I should be writing today about how Tottenham knocked Manchester United out of the Carling Cup last night, but instead I’m reflecting upon a very poor defeat.
With the amount of possession we had, we really should have created the chances to win this game, but our final ball was always just short, or too long, or just plain wrong. United also defended very well, with Vidic looking particularly majestic.
United’s first goal was slightly against the run of play and despite the fact that Darren Gibson applied a very good finish, we gave him far too much space to pick his spot.
We then went in search of an equaliser and came closest when Bale swung in a beautiful cross which Defoe brought down well, before having his shot blocked. Had he played a simple ball to Keane, he would have been able to roll it into an empty net, but it’s Defoe’s instinct to shoot when the chance arises and it’s what makes him the player he is.
Just when I was thinking that 1-0 at half time would be a decent enough scoreline and one from which we could come back from, United hit us with a sucker-punch. Gibson played a nice one-two on the edge of the box, before scoring a lovely second goal from outside the box.
2-0 down, despite having the vast majority of the play. Still, I could envisage us getting back into the game if we managed to get an early goal after the break.
It never came and as the second half wore on, we appeared to get weary and allowed United to start to control possession. We went out with a whimper.
Chief culprits? Hutton probed well down the right, but his final ball and the decisions in attacking situations, always let him down. Jenas and Palacios were sloppy with their passing and there wasn’t that much of a marked improvement when Huddlestone was introduced.
Keane failed to really stamp his authority on the game and was substituted. Again.
Lennon was asked to play on the left, which made sense as it pitted him against Gary Neville. However, although Lennon skinned Neville several times, his crosses from the left side weren’t dangerous, as he always had to cut back onto his right foot. He should have switched to the right flank much earlier to try his luck against the young left back, Ritchie De Laet.
Instead this honour fell to David Bentley, whose performance last night somehow perfectly summed up his Tottenham career. He made some nice touches and looked pretty on the ball. There were the occasional flashes of skill that made you think that he was a real top class player.
But what the hell has happened to his final ball? This was a man who was meant to be the next David Beckham. Most of his free kicks last night were more worthy of David Blunkett.
Bentley just didn’t have the pace to beat his marker (which was another reason why he should have gone up against Neville, with Lennon on the right) and when that’s the case, you live and die by being able to put in decent passes and crosses. He managed neither.
I found Bentley’s performance infuriating last night. Why was he taking every set piece when he wasn’t having any success and Bale was on the pitch? By the end of the match, I was even getting annoyed at his silly side parting.
The only player that I’d single out as having made a good and encouraging performance was the aforementioned Bale. He looked solid enough in defence and created real problems when he came forward, beating players and delivering good crosses. I really want him to have a future at White Hart Lane and hope that he gets further opportunities.
So a very disappointing result and one that should make us remember that despite 9-1 and the good display at Villa, we’re still far from the finished article.
You’ve got to look at the positives and I suppose it’s that we can now fully concentrate on the league, without a two legged semi final and possible Wembley showdown to worry about. Still, I remember the days when it meant more to win something than to finish fourth in the league. Those days have long gone.