Nani scores goal as United top Spurs

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Nani scores goal as United top Spurs

MANCHESTER, England - Nani scored a contentious goal to round off Manchester United’s 2-0 victory over Tottenham on Saturday, with referee Mark Clattenburg overruling his assistant amid furious protests from both English Premier League teams.

Nani had a penalty appeal turned down after bursting into the Tottenham penalty area and was seen handling the ball while lying on the turf. But while Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes lined up what he believed to be a free kick, Nani nipped in front of the Brazilian and prodded the ball into an empty net.

The goal was initially ruled out by Clattenburg’s assistant Simon Beck, angering the United players, but after the officials ruled that the whistle had never been blown, Gomes led the Spurs protests.

“It’s a handball, he’s deliberately handled it and it should have been a booking,’’ Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said.

“Everyone has seen him do it so we think it’s a free kick, it’s just the referee that doesn’t see it.”

United captain Rio Ferdinand accepted that it was tough on Spurs after Nani used his hand.

“Handball, but gotta play to the whistle - harsh but true,’’ Ferdinand tweeted minutes after the final whistle. Fletcher, though, pointed out that “we are always told to play to the whistle.’’

“I don’t know whether the goalkeeper thought the referee had seen a foul for simulation, but he never blew his whistle,’’ the United midfielder said. “The goalie puts it down and then Nani puts the ball in the net. It’s one of those where nobody really knows what’s happened, but Nani has no option other than to put the ball in the net.

“He’s got the opportunity to score - he’s got to score.’’ United manager Alex Ferguson blamed Gomes for the confusion.

“It was bizarre. No one knew at the time what was wrong,’’ Ferguson said. “One minute the goalkeeper had the ball in his hands and next it’s in his net. Nani looked back and looked at the referee and the referee said play on, so what can he do but put the ball in the net.

“You can look at the referee and look at the linesmen and blame them, but the goalkeeper should know better. He’s an experienced goalkeeper. I thought he made a mess of it.’’

Ferguson believed Clattenburg should have initially awarded a penalty for a foul on Nani.

“The referee played on because the goalkeeper took possession of the ball,’’ Ferguson said. “He then went to take a free kick thinking it was a foul. He made an error,” he added.

Park Ji-sung started the game and hit the post from 23-meters (75 feet) out merely two minutes into the match. Despite failing to score a goal in the game, Park provided his teammates with several sharp passes throughout the game.

The win kept United five points behind leader Chelsea, while Tottenham was a further five points behind.

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