchester City both drawing in their respective games, the Manchester team has not lost too much on the title race but they will still be disappointed not to have taken all three points. The home team have their goalkeeper to thank for keeping them level and saving the day. They will hope they won’t have to rely so heavily on the Frenchman on New Year when Chelsea come to visit.