Premier League - Bizarre goal taints United win

Sat, 30 Oct 18:25:00 2010

Manchester United beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Old Trafford in a match marred by a farcical second goal scored by Nani.

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Highlights: Man Utd 2-0 Tottenham

Spurs' woeful record when visiting the Red Devils was maintained thanks to Nemanja VIdic's header on the half-hour mark.

Nani then doubled the lead late on in farcical circumstances. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes placed the ball down inside his box in the belief that Spurs had been awarded a free-kick for a handball from the Portuguese - who went down with a reasonable claim for a penalty  - but referee Mark Clattenburg, who never blew his whistle, allowed the forward to casually trot up to the ball and knock it into the unguarded net.

The referee's assistant raised his flag to disallow the goal, but Clattenburg overruled his assistant, despite Nani clearly handling the ball after hitting the ground under pressure from Younes Kaboul, seemingly believing play had stopped. The goal stood, and the incident can now be added to the list of controversial events in the recent history of this fixture.

However, for all the mentions of incidents involving Pedro Mendes, Howard Webb or anyone else, the fact remains that the last time the Londoners won at Old Trafford, Gary Lineker scored the winner.

Spurs winger Gareth Bale, 21, was just five months old when his club claimed that 1-0 win, whilst the United full-back who did such a good job of controlling him, Rafael da Silva, had not even been born.

Despite Rafael managing largely to neutralise the Welshman's threat, Spurs still offered plenty in this match with, predictably, Rafael van der Vaart at the heart of all that was good about their play.

After a bright start from United - in which Park Ji-sung struck the post with a fierce low 20-yard drive - the Dutchman responded by hitting the woodwork at the other end with a rasping shot that crashed off the crossbar with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar well beaten, before flashing another strike over the target.

Park bent an effort wide of the Spurs upright, and Rafael did likewise after a slaloming run into the area but, before the skill and guile on show, it was the most basic of goals that broke the deadlock.

Javier Hernandez drew a foul from Spurs defender Younes Kaboul out on the right, and Nani's inviting free-kick was met by a timely run from the unmarked Vidic, who glanced his header past Gomes for his second of the season.

Unperturbed by going behind, Spurs continued to threaten, and a smart corner from Van der Vaart was clipped back to Luka Modric, who forced a decent save from Van der Sar - who became the ninth player over 40 years of age to play in the Premier League with this appearance.

After the break the match began to lose much of the preceding tempo and attacking ambition, with United gradually putting the squeeze on Spurs.

Bale marauded across the pitch before flashing a strike wide of the far post, before substitute Roman Pavlyuchenko's shot from distance deflected off Vidic and almost beat Van der Sar, but in general chances were at more of a premium

After Nani's comical goal doubled United's lead, the Portuguese seemed determined to score a genuine strike, and fired in a dipping rocket from distance that clipped the top of the crossbar.

To compound Tottenham's misery at yet again leaving Old Trafford with nothing save for frustration and a sense of injustice, Van der Vaart was substituted in the latter stages after feeling a twinge in his hamstring, a worrying sign ahead of their Champions League clash with Internazionale in midweek.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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