Set-piece goals and the harsh realities of the Premier League: Heroes and villains from Sheffield United 1, Tottenham Hotspur 2

Sheffield United suffered the latest defeat in what is threatening to become a miserable season yesterday as they went down 3-1 at home to title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 12:10 pm

The Blades gave themselves some hope of rescuing something from the game when David McGoldrick made it 2-1, after early goals from Serge Aurier and Harry Kane.

But Tanguy Ndombele scored a brilliant effort to seal all three points for Spurs, and leave United stranded on five points at the bottom of the table.

Here, we take a look at some heroes and villains from the game...

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The defending

Aaron Ramsdale summed it up in the seconds after Serge Aurier had risen highest at the near post to head home an early corner. "It's too f****** easy," the United goalkeeper said, and he was spot on.

Son's corner was excellent, but defending set-pieces is basic Sunday League stuff.

Jayden Bogle has been excellent in recent weeks, but he wasn't without fault here. He seemed to get caught under the flight of the ball and barely got off the ground as all 5ft 8in of Aurier towered above him.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane (C) runs with the ball as Sheffield United's Chris Basham (R) and Oliver Norwood (L) chase after him (Photo by STU FORSTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

It's not been a one-off, either. United have conceded far too many goals from set-pieces this season, which is surprising for a team that was so aerially dominant last season.

Ollie Norwood

Two games in a few days at Bramall Lane highlighted the extremes of football for the former Northern Ireland international, who was very good when given the freedom of S2 by Newcastle and struggled here when pressed relentlessly by Spurs.

It was another reminder for the Blades of the ruthlessness of the Premier League when, just seconds after Norwood's sloppy touch in midfield gave the ball away, it was in the back of Ramsdale's net courtesy of Harry Kane, not the kind of player to pass up such an opportunity.

There were warning signs when Norwood lost the ball too easily in midfield and Spurs broke quickly, with Kane curling one wide on his left foot.

And his miserable afternoon was completed when he tried to let the ball run across him deep in United territory. Tanguy Ndombele still had a lot to do when the ball found him, and his finish was ridiculous. But it simply wasn't Norwood's day, an admission basically made by boss Chris Wilder when he replaced him soon after with Kean Bryan.

David McGoldrick

On the scoresheet again courtesy of a nice glancing header from John Fleck's sublime cross, taking his tally to six for the season. He's United's top scorer by quite a distance but more than that, his all-round game continues to impress and as United flounder, he has become increasingly the go-to man for a bit of creativity.

His partnership with Oli Burke is showing signs of developing nicely - there were a number of times McGoldrick, with his vision, found the rapid Burke down the side of Spurs' defence, or in behind - and the former Ipswich man has been one of the few positives for the Blades in what has been largely a season to forget so far.

John Egan

United face yet another clash with Manchester United, and their formidable forward line, without their main defender after the Republic of Ireland international picked up his fifth booking in the dying stages of the Spurs game.

Opinion varies on whether it was actually a foul, never mind a yellow card - Wilder had no complaints afterwards, although Kane's shriek of pain when contact was made may have played a part in the referee's mind - but United will go to Old Trafford for their next Premier League game without Egan.

The former Brentford defender has missed two of United's three clashes with their namesakes from Manchester since the Blades returned to the top flight, and the next game will make it three from four.

That'll leave Wilder with an unwanted headache, especially as injuries continue to bite. One logical choice to fill in for Egan would be Ethan Ampadu, but he's been playing at left centre-half of late and may even shift into midfield given Norwood's display against Spurs.

Phil Jagielka had a torrid time in the home game against Man U, being subbed on and then later subbed off again, and only recently returned to the squad after recovering from Covid-19.

The sooner Jack O'Connell is fit and ready to return, the better for all concerned with United.

Other results

What a psychological blow it must have been for United’s players and staff to watch West Brom’s game with local rivals Wolves yesterday, where they came from behind to win 3-2 away from home.

Although Fulham later lost to Chelsea, Brighton also picked up three points away at Leeds to cut United even further adrift at the bottom of the Premier League standings.

After the weekend, United are now six points away from even overhauling second-bottom West Brom, and are 11 adrift of fourth-bottom Burnley.

There’s some chance to claw a few points back in the coming weeks, when United face both the Baggies and Cottagers. The trouble is, there are also games against the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea coming up, too.