Andre Villas-Boas’ reaction to Clint Dempsey’s late goal against Manchester United at White Hart Lane was in equal measure for the deserved equaliser and for the positive response and display of his team. It is well recorded that Tottenham have not completed the ‘double’ over United since season 1989-90 and their record when facing the current League leaders is something of an embarrassment. So often, in the past a United goal has been the signal for Tottenham heads to drop and an acceptance of defeat as the inevitable outcome. On occasions, in the recent past the mere presence of Wayne Rooneyhas been enough for experienced Tottenham defenders to turn to jelly as they looked for cover when faced with his powerful runs and fierce competitive spirit.
Only last season in the match against United at White Hart Lane, Spurs had dominated the first half only for Rooney to score from a corner in the final minute. The second half became a formality with two additional goals midway through the half with Spurs having a late Jermain Defoe consolation goal to show for their efforts. United so often display an arrogance and confidence when playing Spurs, built up over years of domination in this fixture.
It was only a draw and having won at Old Trafford in September, Spurs spurned the opportunity to complete the ‘double’ over United and will have to wait for another season to attempt to take maximum points. Villas-Boas, however, is able to take positives from the match which would have been overlooked had Dempsey not scored.
The Tottenham players displayed a steel and determination that has so often been lacking in Spurs’ teams. They overcame the first half set-back when van Persie scored. The goal came at a time when Tottenham were having the greater possession and pressure but United got forward quickly from halfway and found the Spurs’ defence wanting. Spurs responded immediately, showing a desire to get back on level terms. United worked hard to frustrate Spurs but right into the second half Tottenham built up a momentum and were finally rewarded in time added on. On many occasions I have complained of Spurs running out of ideas when faced with a similar situation but against United they showed the commitment that is needed in a top team. At no time did they allow United to dictate the game and they even took the arrival of Rooney in their stride.
Andre Villas-Boas and the players, speaking after the game acknowledged the effort that the team had shown throughout the match and of a growing confidence in the side. Scott Parker commented,
” We put them under pressure in the second half and got the goal we deserved. We have shown a real resilience.”
The scorer of the late equaliser, Clint Dempsey, said,
” We have belief in ourselves. We have been getting good results and have been on a good run of form…..if we keep putting in performances, we can get the results to keep us in the top four.”
Even Sir Alex Ferguson had to admit that Spurs deserved their point,
“”You have to recognise that Tottenham were very, very committed and aggressive, got stuck into us. They are hard to beat on their own ground.”
The continuing good form of Aaron Lennon must please the Tottenham manager. United came with a plan to stop Gareth Bale on the left. They prevented him from getting down the wing and constantly showed him in-field with Rafael, Jones and Welbeck all detailed to work back and provide cover. What United then discovered, was that Lennon on the right could cause considerable problems too. Lennon was the major source of danger to United throughout the ninety minutes, providing a number of chances for Jermain Defoe and finally setting up Dempsey for the late goal.
Tottenham at their best is frequently Bale and Lennon, in tandem, posing a threat wide on the left and right respectively. It was encouraging to see Lennon being so influential and create such problems for United especially when Bale was more subdued.
Dempsey was not the player that Spurs supporters were expecting in August and it took some time for him to settle into his role at White Hart Lane. Dempsey, however, has worked hard and scored crucial goals, no more so than the winner at Old Trafford and yesterday’s equaliser.
Looking at yesterday’s list of substitutes, with injuries and other absences, it looked rather lightweight. There were few options for Villas-Boas to make a change to the team which might have turned the match. Benoit Assou-Ekotto coming on at left back gave Bale more support and his deep cross forced the error from David De Gea in the build-up to the late, late goal. Beyond that, however, with no striker, there was little Villas-Boas could do. If Tottenham are to maintain their challenge for fourth, they need some strengthening before the end of the month.
A Tweet on Sunday evening from Spurs fan, Alf Love,
(@alf_love47) summed up the situation perfectly,
“Hopefully the early AVB doubters have now changed their opinions, the guy is doing OK, but Daniel Levy must back him in this window.”
Over to You
What positives did you take from the draw with United?
What concerns do you have with the team/squad? Let me know!