Tottenham Hotspur lost the Under-21 Premier League title in heartbreaking fashion on Monday night, conceding three consecutive goals to Manchester United, who pulled out a 3-2 comeback victory at Old Trafford.
Spurs comfortably dominated the first half, with Harry Kane, Cristian Ceballos, Jon Obika, Alex Pritchard and Thomas Carroll all looking very much like players who have rightfully played against far more senior and testing opposition. The midfield distributed the ball confidently and quickly forwards to the attacking players consistently throughout the half, who in turn glided and shrugged their way past the porous United defence time and time again. Carroll set the tone for the first half by very nearly opening the scoring early on, bending a great shot just over six minutes in. Tottenham continued to press relentlessly as Kane whipped in a dangerous cross in the 17th minute which Obika contrived to turn onto the post, and Ceballos blasted just over after a Bale-esque cut-inside run in the 19th. Kane saw a rasping strike turned onto the post by Ben Amos in the 21st minute, and then just wide a minute later.
From this point onwards United looked simply unable to cope with Spurs, with only two chances from Larnell Cole giving the Tottenham defence anything to think about. The floodgates finally opened by Obika fired home on 28 minutes after winning a challenge in the box with Amos and having the ball cleverly and unselfishly knocked down for him by Pritchard, who resisted the urge to shoot at the open goal himself. Tottenham then doubled their lead when Pritchard scored on in the 41st minute after Obika intercepted a wayward ball and played it to Kane, who played into space to fire home. When the referee called time on the half, Tottenham ran out comfortably in charge of the proceedings.
Grant Hall and Nabil Bentaleb were both booked early in the first half, and both were a bit lucky to avoid picking up second yellow cards. Hall was warned by the referee not long after picking up his first yellow following a poor tackle, while Bentaleb got off for a shirt pull early in the second half that he could have been given another yellow card for.
Spurs appeared to let off the gas a bit in the second half, and they paid for it in the 60th minute. They pulled a goal back on a great direct move, set up by Ryan Tunnicliffe. He picked out a run forward from United right back Marnick Vermijl, who placed an impressive finish past Jordan Archer at the far post.
Despite being one of the best players on the pitch, Pritchard was removed in the 64th minute and replaced by Gareth Bale lookalike Kenneth McEvoy. The move proved to be a decent one, however, as McEvoy looked dangerous throughout his time on the pitch.
There was a bit of controversy in the 73rd minute when United forward Larnell Cole was booked for a dive. The linesman had a clear view of the incident, but did not flag for a dive or foul by goalkeeper Jordan Archer. It appeared that Archer made contact, but that it was incidental. For some reason, even though there clearly was some sort of contact from Archer, the official saw fit to give Cole a yellow card.
United didn't have much time to complain about the incident. Less than a minute later, the hosts equalized on a scramble in the box, through the man who was booked. A mad scramble in the box saw the ball fall to Cole, who placed an impressive finish into the roof of the net from 10 yards to tie up the score at 2-2.
Cole broke Tottenham's hearts again in the 88th minute, completing United's spectacular comeback. Tom Lawrence, who came on as a substitute for the Red Devils, set up the game with a great run down the right flank and a cutback to Cole. He controlled well, then placed a perfect shot to the far post with his second touch, completing a brace and securing the title for Manchester United.
Thanks to the fearless leader Kevin McCauley, who filled in the second half of this report.