Sunday, October 4, 2009
Manchester United draw 2 - 2 Sunderland in the last minutes
Manchester United scored another dramatic late goal but still had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Sunderland at Old Trafford.
Patrice Evra's 93rd-minute shot deflected in off the luckless Anton Ferdinand to earn United a point they hardly deserved.
Sunderland were the better side and led twice. First, through a brilliant seventh-minute goal by Darren Bent, then through a header just before the hour from his strike partner Kenwyne Jones.
But a sensational overhead kick from Dimitar Berbatov and Ferdinand's own-goal gave the champions a share of the spoils in a thrilling climax, two weeks after Michael Owen's 96th-minute winner in the derby against Manchester City.
United old-boy Kieran Richardson was sent off for a second bookable offence after kicking the ball away, and 10-man Sunderland failed to hold out.
The point takes Steve Bruce's side to the dizzy heights of sixth in the Premier League, while Chelsea can knock United off top spot with a win at home to Liverpool on Sunday.
Sunderland deserve credit for an organised, combative display built on a central midfield fulcrum of Lee Cattermole and Lorik Cana. Yet United were poor throughout, especially in midfield where Ryan Giggs was sorely missed.
Giggs made a match-winning contribution from the substitutes' bench against Stoke City last weekend, but was mysitfyingly left out of the 18-man squad here.
With his flicks, tricks and tendency to run down cul-de-sacs, Nani is an easy target for critics. But it becomes even simpler to point out his deficiencies when he completes none of his first six crosses and continually makes bad decisions in important situations.
Wayne Rooney left his foot in on Andy Reid in a moment of frustration at his side's dismal performance. A stricter referee might have sent the England striker off, but Alan Wiley chose to give Rooney no more than a talking-to.
Bent's goal was a gem. He received a slick pass from Cattermole, turned sharply and hit an early shot low past Ben Foster into the left corner.
Foster was recalled after being dropped for United's Champions League match against Wolfsburg. It cannot have been part of the goalkeeper's plans to concede within seven minutes.
Berbatov admitted this week that he has been a disappointment since his £30 million arrival from Tottenham Hotspur, but he did plenty to win over his doubters with a magnificent equaliser.
John O'Shea crossed from the right and the Bulgarian met the ball acrobatically, directing it past Gordon into the right corner with a perfect bicycle kick.
Old Trafford fully expected United to do what they have done so many times and go on to win the game, yet they contrived to surrender the initiative again.
Seven minutes later Sunderland were back in front when Andy Reid clipped a hanging cross into the United box and Foster, Jones and the ball all converged at the same time.
A stronger goalkeeper would have have taken out man and ball with authority; Foster allowed Jones to muscle in front and bundle the ball home. Edwin van der Sar's return cannot come soon enough.
Yet United roused themselves for another piece of stoppage time magic. Nemanja Vidic headed across goal and Sunderland cleared to what they thought was safety, but Evra returned the ball with interest and a wicked touch off Ferdinand took the ball into the corner.