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  • Alessandro Schiavone

Cristiano Ronaldo floors Tottenham with a hat-trick as Londoners' top-four hopes suffer setback

Tottenham Hotspur missed a golden opportunity to temporarily sneak into the top-four, succumbing to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick to lose 3-2 against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

If against cross-city rivals Manchester City they did the double, they racked up zero points against the Red Devils.

Harry Kane beat David De Gea from twelve yards to cancel out Cristiano Ronaldo’s stunning opener after 35 minutes. But Tottenham’s new-found parity lasted only three minutes as Manchester United exploited Tottenham’s spaces in behind with Jadon Sancho setting Ronaldo to double his and his side’s tally with a clinical tap-in finish.

Harry Maguire then had a stinker when he diverted Sergio Reguilon’s delivery into his own net in front of England manager Gareth Southgate at Old Trafford.

But just when Manchester United’s hard work seemed undone, Ronaldo powered a bullet header into the net from a corner to revive his team’s faint hopes, moving up to fourth but having played four games more than their closest antagonists and direct rivals Arsenal. Tottenham meanwhile have slipped to 7th but with two games in hand on the Mancunians.

The Champions League six-pointer burst into life when Cristiano Ronaldo unleashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner after a sumptuous back-heel flick from Fred. The Portuguese superstar played like a wounded animal after missing last Sunday’s 4-1 derby defeat at Manchester City, officially through injury but presumably because he was told he wouldn’t start the day before.

Ronaldo became the most prolific scorer in football history with 807 career goals, 14 of them against Tottenham alone. His sensational opener was arguably his most spectacular goal since his second homecoming. And there wasn’t much Hugo Lloris could have done to prevent the floating ball from heading into the top corner.

Manchester United outplayed Antonio Conte’s conservative side in the opening minutes. And the visitors’ response was a tame effort from distance by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. The Dane caught Nemanja Matic in possession before sending a speculative effort right into David De Gea’s arms.

And seconds later Ben Davies had a goal disallowed for offside following a slick team move. Tottenham struggled to cope with Ronaldo’s unpredictability and the former Real Madrid sent a flicked header wide from Alex Telles’ pinpoint cross after getting in between Eric Dier and Matt Doherty in the box.

And while their high pressing and full throttle approach had the desired impact, Ralf Rangnick’s men were also hard to break down at the other end as they made it hard for Tottenham to play through the lines, keeping the distances between midfield and defence very tight.

Tottenham were going through the motions and just when the game was drifting away from them they came close to drawing level.

Son Heung-Min’s corner was flicked on by Rodrigo Bentancur for Eric Dier at the far post but the ex-Sporting Lisbon player saw his effort cleared off the line by Diogo Dalot.

Ten minutes later, Dejan Kulusevski produced a moment of magic. He left Sancho in no man’s land with a nutmeg and sent in a cross, which was handled by Telles. The anonymous Harry Kane stepped up and tucked the resulting penalty away.

But only three minutes later Ronaldo grabbed his second of the afternoon. Sancho latched onto a long ball forward from Matic before unselfishly squaring for Ronaldo first-time. And the Portuguese made no mistake from point-blank range to bury his shot. Tottenham’s backline was caught napping again.

On the stroke of half-time Lloris did well to save ex-Dortmund star Sancho’s low effort after he cut inside Doherty.

In the second half, the dominant home side looked to hammer the final nail in the North Londoners' coffin.

Reguilon vitally intercepted Sancho’s cross for Paul Pogba with a headed clearance. The French World Cup winner would have had the time and space to make it 3-1.

After that, Spurs had a rare prolonged spell of possession but Son could not direct his effort on target after a brilliant cutback from Kulusevski. It was a lacklustre day at the office for the South Korean ace and Kane, who didn’t do much else apart from converting his penalty.

Midway through the second half, Ronaldo beat two Tottenham players following a superbly-weighted pass forward from Sancho but his shot from an acute angle was easily beaten away by Lloris. In his prime he may have well scored an impossible goal despite the odds being stacked against him.

And then the hapless Maguire sent Manchester United fans into despair when he inadvertenly deflected a pass into his own net with an ill-timed sliding intervention as Tottenham benefitted from their 9th own-goal of the season to equalise with 18 minutes to go. Conte turned to his bench to punch the air in delight and Lloris gave him another reason to smile when he palmed Ronaldo’s prodded effort behind for a corner.

But Ronaldo completed Tottenham’s misery when he was shockingly allowed to rise unchallenged to meet a corner and head home the winner on 81 minutes as Manchester United deservedly conjure up all three points.

Tottenham have now lost six of their last 10 games across all competitions with Brighton Hove Albion up next.


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