Big-name play­ers not missed

Nelson Mail - - SPORT -

With their top strik­ers ab­sent, there were con­cerns that Manch­ester United and Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur could stum­ble in their push for Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion from the English Pre­mier League. No need to worry. United de­fied the ab­sence of the sus­pended Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic — and fa­tigue be­cause of its hec­tic fix­ture sched­ule — to beat rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Mid­dles­brough 3-1 away in a match that ended with player bus­tups on and off the field.

Tot­ten­ham have lost top scorer Harry Kane for up to five weeks be­cause of in­jury and the team’s at­tack­ing mid­field­ers stepped up to fill the void, with Chris­tian Erik­sen and Dele Alli scor­ing in a 2-1 win over Southamp­ton. It was Spurs’ 10th straight vic­tory at home in the league.

With fel­low top-four con­tenders Manch­ester City and Liver­pool draw­ing 1-1 in an end-to-end game of nu­mer­ous chances at Eti­had Sta­dium, the race to fin­ish in the top four be­hind likely cham­pion Chelsea is too close to call.

Tot­ten­ham are sec­ond, 10 points be­hind Chelsea and two points ahead of City. Liver­pool are a point fur­ther back in fourth and four clear of fifth-placed United, who have two games in hand.

United have fin­ished each of the last 19 weeks in sixth place in the Pre­mier League, but fi­nally climbed a spot with a win at the River­side Sta­dium which was over­shad­owed by bust-ups on and off the field around the fi­nal whis­tle.

In stop­page time, tem­pers flared when Mid­dles­brough’s Rudy Gest­ede and United’s Eric Bailly grap­pled with each other. Play­ers from both teams piled in. The push­ing and shov­ing con­tin­ued in the tun­nel after the match, with Bailly and team-mate Ash­ley Young look­ing par­tic­u­larly ag­grieved.

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