The Premier League's ninety-two remaining games, spread across nine rounds of games are set to play out beginning June 17th 2020, with Project Restart's health and safety conditions meaning the remaining games of the season will be played out behind closed doors. We will be providing match reports from these behind closed doors competitive encounters as the league campaign nears its end-game. All aboard.
Match Report (GW30): Spurs 1-1 Man United
What was a highly-anticipated encounter between two Champions League chasing clubs opened with 20 minutes of back and forth jostling, with hard hitting tackles setting the stage for an intense opening. The first real big chance fell to Marcus Rashfod just after the 20-minute mark when nice inter-play at the edge of the box eventually led to Hugo Lloris being called into action to save low from Rashford's drilled effort when space opened up for the Englishman.
Spurs opened the scoring shortly after the first-half water break when Serge Aurier stabbed a ball deflected towards his path following a Hugo Lloris counter-attack. Steven Bergwijn was the first to pick up on the loose ball, with the Dutch international skipping past Man United captain Harry Maguire with ease, before rifling a shot through a prone and weak-handed David de Gea and into the roof of the net - this meaning that all three of Bergwijn's debut Premier League goals have all come at home and all against top-half opposition (also scoring against Man City and Wolves).
Man United probed from a couple of set-pieces before Bergwijn countered again at the half-hour mark, with a far-post cross perfect for Heung-Min Son, though the South Korean's header was well saved by de Gea to keep the one-goal advantage for Spurs.
At half-time drew close, Man United controlled the ball, with Spurs looking to hit quickly on the counter, but this stand-off played out until the whistle blew. The second began as the first did, with both sides trying to control the ball and play with an air of caution. Bruno Fernandes went close with a second long-range drive, with a first-time effort fizzing past Lloris's far post.
Life picked up in the game when Paul Pogba was introduced in place of Fred just after the 60-minute mark. United started to dominate the ball with Spurs equally tiring.
Paul Pogba feeding Bruno Fernandes, who turns quickly on the edge of the box then fizzed a pass into the feet of Martial. The Frenchman was eight yards, though he couldn't sort his feet out allowing Eric Dier to make a block in the nick of time. Just a minute later, Martial swivelled and turned around the penalty-spot after more United pressing and domination, with Martial's shot drawing a brilliant reactionary save from Lloris in what was United's best chance of the game. The chance should have been the equaliser and we think the production team controlling the fake crowd noise thought so too.
With United growing in stature, Pogba picked up the ball on the right-hand channel, skipped past Eric as if he was a Sunday league amateur, before falling down after a nudge from Dier. A penalty was awarded, even though it was a slightly contentious award, with Bruno Fernandes burying the spot-kick, leaving no doubt that the Portuguese international is the set-piece taker at the Old Trafford club.
Heading into 90-minutes it looked as if United were going to nick it when John Moss awarded a penalty after Dier and Fernandes collided in the penalty area. VAR had other ideas and showed that there was no contact between the two players, with the decision correctly overturned. With the last kick of the game, Mason Greenwood could have stolen the win, but his effort after skipping away from the Spurs backline when agonisingly past Lloris's far-post.
The draw doesn't do anything for either side as the rest of the Champions League chasers have seen both their direct rivals drop points on their return to league action.
Man of the Match: Paul Pogba (MUN)
Starting as a substitute, the returning Paul Pogba came off the bench in the final half-hour and completely turned the game on its head. Sacrificing a second defensive midfielder in Fred allowed a more forward thinking Pogba to get Bruno Fernandes into the game. United dominated possession and it was the Frenchman's mazy run past Eric Dier and eventual penalty award that aided his side in a point that they rightfully deserved come the full time whistle.
Additionally, Pogba's range of passing and drive resulted in a host of nearly moments as United chased a winner. Overall, it was a successful return to the field that will have pundits across the world wanting to see the midfield maestro and Fernandes link up on a more regular basis as the season nears its belated conclusion.
TOT 1-1 MUN - Insight and Analysis:
This game between European football hopefuls reminded me of watching Rafa Nadel and Roger Federer, who top players with different styles, play a game of cat and mouse. United largely controlled possession whilst Spurs were more than happy to cherry-pick their moments and his with speed and power on the counter-attack.
Steven Bergwijn's substitution was the big changing point in the game, coupled with Paul Pogba's arrival. Spurs no longer had an outlet on the counter, with Heung-Min Son very quiet on the night. Pogba's inclusion pressed the away side higher up the pitch and they really started to hurt a tiring Spurs side and should have nicked the win at the end.
The only complaint I have is the nature of players feigning injuries and diving. Sure, Bruno Fernandes is a magnet for FPL points and is a very skilled player, especially now that he is on set-pieces, but he is by no means an honest player and drops to the floor, clutching his body as if struck by a bus, even when contact is non-existent. He's a much more effective player when he is 25-yards-out and can threaten from range, evidenced here tonight as he makes defenders second guess their next movements.
All in all though, the game will not be remembered as a celebrated success as it was a slog to watch at time, and we're left writing what we have in every match report in the Covid-era of Premier League - that players with true quality are the influences that are ultimately deciding games.
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Manager: Jose Mourinho
GK: Hugo Lloris
DEF: Ben Davies
DEF: Eric Dier
DEF: Davinson Sanchez
DEF: Serge Aurier
MID: Harry Winks
MID: Moussa Sissoko
MID: Erik Lamela (Gedson '70)
MID: Heung-Min Son
MID: Steven Bergwijn (Lo Celso '70)
FOR: Harry Kane
Gazzaniga, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Sessegnon, White, Skipp, Gedson, Ndombele, Lo Celso
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjær
GK: David de Gea
DEF: Aaron Wan-Bissaka
DEF: Victor Lindelof (Matic 78')
DEF: Harry Maguire
DEF: Luke Shaw
MID: Fred (Pogba 62')
MID: McTominay (Bailly 89')
MID: Daniel James (Greenwood 63')
MID: Bruno Fernandez
MID: Anthony Martial (Ighalo 78')
FOR: Marcus Rashford
Romero, Bailly, Williams, Mata, Matic, Pogba, Lingard, Greenwood, Ighalo
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