Mkhi­taryan tames Spurs to stop rot

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MANCH­ESTER: Henrikh Mkhi­taryan scored his first Premier League goal for Manch­ester United and was later stretchered off as Jose Mour­inho’s side claimed a timely 1-0 vic­tory over Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur yes­ter­day. Mkhi­taryan con­verted An­der Her­rera’s through ball just be­fore the half hour to end a frus­trat­ing run of four suc­ces­sive home draws and give United just a sec­ond win in nine league matches. It was the Ar­me­nian play­maker’s sec­ond goal in two games, af­ter he opened his ac­count for the club against Zo­rya Luhansk on Thurs­day.

He ex­ited on a stretcher af­ter turn­ing his an­kle in a late chal­lenge by Danny Rose, but Mour­inho said: “We don’t think it’s a se­ri­ous in­jury. Max­i­mum a cou­ple of weeks.” Mour­inho’s team re­main 13 points be­low lead­ers Chelsea, but closed to within three points of fifth­place Spurs and six of Manch­ester City, who oc­cupy the fourth and fi­nal Cham­pi­ons League berth. United once again failed to con­vert their dom­i­nance into goals, but un­like in their re­cent 1-1 draws against Arse­nal, West Ham United and Ever­ton, they were not made to pay.

“Af­ter so many matches play­ing well but not win­ning, we needed more the points than the per­for­mance,” Mour­inho said. “But I knew against Tot­ten­ham it’s dif­fi­cult to get a re­sult with­out play­ing well. But we played very well.” Ini­tially kept on the side­lines by Mour­inho fol­low­ing his ar­rival from Borus­sia Dort­mund, Mkhi­taryan has be­come some­thing of a lucky charm for the Por­tuguese, who will be re­lieved the in­jury is not grave.

De­feat curbed Spurs’ re­cent re­vival, which had seen them beat Swansea City 5-0 and se­cure a Europa League place with a 3-1 win over CSKA Moscow. Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino’s side re­main with­out an away league win since Sept 24. “It was a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult, but if we an­a­lyse the game I think it was a very com­pet­i­tive game and we need to take pos­i­tive things from that,” Po­chet­tino said.

Pogba smacks bar

Tot­ten­ham cen­tre-back Toby Alder­weireld made his first start in eight weeks af­ter a knee in­jury and he and his de­fen­sive col­leagues quickly found them­selves un­der ex­am­i­na­tion. It took United less than two min­utes to carve Spurs open, Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic tee­ing up Paul Pogba for a left-foot shot that was par­ried by his France team-mate Hugo Lloris. Mkhi­taryan saw an ef­fort blocked by Jan Ver­tonghen, Her­rera gave Lloris some catch­ing prac­tice with a dip­ping vol­ley and Michael Car­rick whis­tled a shot over from range.

United goal­keeper David de Gea had to deal with a zippy free-kick from Chris­tian Erik­sen, but the hosts looked the more likely scor­ers and duly went ahead in the 29th minute. Harry Kane played the ball straight to Her­rera, whose invit­ing pass be­tween the Spurs cen­tre­backs freed Mkhi­taryan to run through and smash a ris­ing shot past Lloris. The Spurs goal­keeper was called into ac­tion again shortly af­ter, drop­ping to his right and sav­ing from Ibrahi­movic.

At the other end, Son He­ung-Min cut in from the right and let fly with a left-foot ef­fort that de Gea had to tip over, but the spring was in United’s step as the teams went off at half-time. Their fail­ure to take their chances left them vul­ner­a­ble to the threat of a coun­ter­punch, how­ever, and there were ner­vous mo­ments early in the sec­ond half as Tot­ten­ham went on the at­tack. De Gea boxed away a shot from Erik­sen be­fore Vic­tor Wanyama gave the hosts a big let-off, com­pletely mis­cu­ing his header af­ter Erik­sen’s free-kick found him un­marked six yards from goal.

Seek­ing to soothe the home fans’ frayed nerves, Pogba took it upon him­self to try to ex­tend United’s lead. The France mid­fielder left the Spurs cross­bar shud­der­ing with an arc­ing 25-yard free-kick and then stung Lloris’s palms with a crisp shot fol­low­ing a one-two with Her­rera. De Gea had to claw away an­other Erik­sen free­kick, but de­spite Mkhi­taryan’s pre­ma­ture 84th-minute exit, United saw the game out.

— AFP

MANCH­ESTER: Manch­ester United’s Swedish striker Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic vies with Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s Bel­gian de­fender Jan Ver­tonghen (right) dur­ing the English Premier League foot­ball match be­tween Manch­ester United and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur at Old Traf­ford yes­ter­day.

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