Spurs under 23’s 3-1 Manchester United: (match report)
Wayne Burnett’s side arrived at Old Trafford on Monday night, knowing that they needed a win to bolster their chances of beating relegation. Our opponents Manchester United who were also in the relegation zone (2 points above us in 11th) also desperately needed the three points. I anticipated a very tight game of football. On my train up to Manchester at lunchtime I noticed some familiar faces in the seats behind me, U18 players Brooklyn Lyons-Foster, Reo Griffiths and Spurs goalkeeping coach Rob Burch. Both Lyons-Foster and Griffiths were named on the bench for the United game. Upon arrival at Old Trafford I was made to sit in a different stand to the home fans (as I was one of very few if any away fans). My seat was by the corner flag meaning that I had a birds eye view of all three of our goals in the second half. Ricky Sbragia fielded a strong United team which included starlets Angel Gomes and Dutch youth international Tahith Chong. The first half was a bit of a non event, both sides cancelled each other out whilst Spurs missed a penalty towards the end of the half. United had been the better team going forward, and they took the lead early on in the second half. The game reminded me of our uninspiring 1-0 defeat to Derby earlier on in the season and I really thought this was going to be another repeat. Fortunately Burnett’s side upped their tempo and really went at United, this resulted in a stunning three goal blitz inside 11 minutes, which sees us leap frog the Red Devil’s into 11th place, with a game in hand over Sunderland who sit above us in 10th.
Spurs got the game underway, both teams playing a cautious style of play in the opening minutes as neither dared to go out of their own half. Ethan Hamilton’s effort was the first of the game, after the United defender drilled a low shot at the Spurs goal from the edge of the box. Whiteman dealt well with his effort and comfortably managed to parry the ball to safety. United were enjoying the majority of possession inside the opening 10 minutes, the intricate Chong creating chances for the reds from the centre of the park. Spurs had a penalty shout waved away by the referee Andrew Miller at the other end, before creating a nice little opening of their own. When Jack Roles threaded a nice pass into Sterling down the right side of the penalty area, the Spurs striker flashed an effort just wide of Pereira’s near post, both teams were cancelling each other out. Tottenham centre half Jonathan Dinzeyi made an important clearance to prevent a clear passage towards goal for Bohui, whilst Bennetts received a yellow for a cynical pull back on the advancing Chong who continued to be the main attacking threat. Chances were at a minimum, the so far uninvolved Gomes saw his deep cross palmed out for a corner by Whiteman as the game lacked any sort of fluency. That’s why it came as a great surprise to me when Spurs won a penalty in the 34th minute, after a rare attacking foray. Shilow Tracey showed initiative down the left flank, bursting forward before outmuscling Warren to enter the Man United penalty area only to be brought down by the United fullback to win a penalty.
Kazaiah Sterling took responsibility only to see his well struck effort saved at Pereira’s bottom right hand corner, before a United defender managed to clear the loose ball. An incisive Man United move at the other end almost saw them take the lead, after Warren’s inviting cross was attacked by Indy Boonen inside the area. The Belgians header deflected off of Dinzeyi and onto Whiteman’s post, leaving the Spurs keeper rooted to the spot. Burnett’s side managed to create a couple of good chances in the final minutes, Sterling had a penalty shout waived away. And Brown whipped a dangerous ball across the face of Pereira’s goal. The prominent George Marsh who had been a real defensive force in the first half, managed to get back into the Spurs box to get a vital clearance. Before the lilywhites created one last attack, as Sterling brought the ball forward he passed to Roles who from around 20-25 yards out from goal, curled a low effort towards the left hand corner of the goal but Pereira dealt with it well, making a comfortable save. United’s mascot ‘Fred the red’ came onto the pitch at half time to entertain the home fans, as an important second half followed. Defender Jonathan Dinzeyi presented United with a half chance shorty after the restart. When he lost the ball deep inside the United half to Chong. The Dutchman surged forward before slipping through Joshua Bohui whose effort at goal was deflected safely into the arms of Whiteman. It came as a big blow for Burnett’s team when they conceded the opener on 50 minutes after a sloppy bit of play.
Whiteman played the ball short to Skipp whose unusually sloppy pass was picked up by Chong, who advanced into the Spurs area before calmly slotting the ball into the bottom left hand corner of Whiteman’s goal, 0-1. Spurs were now forced to go forward, and go forward they did. Burnett’s side showed a more open and attacking shape. After struggling to make much of an impression in the first half Keanan Bennetts looked to get forward more, winning a free kick in a dangerous area out wide. His resulting effort went straight down the throat of Pereira. Burnett was then forced into making a change after Dinzeyi went down inured, this meant a first league appearance for Dylan Duncan in over 3 months. The flow of the game was changing, Spurs had upped their tempo and began to really utilise the wide players, this was when the fight back started. Keanan Bennetts equalised on 59 minutes after some great work of his own. Sterling’s effort was blocked towards Bennetts inside the area, the Spurs man beat Joe Riley to the ball. Who continued racing forwards before converting at the far post with a scruffy finish into the ground, which managed to squirm past Pereira, 1-1. Roles fired over shortly afterwards as Spurs looked to control the game and find that second goal. It took a mere three minutes before Spurs took the lead, overwhelming Sbragia’s side with their fast attacking football. Jack Roles’ high pressing put the United goalkeeper under pressure with the ball at his feet, the Portuguese youth international overplayed the situation and the aggressive Roles managed to close him down, getting a vital foot on Pereira’s clearance which found its way into the back of the United net. Roles was elated and jumped for joy, 2-1.
There was to be a frantic final half hour to the game as United tried to get more players forward, whilst Burnett’s side caught them on the break. The home side almost found an equaliser straight away, after Aidan Barlow flicked Boonen’s cross agonisingly wide. The tenacious George Marsh had to make a vital header to clear the danger before Bohui fired just wide of the Spurs goal, in a frantic five minutes of football. I didn’t get the impression that we were going to sit back and see out the remainder of the game, Burnett’s side continued to go forwards and seemed determined to get that all important third goal. The lively Bennetts fired over from range for Spurs minutes before Spurs netted their third. It was their best goal of the night, Roles managed to get the ball before a United player and strode forward before threading a perfectly weighted through ball to Sterling who fired emphatically into the roof of Pereira’s goal, it was such a clean strike and a real poachers finish. Sterling went to celebrate at the corner flag where I was sitting, it was a lovely moment. The whole team gathered round, cheering with elation! Spurs were controlling the game and they were in no mood to play it safe, they continued to go forward and showed an energy level that the home team couldn’t match. Tracey squandered a good chance inside the opposition penalty area after he found the ball in space, only to curl his effort well wide of Pereira’s goal. Bohui almost pulled a goal back for United late on in the game, after running across the face of the Spurs goal before dragging an effort a fraction wide. Spurs resiliently saw out the final minutes of the game, defending with great conviction. They were assured, composed and mature beyond their years, this was our under 23’s first away league win since September 2016! We host Liverpool at the Lamex stadium next Monday. COYS
Player reviews: -Alfie Whiteman: Had a sound game all round, his distribution was particularly impressive.
– TJ Eyoma: Very tidy and assured. Did a fine job at fullback and even more so at centre half following Dinzeyi’s departure.
– Jaden Brown: Defensively sound. Good going forward on occasions with some lung bursting runs.
– Oliver Skipp: Not his best performance of the season by any means, made some sloppy passes and didn’t control the central areas as much as he usually does. He still played well, particularly good at getting back and defending, made some really tough challenges!
– Christian Maghoma: Did his job very well, kept the United forwards out of the game and was quick to danger.
– Jonathan Dinzeyi: Very assured in his defending and did a good job on the ball, up until suffering an injury around the hour mark.
– Shilow Tracey: Continued his fine form of late in to this one, Tracey was one of the only players that ran at the United defence in the first half. He showed good initiative going forward, switching wings with Bennetts on numerous occasions. He caused many problems for Warren, going on to win a penalty in the first half.
– George Marsh: An engine in the centre of the park, Marsh put in an excellent shift. He was everywhere, covering for other players at the back. Winning decisive headers and challenges in the central areas, he was nonstop. He hounded the United midfield throughout and defended efficiently, excellent stuff from the skipper.
– Kazaiah Sterling: Fine performance from the energetic centre forward. His high pressing and eagerness in front of goal made him a potent threat. After missing a penalty in the first half, Sterling recovered well and made a big impact in the second half. His goal was finished brilliantly!
– Jack Roles: My motm, see below.
– Keanan Bennetts: A real threat going forward in the second half, the winger created and finished a fine goal of his own to level the scores. Bennetts offered that bit of magic which we lacked for such a big part of the game. Wasn’t afraid to have a go from distance!
– Dylan Duncan: Duncan changed the game after coming on in the second half, he was a real force going forward. Strong, powerful and with a good eye for a pass. It’s great to see him back playing.
My man of the match: Jack Roles. The attack minded midfielder was the difference during our game with Man United. Tidy and intelligent as always, Roles enjoyed an excellent game. Really came to life in the second half with his attacking play. Roles ghosted towards the far post (in acres of space) for the opening goal, in case Bennetts effort came across goal. Our second of the game was down to his hunger in front of goal, he pressurised Pereira and forced him into making a costly error. And for the third goal, Roles set up Sterling with a perfectly weighted through ball. He is a natural finisher and his goal against United makes it 3 in his last 3 games for the Cypriot youth international!
Manchester United: Pereira, Riley (c), Warren, R. Williams, O’Connor, Hamilton, Barlow (Burkart 74), Chong, Gomes (Buffonge 79), Boonen (Kehinde, 71), Bohui. Substiutes (not used): O’Hara, Olosunde.
Spurs: Whiteman, Eyoma, Brown, Skipp, Maghoma, Dinzeyi (Duncan 57),
Tracey (Griffiths 87), Marsh (c), Sterling, Roles (Pritchard 79), Bennetts. Substitutes (not used): Austin, Lyons-Foster.
Goals: Manchester United – Chong 50. Spurs – Bennetts 59, Roles 63, Sterling 70.
Yellow cards: Manchester United – Warren. Spurs – Bennetts, Tracey.
Referee: Andrew Miller.
U23’s 2017/18 statistics: Top scorers: Sterling-8