Walker own goal condemns Tottenham to opening-day defeat at Man United
Tottenham started their Premier League campaign with a loss as Kyle Walker’s own goal condemned them to a 1-0 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
After a positive start from the visitors, Nabil Bentaleb’s loose pass was intercepted by Juan Mata midway through the half and, with Wayne Rooney about to shoot from the middle of the penalty box, Walker rushed back to challenge but could only put the ball into his own net.
Tottenham had to fight to stay in the game for a while after that but they were pushing for an equaliser in the closing stages, with United keeper Sergio Romero diving to save Christian Eriksen’s 20-yard shot on his debut.
Spurs looked below-strength in a few positions at the kick-off. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was not deemed ready to start after recovering from his fractured wrist, despite playing for 35 minutes in the final friendly against AC Milan on Wednesday, and Ryan Mason was also only fit enough for the bench so Eric Dier stood in in central midfield.
Left-back Danny Rose was absent too, having suffered a knock in training, so Ben Davies deputised, while Mousa Dembele started in what appears to be his new role on the right flank.
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Tottenham made the brighter start and created the first openings. Harry Kane dinked the ball in to Eriksen, who headed the ball on to himself to go clear 10 yards out, only to lob the ball over the bar.
The Dane then chipped the ball in behind for the onrushing Walker, but Romero – who was standing in for David de Gea due to the Spaniard’s ongoing transfer sags involving Real Madrid – came out and just beat him to the ball.
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Everything changed in the 22nd minute though as United took the lead against the run of play. Bentaleb’s attempted pass out to Davies was intercepted by Mata, who freed Ashley Young down the right. Young put in a low cross to Rooney and, when Walker rushed back to challenge him, the unlucky right-back only succeeded in steering the ball past Vorm into his own net.
United now had the wind in their sails while Spurs struggled to keep their composure after the setback. Memphis Depay freed Young, who should have shot but instead crossed the ball into the congested goalmouth and allowed Spurs to hack the ball clear.
Tottenham were struggling in central midfield, with the youthful duo of Dier and Bentaleb both looking nervous and having difficulties in retaining possession, which only encouraged United to press them and deny them time and space.
Dier nearly lost the ball in his own half, which would have left United two on one, but he managed to slide in to direct the ball back to one of his own team-mates.
Mauricio Pochettino took Bentaleb off less than 10 minutes after half-time, introducing Mason in his place, and Spurs held their own after the interval. They nearly grabbed an opening as Dembele robbed Daley Blind close to the United penalty box, but Blind saved his own blushes by intercepting Kane’s ensuing attempt to play Dembele in on goal.
Young went close at the other end as Rooney’s cross was flicked on to him at the back post, cutting inside but shooting straight at Vorm.
Tottenham gradually increased the pressure though, with a much-improved Dier intercepting the ball before Kane freed Dembele down the right, with the Belgian crossing towards his countryman Chadli but putting the ball too close to Romero.
After coming through a tough period in the first half the Lilywhites were well in the game in the final 20 minutes – a big improvement on last season’s trip to Old Trafford, when they conceded three goals in the opening 35 minutes.
Rooney sent a scissor kick over the bar while, at the other end, Chadli tried to do too much and was unable to beat Chris Smalling when a shot or a cross would have been the better option. A raking ball from Toby Alderweireld then freed Eriksen over the top, and his well-hit low volley was saved by Romero.
Eriksen went even closer soon after with a low 20-yard shot forcing Romero to make another, more challenging flying save – but Tottenham were unable to make their late pressure count.
Tottenham: Vorm, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier (Alli 77), Bentaleb (Mason 53), Dembele (Lamela 68), Eriksen, Chadli, Kane
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs