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27 Aug 2007 08:21
Manchester United won their first game of the Premier League season on Sunday, with Nani scoring his debut goal in a 1-0 victory over Tottenham.
Nani’s 68th-minute goal came after a frantic period of play where Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov had two shots saved.
It was only the second goal scored this season by defending champions United. The Red Devils have drawn two and lost one of their previous games.
“Narrow margin, touch and go, nothing to choose between [the] two sides,” Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said.
“I knew it was going to be almost a war of attrition in the second half.
“They dug in and got forward a couple of times on the counter-attack, which caused us a bit of bother ...
Also on Sunday, Julio Arca scored a late goal to earn Middlesbrough a 2-2 draw against Newcastle.
Shortly before Nani’s goal, Berbatov’s attempt went through the legs of United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and defender Rio Ferdinand beat the Bulgarian to clear it off the line.
Soon after, Berbatov was in another position to score, but the ball was stopped by the chest of United defender Wes Brown.
Berbatov and Tottenham manager Martin Jol believed the infraction was a penalty.
“He [Brown] used everything like a ‘keeper—and he is a defender—to keep the ball out of the net,” Jol said.
United striker Carlos Tevez also had an attempt cleared off the line before Nani curled a long-range shot—that deflected off the head of Tevez—into the top of the net.
Tottenham had the first chance in the first minute, with Robbie Keane hitting the crossbar after taking a pass from Berbatov, who has been linked with United.
Spurs also had early chances when Pascal Chimbonda headed a corner wide and Ricardo Rocha had a shot over the bar.
But Manchester United soon took control of the first half. Ferdinand had a volley saved by goalkeeper Paul Robinson, former Tottenham midfielder Michael Carrick sent a long-range shot wide of the post, and Paul Scholes had an attempt over the bar.
The Red Devils have been hurt up front by the absence of striker Wayne Rooney, who broke his foot on the opening day of the season, and winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who is suspended until after next Saturday’s game against Sunderland.
Tottenham have never won at Old Trafford in the Premier League. Their last win at United was a 1-0 victory in December 1989 in the former First Division.
Tottenham are in 17th place and still reeling from reports that Sevilla coach Juande Ramos was set to replace Jol as manager.
Tottenham’s board has told Jol they want Champions League soccer next season.
Middlesbrough levelled for the second time in their match when Arca controlled a clearance on his chest before scoring with a volley in the 80th minute.
Mark Viduka had scored his first goal for Newcastle since joining from Middlesbrough in the off season in the 77th minute.
Newcastle substitute Michael Owen missed the chance to win the match when he sent a free kick from Charles N’Zogbia into the arms of Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
“We feel like we’ve lost,” Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce said. “We feel that having got the lead twice that should have been enough the second time around to win the game. It would have been a very precious three points.
“But unfortunately it was not to be and we switched off.”
N’Zogbia had scored the opener at the Riverside in the 22nd by cutting inside George Boateng and sending a curling shot past Schwarzer.
Ahmed Mido levelled in the 28th by scoring his second goal for Middlesbrough in as many games. He ran on to a pass from Fabio Rochemback and evaded Steven Taylor’s challenge before rounding Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper and scoring.
On Saturday, Arsenal ended the perfect start of Sven-Goran Eriksson as Manchester City manager with a 1-0 win. Chelsea also won 1-0 against Portsmouth to go top of the Premier League.
City lost top spot to Chelsea, with Frank Lampard’s goal giving the Blues 10 points. City are second on nine points, with Wigan, Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal all on seven.
Also on Saturday, it was: Aston Villa 2, Fulham 1; Bolton 3, Reading 0; Derby 1, Birmingham 2; West Ham 1, Wigan 1; and Everton 1, Blackburn 1.—Sapa-AFP
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