The start of the Tottenham Hotspur match against Manchester United started a half-hour late due to the United bus being stuck in London traffic. Despite an equally turgid start to the match, Tottenham got three second half goals in six minutes and emphatically dispatched United 3-0 at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham started the match with what is probably their strongest possible lineup. Jan Vertonghen made his long-awaited return from injury, starting in central defense beside Toby Alderweireld and pushing Kevin Wimmer back to Spurs' bench. Erik Lamela also came back into the starting 11, replacing Son Heung-Min.
United started youngster Marcus Rashford up top with Anthony Martial starting behind him in the attacking band, since Wayne Rooney out with an injury. Morgan Schneiderlin also got the start for a United side that is still pushing to leap ahead of rivals Manchester City for fourth place and a Champions League berth.
You might have been expecting United to start the match a little shaky considering they only had 12 minutes to warm up before kick-off, but it was Spurs that looked the worse for the delay in the opening half hour. Spurs didn't complete a single pass in their attacking third in the first 15 minutes of the match and played some horrible football. Thankfully United weren't much better; despite winning a couple of corners early the Red Devils didn't have much in terms of big chances.
The match started to settle down a bit after 20 minutes and began to open up for Spurs. Lamela had perhaps the best chance of the half for Tottenham. Christian Eriksen fired a ball into the box to a wide open Erik Lamela, but his glancing header skimmed off his faux-hawk and went wide with the goal gaping.
Normally I'd go into a bit more detail but that was seriously about the only exciting that happened the entire first half, which ended scoreless and dull.
United started the second half with an odd substitution, putting in Ashley Young for Marcus Rashford, with Young starting at center forward. Tottenham, as is their wont, made no changes.
Spurs came out pushing for a goal. Six minutes in Christian Eriksen had a long-range effort that was neatly parried away by De Gea, but the match then devolved into a mostly turgid possession match. United had a big chance of their own in the 61st minute after Martial dribbled through the Tottenham defense, but thankfully his short range effort went straight at Hugo Lloris.
Tottenham's breakthrough finally came in the 70th minute. A scrum in the center of midfield led to Harry Kane firing a release ball wide to a streaking Christian Eriksen. Eriksen, guarded by Matteo Darmian, who came in for an injured Fosu-Mensah, played an easy square ball to a wide-open Dele Alli who calmly poked it home to put Spurs up 1-0.
Just three minutes later, the floodgates opened. Erik Lamela's swinging free-kick met the head of Toby Alderweireld in the box who towered over Marcus Rojo to put Spurs up two.
Then, Spurs scored AGAIN: Danny Rose got the ball on the wing and put in a low cross to Lamela, who calmly swept the ball past De Gea and Spurs had an unassailable lead over United. It was the third goal for Tottenham in 5 minutes and 45 seconds, and Spurs never again looked like losing.
Harry Kane nearly made it four in the 78th minute, meeting Lamela's free kick with a header, but De Gea made a nice save to tip the ball over the bar.
The game got chippy towards the end and the yellow cards started flying as United showed their frustration. Nacer Chadli, Son Heung-Min, and Ryan Mason came in late for Lamela, Kane and Alli in the waning minutes. In the end, three goals was enough and Spurs comfortably took home the three points.
- That was a really, really crappy start of the match. It was like everyone forgot how to play football. Thankfully the match settled out of it midway through the first half.
- United and Tottenham are the teams with the two best defensive records in the EPL and this match at times looked like it until the goals started pouring in late in the game.
- I have no idea how Lamela missed that header in the first half. It was like he tried to finesse the ball via a glancing header into the near corner when if he'd just headed it straight the way he was running he'd have easily beaten De Gea. But really, what do I know? Headers are hard.
- Mike Dean had a bad game today, but at least he was bad for both sides. There were a number of blown calls in favor of both teams, so I guess that's okay, right?
- The turning point in this match was the injury substitution of Matteo Darmian for Timmy Fosu-Mensah. TFM had a fantastic match up to that point, and Darmian was awful in relief. Spurs pounded the ball down the left side in recognition.
- Both fullbacks had good games today. Rose came back strong after Fosu-Mensah went off, and Kyle Walker looked really good going forward.
- How good was Erik Lamela today? Holy smokes. The difference right now between the team with him and the team with Son is dramatic, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to Sonny.
- Really sucks that Leicester won today, because this match was a statement of intent. I'd feel much better about the title race if the gap was five points instead of seven.
- That was super fun! Don't worry about the title race – enjoy that win.