LONDON: Tottenham Hotspur staged the latest-ever comeback to win a Premier League game on Wednesday.
Manchester United’s second-half turnaround was quite the surprise, too.
On a dramatic night in England’s top division, Spurs were losing to Leicester City after 94 minutes and 52 seconds. Within two minutes, Netherlands forward Steven Bergwijn had scored two goals to seal a 3-2 win pretty much out of nowhere.
It sparked wild scenes as Tottenham’s players clambered over advertising signs to celebrate in front of their fans, with stewards having to intervene.
“We showed today that we don’t want to give up. Never,” said Tottenham manager Antonio Conte, whose unbeaten league record at the London club was preserved.
As an extra reward for Tottenham, the victory took them above fierce rivals Arsenal and into fifth place in the league only one point off the Champions League positions with games in hand.
The previous latest comeback to win came in arguably the Premier League’s most famous match, when Manchester City scored in the 92nd and 94th minutes to beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 and clinch the title in May 2012.
As for United, Ralf Rangnick’s under-pressure team put in a wretched first-half display at Brentford and were lucky to be 0-0 at halftime, only for Anthony Elanga, with his first Premier League goal, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford to score after the break in a 3-1 win. Ivan Toney pulled a late goal back for Brentford.
United stayed seventh but are one point behind Spurs having played two games more.
With the title increasingly looking like heading again to City, who hold an 11-point lead, the race for the top four and qualification for the Champions League might be the most interesting aspect of the second half of the season.
Two points now separate fourth-placed West Ham United and Man United in seventh, with the four teams in that mini-battle having all played a different number of games because of postponements caused by Covid-19 cases. Indeed, Spurs have played three fewer games than the team above them, West Ham, and four games fewer than third-placed Chelsea, who are eight points ahead of Spurs.
Tottenham visit Chelsea on Sunday before the league goes on a winter break.
Harry Kane is getting closer to his best form and the England captain could have scored three goals before finally netting Spurs’ equaliser in the 38th, cancelling out Patson Daka’s 24th-minute opener.
James Maddison restored Leicester’s lead before Bergwijn’s late show, having only come on as a 79th-minute substitute.
He drove home from close range just before the fifth minute of added-on time had elapsed, after fellow sub Matt Doherty had ran onto a ball over the top.
Soon after the restart, Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans gave away possession, Kane played a perfectly weighted ball behind the Leicester defence and Bergwijn ran onto it, rounded goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and converted his shot off the post from an acute angle in the seventh extra minute.
“We didn’t deserve to lose it but we have to learn,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said. “They won the game on our mistakes.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s display of petulance after being substituted in the 70th minute provided an intriguing subplot in United’s win.
The Portugal forward, who had missed United’s last two games because of a hip injury, walked off the field slowly after the board flashed up to show he was being replaced by Rashford. He muttered to himself and was seen throwing his arms up in apparent disgust.
“That is normal a striker wants to score,” United manager Ralf Rangnick said. “But he has come back from a little injury and it was important to remember we have got another game coming up.”
United’s second-half display masked a dreadful first 45 minutes, during which goalkeeper David De Gea produced three great saves to keep the visitors in the game.
“We are the smallest club in the Premier League, Manchester United the biggest. We destroyed them in the first half, they didn’t have a sniff,” Brentford manager Thomas Frank said. “Three huge chances and there could only have been one winner of this game. They are unbelievably lucky.”
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2022