Linesman clanger robs Spurs
By Patrick Goss. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Spurs were denied a win over Manchester United by one of the most controversial decisions in Premiership history, after Roy Carroll had clearly dropped the ball over the line in the last minute at Old Trafford.
Pedro Mendes had attempted to lob Carroll but the goalkeeper looked to have a simple catch.
Unbelievably, he dropped the ball a good yard over the line but linesman Rob Lewis kept his flag down, and United were spared in dramatic circumstances.
Until the incident the focus had been firmly on Spurs' wonderful defensive display to frustrate their hosts, and further derail their title hopes.
Shorn of Wayne Rooney through suspension and, perhaps more crucially, without injured Ruud van Nistelrooy, United just did not have the cutting edge that would have turned dominance into points.
Aided by outstanding performances from young England internationals Paul Robinson and captain Ledley King, Spurs parked the team bus in front of the goal and earned their point with hard-work and grit.
Manchester United had failed to take key chances in the first half - as they looked bereft of the cutting edge that their absent strikers bring.
Alan Smith had come within an inch of getting to a clever Ryan Giggs cross, and the Welsh winger was then nearly put through by Cristiano Ronaldo, but for a fine bit of anticipation by Nourredine Naybet.
Smith's shot on the turn brought a fine full-length diving save from Robinson, and his former Leeds team-mate did even better to stick out a foot and block the best chance of the half after the lone striker had been put clean through.
Giggs had limped off by this point, looking annoyed that an injury had interrupted his recent fine form, and it was Roy Keane of all people that was making the most dangerous looking bursting runs.
The United skipper should have done better from close range as the first half drew to a close, but it was Spurs that had the last chance when Carroll made another glaring error, presenting the ball to Robbie Keane, but was back in goal in time to watch Pedro Mendes's shot drift over.
The second half started in much the same vein it had finished on, with David Bellion racing through after a fine first touch, but poor second, third and fourth before Robinson smothered.
With King in absolutely outstanding form at the heart of the defence United were growing increasingly frustrated, but they were nearly handed the lead from an unlikely source.
Noe Pamarot looked to have dealt with a cross to the far post, but under little pressure he stuck out a leg and watched in horror as the ball struck his shin and smashed the inside of the post with Robinson beaten.
Smith was lurking to smash home the rebound, but a wonderfully timed tackle from King denied the striker an opener, as Spurs began to believe they could share the points or even claim an unlikely victory.
Robbie Keane was having an off night, despite working hard, and he missed a fine chance - blazing over when clean through but finding his blushes covered slightly by referee Mark Clattenburg awarding a foul against him.
A long ball would have opened up Tottenham with five minutes remaining but Paul Scholes's touch let him down at the crucial juncture, as Sir Alex Ferguson threw Rio Ferdinand up as a third striker in his desperation to win.
King was again on hand to thwart Scholes with a last-ditch tackle in the closing stages, but Carroll's error put the focus firmly back on what could prove to be one of the worst decisions at this level for many years.
Robinson produced another late save to deny Gabriel Heinze's free kick in the aftermath - but that will be forgotten amongst the calls for video referees that this error will surely bring.
Man Utd v Tottenham player ratings
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Tottenham Hotspur|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|10||Shots on Target||2|
|8||Shots off Target||3|
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Bromwich Albion||38||49|
|10||West Ham United||38||46|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||38||25|