Heurelho Gomes has grabbed his share of the headlines this season mostly for reasons that I am sure he and Spurs fans alike would rather not relive. In the first 3 months of the season it seemed a match week did not go by without the White Hart Lane faithful grimacing and groaning at another howler by the Brazilian between the sticks. If there were a goalkeeping nightmare reel compiled for the EPL thus far this season, the Spurs keeper would feature prominently.
To be fair he seems to have improved in recent games but the spotlight was burning bright as Manchester United paid a visit to the Lane for the Saturday evening marquee match of the weekend.
There has been plenty written about the upturn in the fortunes of Tottenham since Redknapp’s arrival but the goalkeeping position remains closely scrutinized in the Spurs quarters of North London. With the improvement in Tottenham’s form and United ominously starting to threaten Liverpool and Chelsea at the top of the table, this game garnered match of the week billing, heading into round 17. The return of Dimitar Berbatov added to the spice and intrigue, although his status appeared questionable until kick-off.
The game, for the most part, lived up to the hype despite the typical appalling weather, and it was played in front of a great atmosphere. Although Spurs had their chances, testing Van Der Sar on more than a couple of occasions, as expected it was the men in red that controlled long periods of the play. The first half was relatively quiet in terms of goal attempts. But Gomes had to be alert when O’Shea drove in a cross around the 6 yard box that even the crescendo of boos could not have prevented Berbatov from tapping in, had it not been for a quick reaction from the Spurs keeper to get down and knock the chance away.
As United drove forward in the second half Gomes rose to the occasion and appeared to gain in confidence as the match progressed. His performance included a good save from a Vidic shot before he tipped over a rasping drive from Ji-Sung Park. He saved his best effort for the dying seconds as he brilliantly turned away a Ryan Giggs free-kick that looked destined to give Fergie’s boys all the points in injury time for consecutive weeks. The only time he was beaten was from a corner that Ronaldo hammered in, correctly ruled out for handball.
Van der Sar, in the United goal, certainly was not the spectator that he was last week at home to Sunderland as Bentley in particular lashed a couple of goal bound efforts that forced the Dutchman into 2 very good saves. The match finished nil-nil due to the goalkeeping performances on both sides. We might be accustomed to such displays from United’s stopper but there is no doubt Gomes stole the show on this occasion and gained his team a valuable point against very tough opposition.
Who knows if this form will continue? Maybe it was a one off and it is just a matter of time before the next howler. But if yesterday’s match was an indication of the Spurs’ keeper’s capabilities, and assuming he can deliver some consistency, then maybe Harry will have less to worry about between the posts at White Hart Lane.