Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Sheffield United: Blades draw despite VAR blow
After the pre-match pleasantries, the back-slapping an bonohomie between Mauricio Pochettino and Chris Wilder, it took only a minute for a typically full-bloodied Premier League fixture to break out.
Following a rousing call-to-arms by John Egan, imploring his Sheffield United team mates to up their tempo during an early break in play, Tottenham Hotspur's Eric Dier left one on George Baldock and was cautioned for his troubles. It set the tone for a contest which, despite a major controversy after the interval, saw both sides throw everything - absolutely everything - at each other. Unfortunately, thanks to officialdom's misguided faith in VAR, it was nearly settled by events more than 20 miles away in Stockley Park.
Trailing to Heung-Min Son's 58th minute strike, United thought they had drawn level less than 120 seconds later when David McGoldrick turned the ball into Paulo Gazzaniga's net. But after a lengthy delay while referee Graham Scott's decision was reviewed, his colleague Jon Moss overturned it. Not only did the 'line' drawn across the screen which adjudged John Lundstram to have strayed offside seem to be in the wrong place, the delay and then disappointment threatened to muddle United's minds.
Thankfully for them - and those who continue to champion this farcical method of deciding games - George Baldock did eventually equalise in the 79th minute.
It was no less than Chris Wilder's side, still unbeaten away from home since January, deserved. And football deserves better than to see its matches plunged into confusion by a flawed review system which is not fit for purpose.
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of United's start to life back in the top-flight is the manner in which they have approached games against some of the biggest names in the division. After some initial jitters, most notably across town at Chelsea where Wilder acknowledged his men had appeared a little star struck before coming from 2-0 down to secure a draw, they have looked combative rather than compliant. That trend continued here, with United finishing the first-half disappointed not to enjoy a lead. Had Lundstram's shot, from a Jack O'Connell centre, not rebounded back off the post then they would surely have benefited from that luxury when the second got underway. Harry Kane, now recovered from illness, should have done better when he met Serge Aurier's cross at the near post. But United created the greater number of openings, with Lundstram and John Fleck going close either side of the England international's miss.
Lys Mousset nearly pounced soon after the interval when, having beaten Dier for pace, he confused Davinson Sanchez and then dragged wide across goal.
Son took advantage of a miscommunication involving Enda Stevens and John Egan following Dele Alli's through ball to edge Spurs in front. Two minutes after the South Korean's intervention, McGoldrick's first of the campaign was wiped from the scoresheet because, before Stevens; assist, Lundstram was adjudged to have been offside.
United's persistence was eventually rewarded when Baldock, attempting to find the onrushing Basham, saw his shot fly straight in.
Tottenham Hotspur: Gaazaniga, Sanchez, Son, Kane, Dier, Sissoko, Lo Celso, Alli (Foth 72), Aureier (Moura 86), Ndombele (Winks 46), Davies. Not used: Vorm, Alderweireld, Sessegnon, Eriksen.
Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O;Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood, Fleck, Lundstram, McGoldrick (L Freeman 90), Mousset (Robinson 88). Not used: Moore, McBurnie, Sharp, Jagielka, Besic.
Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).