Match Report: Clint Dempsey rewards Tottenham Hotspurs’ persistence with late goal against Manchester United

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester United 1

Wrapped up against the blizzard, with his woolly hat on back-to-front and his hands plunged into his pockets, Sir Alex Ferguson thought he had seen off the storm yesterday, but his side are not the only ones who save their best moments for that window of opportunity known as “Fergie time”.

Wrapped up against the blizzard, with his woolly hat on back-to-front and his hands plunged into his pockets, Sir Alex Ferguson thought he had seen off the storm yesterday, but his side are not the only ones who save their best moments for that window of opportunity known as “Fergie time”.

This Tottenham Hotspur team that equalised in injury-time refused to go quietly, as so many of their predecessors have done over the years. Not since the 1989-1990 season, when Spurs won both home and away fixtures against United, have they taken as many as four points from one of Ferguson’s teams - as they have done this season.

Spurs have given up being a soft touch a long time ago, but even by the high standards of the last four years this was an impressive performance. Ferguson characterised their efforts to get an equaliser in the dying embers of the game as “long balls into the box” but however they attacked, Spurs did so with the conviction of a side who believe they are good enough to compete with the best.

When Clint Dempsey finally found a foot of space to tuck in Aaron Lennon’s prodded cross for the equaliser there was a touch of United’s famous determination to win games at the very last, which is just about the greatest compliment that you could pay Andre Villas-Boas’s team.

It is the first time United have dropped points in the title race since they drew with Swansea City on 23 December and they finish the weekend with their lead over Manchester City cut to five points. Ferguson mentioned that City still have to come to White Hart Lane on 20 April and indicated that he expected the locals to give them every bit of a hard time.

They were forbidding conditions yesterday, a snowstorm which meant that in the moments before kick-off, Ferguson’s faithful kitman Albert Morgan discreetly handed his boss a United branded hat. Later in the game, Villas-Boas would wrap a blanket around his legs. Out on the pitch there was no hiding place and by the second half it was committed and full-blooded.

David De Gea would later face the criticism of Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville for his part in Dempsey’s equaliser but he made the first of a series of good saves in the 13th minute when he blocked Aaron Lennon’s shot and then got up to keep out the rebound from Jermain Defoe. Lennon was excellent all afternoon, comprehensively out-shining his team-mate Gareth Bale.

The goal they conceded was soft from Spurs’ point of view. Moments earlier, Tom Cleverley had been called over to the touchline by Mike Phelan and told to switch sides with Danny Welbeck, taking up a position on the right side of the three attacking players behind Robin Van Persie. It worked perfectly.

It was those two players who worked the goal for United, Welbeck carrying the ball from left to right across the face of the area before picking out Cleverley on that wing. Very little pressure was applied to the midfielder when he sent his nicely-struck cross to the back post and Kyle Walker had allowed Van Persie the freedom to squeeze a header inside Hugo Lloris’ post.

The 22nd goal of Van Persie’s season was testament once more to the striker’s extraordinary ability to score so many different types of goals and yesterday he did not get many more chances. With Wayne Rooney a second half substitute, it was the Dutchman’s job to labour alone against Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker and he was not given much daylight by either.

There was another exceptional save from De Gea before half-time, this time with his legs when Bale’s shot took a wicked deflection on its way through. He made a similar save in the second half when the excellent Mousa Dembele tricked his way through United defence and teed up Dempsey for a shot.

For all Spurs’ pressure, United should have had a penalty for Caulker’s foul on Rooney soon after the United striker came on after the hour. It provoked a brief outburst from ferguson against Simon Beck, the linesman, with whom he has never forgiven for an offside Didier Drogba goal scored against United at Old Trafford in 2010.

Ferguson did not hold back in his Sky Sports and MUTV interviews, describing Beck’s performance as “shocking”. “There was no way we were going to get a decision from the stand-side linesman that’s for sure,” he said. The benchmark for a Football Association charge is calling an official’s integrity into question - and Ferguson has certainly sailed close to the wind there.

There were fine performances from Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand in the centre of United’s defence, not least the challenge from Ferdinand on Defoe when the Spurs striker momentarily delayed in pulling the trigger on 77 minutes. Again it was Lennon who drove Spurs forward on that occasion a thunderball of long arms and short legs who ran at United at every occasion.

Spurs could sense that there was something to be had from this game as United fell further back, failing to make any impact on the counter-attack. It came on 92 mins 10 secs when substitute Benoit Assou-Ekotto crossed, De Gea punched weakly and Lennon clipped the ball back in for Dempsey to score. “You can’t do that,” Neville said of De Gea. “They are big, big moments ... that punch has cost his team.”

Ferguson could just about accept Spurs’ equaliser, even if he could not forgive the poor old linesman. United have now played every one of their away fixtures against top seven opposition bar Arsenal. Off to Qatar for warm-weather training last night they know, however, that had they won this game their strength in the eyes of their local rivals would have grown that much more

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit