Clint Dempsey, Tottenham Peg Back Manchester United as EPL Title Race Tightens

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterJanuary 20, 2013

The Deuce deserved his goal, and Spurs were worth the draw, but for all the late drama in a snowy London Sunday, the season's biggest storylines still revolve around Manchester.

Clint Dempsey scored a late equalizer as Tottenham Hotspur rescued a last-gasp 1-1 draw Sunday in the snow against Premier League leaders Manchester United. With the result, Spurs stayed within touching distance of Chelsea for third (and moved further clear of Arsenal), while United saw their lead over Manchester City cut to five precious points.

The result was in doubt until the third and final minute of stoppage time, when Dempsey swept home in a crowded United box. It was a just reward for Spurs, who for 90-plus minutes had out-shot, out-possessed and at times outplayed their league-leading visitors.

The stats, however, told only part of the story, intriguing as that part might have been. 

Tottenham outshot United 25-5 and hit the target eight times to United's two (per ESPN FC). United's five shots comprised their lowest total in the Premier League this season (via Opta). Spurs created 15 chances from open play, compared to five for United (per EPL Index).

And yet, until the match's final minute, the hosts seemed destined for defeat. Spurs created chances by the hatful (Aaron Lennon made seven on his own, per EPL Index), and both Dempsey and Gareth Bale came close to finding the net.

So when the goal finally came, it was no surprise to see Dempsey wheeling away in manic celebration. The American's booking for a leap into the crowd was as warranted as his enthusiasm was understandable.

Tottenham goalscorer Clint Dempsey: "It looked like it was going to be one of those days but I am happy we got a point." #bbcfootball

— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 20, 2013

Robin van Persie had predictably put United ahead in the 25th minute. The goal—a rare header—was his 18th of the season, most in the league, and yet another reminder of the value the Dutchman brings to United's title challenge.

Even accounting for the Red Devils' red-hot form—they had won 14 of 16 league matches ahead of Sunday's draw—United owe a great deal of success this season to the man Sir Alex Ferguson plucked from Arsenal over the summer. And plenty of work remains to be done.

Even while setting a record pace through 22 matches, after 23 United find themselves ahead of City atop the table by only five points. Van Persie's contribution, while already massive and influential, likely must continue uninterrupted for the sake of United's title ambitions.

On current form, United are nearly impossible to beat. In addition to Van Persie's continued brilliance, United's second-half performance against Spurs—at least until the very end—included a heroic defensive effort.

For now, the talk will be about Spurs, and rightly so. Andre Villas-Boas' team deserved at least a draw and could have even done the double on United for the first time in 23 years.

But unlike last time, when these same two teams shared five goals in a match more representative of a five-a-side contest, United ground out a result in the snow away from home.

Whether it's one point gained or two points lost, the title is still United's to lose.