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Pape Matar Sarr comes of age to give the Ange Postecoglou era at Spurs lift-off

Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd (Sarr 49′, Davies 83′)

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM — The Ange Postecoglou era at Tottenham has lift-off after a Pape Matar Sarr strike and Lisandro Martinez own goal secured three points against Manchester United in the Australian’s first official home game in charge.

It was Spurs’ first victory against United since moving into the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium over three-and-a-half years ago and a significant result that supporters will feel offers further proof that they are moving in the right direction despite the sale of Harry Kane to Bayern Munich last week.

Postecoglou has frequently talked up the importance of playing the type of football that will get fans on their feet and named a suitably attacking line-up as he was introduced to them for the first time in a Premier League fixture, with Pedro Porro and Sarr replacing Emerson Royal and Oliver Skipp in the XI.

The atmosphere crackled with expectation before kick-off, but United did well to quieten a raucous crowd by taking control of the game. Guglielmo Vicario, who enjoyed a fine home debut, made his first save of the game after less than three minutes from Alejandro Garnacho before rushing from his line to thwart Marcus Rashford. Soon after, Bruno Fernandes almost supplied the assist of the season with an outrageous Rabona cross that Rashford headed over.

Postecoglou is eager to transition Spurs towards a more controlled style of play, but their first two chances came from rapidly executed counter-attacks. Andre Onana was equal to both efforts, saving low to his right to keep out Dejan Kulusevski before standing tall to block a Sarr effort from close-range.

Squeezed in between was a United penalty appeal for a potential Cristian Romero handball that was looked at by VAR but not given; it would have been harsh on the Argentine, but also belonged in the “you’ve seen them given” category.

The game continued to seesaw from one end to the other. Fernandes inexplicably missed a header from a Luke Shaw delivery, before Pedro Porro thundered the crossbar with a fearsome drive with Sarr hitting the post from the follow-up with a deflected cross.

Finally, five minutes into the second half the deadlock was broken, with Sarr lashing in the first home goal of the Postecoglou era, and his first for the club, after Dejan Kulusevski’s cut-back had ricocheted into his path.

United almost hit back immediately, but Antony’s curling shot whacked the post after Fernandes had located him in the penalty area. Moments later it was Spurs’ turn to have a credible penalty appeal waved away, this time after Romero tumbled to the ground under pressure from Lisandro Martinez.

The game continued to pinball with chances in both penalty boxes. Vicario made a strong reaction save to keep out a Casemiro header while Shaw came to United’s rescue to prevent Son Heung-min from doubling the hosts’ advantage with a last-ditch block.

If it was a disappointing afternoon for Richarlison, who shook his head irritably after taking his seat on the bench, it was anything but for Sarr.

Moments after receiving a roar from approval for stopping Rashford racing away into space, Sarr was given a standing ovation after being substituted. It was a coming-of-age performance from the Senegalese who only turns 21 next month.

A potentially nervy finish was all but extinguished when two of the substitutes Ivan Perisic and Ben Davies combined with the latter’s air-shot befuddling Martinez who toe-poked the ball agonisingly into the bottom corner of his own net.

This was a miserable place to be for home fans during some dark days last season. The beaming faces and clenched fists at full-time indicated a belief that a positive new era in north London is just beginning.

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