With Manchester United in town yesterday and a trip across London to Chelsea scheduled next Sunday, Tottenham, like Manchester City, are facing a mid-September test of their credentials as serious challengers to the acknowledged big four clubs. But after City had imperilled the status quo in one half of their town's contests with north London yesterday, Spurs found a similar achievement beyond them. In one of the usual eventful encounters between these sides, they scored inside 50 seconds and enjoyed a one-man advantage for the last half an hour after Paul Scholes was sent off, but could still manage nothing more rewarding than honourable defeat.
Thus their 100 per cent record in a best start to the season since the Double days of 1960 was shattered, and United climbed to a familiar pos-ition above them on the back of goals by Ryan Giggs, Anderson and Wayne Rooney. That trio were outstanding, Rooney outshining his England colleague Aaron Lennon, who could not replicate his Wembley pyrotechnics, the flame easily doused by Patrice Evra.
Jermain Defoe faded after his fine opening goal and Peter Crouch gave the visiting defence more trouble, winning some key headers and once producing a delicious piece of control before shooting at goal. Significantly, that occurred in the first 10 minutes, when Tottenham were in full flow, with the physical power of Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone briefly controlling the midfield area. The abrasive Palacios was later taken off before he was sent off; perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson should have done the same with Scholes, whose two characteristically clumsy tackles brought him another red.
There had to be some sympathy over the second of them, only eight minutes after the first, since Huddlestone had also thrown himself feet first into the challenge. Ferguson looked resigned at the time but later complained with sufficient venom to invite disciplinary action. "It was a terrible sending-off," he said. "The referee got it wrong. I've looked at the video twice and he lifted his leg above the Tottenham player. I think the Tottenham player's done him. He's been sent off because he's Paul Scholes."
The Spurs manager, Harry Redknapp, refused to be downcast despite disappointment that they began knocking the ball long to Crouch when facing 10 men. "It's been a great start and still is, having played Liverpool and United," he said. "You know United are going to come back at you. I think it's going to be an interesting title race and City could be right in it too."
His team showed no sign of an inferiority complex in a thrilling first half, only to finish it in arrears after the best imaginable start. To the delight of a passionate home crowd, it was Dimitar Berbatov's casual pass that set their team up for a goal after only 48 seconds. Palacios, the Honduran enforcer, snapped in and won the ball, which was transferred to the left-back Benoît Assou-Ekotto for a cross headed down by Crouch for Defoe's acrobatic overhead kick.
Soon, however, United were back at them and Carlo Cudicini, keeping his place in goal although Heurelho Gomes is fit, was forced to justify the manager's confidence by saving from Darren Fletcher and Berbatov. In the 24th minute, Palacios committed one foul too many. After his yellow card was administered, Rooney ran over the free-kick 20 yards out and Giggs curled it just beyond the groping hand of Cudicini, who is not the tallest goalkeeper. It confirmed Giggs as the only player to have scored in every season since the Premier League began.
As United took control, there was an extraordinary passage of play in which Cudicini foiled Rooney and was still on the floor as Berbatov homed in, Sébastien Bassong saving Spurs by hacking off the line. Crouch then headed Huddlestone's corner wide before the champions completed their recovery. Fletcher's corner was half-cleared to Scholes, whose shot was blocked by Ledley King but fell for Anderson to drive in a first competitive goal for the club in his 75th game.
Tottenham's hopes were raised after Scholes was sent off. Incident followed incident: notably a fine save by Ben Foster from Palacios's replacement Jermaine Jenas, bringing a corner from which Crouch headed against the bar.
With Berbatov substituted, Rooney was left on his own, but the counter-attacks were dangerous. Cudicini saved well from him on one occasion but could do nothing when Fletcher sent the England striker away against two defenders – which proved an insufficient number to prevent a dazzling sixth goal in as many games.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Man of the match: Rooney
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content