Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tottenham 0-0 Manchester United: Red Devils Win the Carling Cup On Penalties

Manchester United defeated Spurs on penalties in Wembley to claim the seasons first major trophy. Ben Foster turned out to be the hero after a season where his future at Old Trafford was often questioned. In a tactical game where defences dominated chances were at a premium and it came as no surprise to anyone to see the game go into extra time and on to penalties.

With both sides naming attacking line-ups the game looked set up to be an open affair. The talking points about both sides were answered as Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp handed in their teams.

Spurs went with two up front, Johnathan Woodgate missing out after picking up an Achilles tendon injury in training yesterday, Wayne Rooney was also a surprise omission after he contracted a virus and both managers now have the headache that these vital players could be out for a couple of games.

United dominated the early proceedings, Ronaldo going close with a couple of long range efforts. Spurs best chances coming from the right hand side combination of Aaron Lennon and Vedran Corluka. The two Spurs players combined on a number of occasions to get in behind the United back four, and only timely interventions by Rio Ferdinand denied Spurs an opening goal.

The game was end to end without either side really creating anything worthwhile. United had the lions share of possession but Danny Wellbeck looked out of his depth as Michael Dawson and Ledley King snuffed out all of the Red Devils central attacks.

It was a case of the same at the other end, Darren Bent and Roman Pavlyuchenko's partnership was not living up to all that Harry Redknapp had hoped, and with Spurs not having any recognised strikers on the bench the duo would have to mesh if Spurs were to have any chance of winning this game.

Johnny Evans looked assured under the threat of the two Tottenham internationals and really looks as if he could have a big future at Old Trafford and could be future competition for Ferdinand as they vie to partner Nemanja Vidic.

The second half started off in much the same vein as the first, United came out of the blocks the quickest and in a repeat of his early first half free kick he fired another high and wide.

Minutes later Roman Pavlyuchenko outdid Ronaldo with a free kick that would have gone down well in the six nations rugby internationals over the weekend.

On 55 Alex Ferguson tried to change things around as the game slipped further into becoming a stalemate. Brazillian Anderson came on for the ineffectual Danny Wellbeck as United reshuffled.

United began to push on with an extra man in midfield, and should have scored when Evans misdirected shot from a corner should have been forced home by Tevez who could only help the ball wide.

At the other end Luka Modric was whipped down by John O'Shea who was lucky not to pick up his second yellow card. And moments later the Croatian's improvised cross set up Darren Bent beautifully but his effort was poor and went well wide.

Harry Redknapp sent on Jamie O'Hara in place of Roman Pavlyuchenko to battle United's domination in midfield, and the move almost backfired immediately. Cristiano Ronaldo sprinted inside Assou-Ekotto and as he looked to pass to Scholes Ledley King slid in to tackle.

Luckily for Spurs Referee Chris Foy read the tackle wrong and booked Ronaldo for diving. Previous indiscretions coming back to haunt the Portuguese.

Ben Foster pulled off the first real save of the match with 20 minutes to go. Lennon found himself in acres of space on the right hand side of the box and fired at the United stopper, the young keeper more than equal to the effort.

With the game drifting towards extra time and both teams looking like they had settled for another half hour, Ronaldo burst into the Tottenham box. His left footed effort cannoned off the post with Heurelho Gomes at full stretch, as the effort rebounded across the goal Nani reacted quickest but he could only guide the ball wide as extra time loomed.

Gareth Bale took to the pitch in place of the tired Jermaine Jenas and Spurs fans could have been forgiven for questioning Redknapp's judgement. In 24 games against Premiership opposition Bale had never finished on a winning side...

Things got worse for Spurs moments later as Aaron Lennon pulled up with a calf injury and the much maligned David Bentley took to the pitch with his future at Spurs still very much in the balance.

Extra time was pretty much a non event. Neither side really created much and it was an added period that sapped the legs of both sets of players as they face into difficult fixtures over the coming weeks.

And on to penalties.

Heurelho Gomes looked at ease while he was warming up and the first United player to face him was the Premierships longest serving player Ryan Giggs. Gomes went the right way but Giggs' kick was well place and went in off the post.

Jamie O'Hara was up first for Spurs and his poorly placed penalty was easily saved by Ben Foster, advantage to United.

Carlos Tevez and Vedran Corluka both exchanged goals before Cristiano Ronaldo sent Gomes the wrong way with an expertly taken spot kick.

The writing was on the wall for Spurs when David Bentley walked up and he dragged the ball wide.

Anderson had the task of winning the game for United and his confidant penalty gave Gomes no chance.

In truth the game was a poor affair, there was very little between the two teams and United's win puts them well on course to claim an unprecedented four trophies in one season.

Man Utd: Foster(8), O'Shea(6), Evans(7), Ferdinand(7), Evra(6), Ronaldo(6), Scholes(6), Gibson(6), Nani(5), Tevez(6), Welbeck(5).

Subs: Kuszczak, Anderson(6), Giggs, Park, Vidic(6), Possebon, Eckersley.

Gomes(6), Corluka(6), Dawson(6), King(6), Assou-Ekotto(6), Lennon(7), Jenas(6), Zokora(6), Modric(6), Bent(6), Pavlyuchenko(6).

Subs: Alnwick, Bale, Bentley, Huddlestone, Gunter, Taarabt, O'Hara(6).

Referee: Chris Foy (6)

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