Saturday, November 28, 2009
Rooney gets a hat-trick & Manchester wins 4-1
A Wayne Rooney hat-trick helped Manchester United to a 4-1 win against Portsmouth in an eventful encounter at soggy Fratton Park.
The England striker converted two disputed penalties and finished off a superb counter-attack, before Ryan Giggs netted his 100th Premier League goal with a late free-kick.
Kevin-Prince Boateng found the net for the home side - also with a controversial spot-kick.
So Avram Grant's career picked up where it left off; losing on penalties to United in the rain.
Eighteen months ago, the Israeli was sacked as Chelsea boss after an epic Champions League final shoot-out defeat in Moscow.
In his first game in charge of the Premier League's bottom side, United again prevailed but needed some questionable decisions from referee Mike Dean to help them.
Tomasz Kuszczak was surprisingly picked in goal for United, with England's Ben Foster on the bench and Edwin van der Sar absent entirely - still suffering the after-effects of a knock to the knee last weekend.
After a nervous start, the Pole excelled himself, making a superb close-range save from Aruna Dindane and an even better one to tip Jamie O'Hara's volley over.
But Dean proved the central figure. First he pointed to the spot when Rooney stumbled past Michael Brown and made the most of minimal contact on 25 minutes.
While not an outright dive, it was a soft penalty and the England man stepped up to place the kick into the right corner past Asmir Begovic, standing in for the injured David James.
If Pompey felt aggrieved, the sentiment did not last long. Just after the half-hour mark, Kuszczak leapt to punch clear a high ball into the net and Dean mystifyingly awarded a spot-kick.
Neither side had any idea what the supposed infringement was, but a forensic examination of replays shows Nemanja Vidic and Frederic Piquionne were indulging in some mild mutual shirt-tugging.
It was still a baffling decision, since Piquionne was just as guilty as Vidic, but Boateng duly converted from 12 yards.
Sir Alex Ferguson watched the game from the stands serving the first match of a touchline ban, for which the fourth official's eardrums must be very grateful.
Both sides poured forward. First Paul Scholes dragged one of many long-range efforts just wide, then Dindane headed wide at the culmination of a rapier-like Portsmouth counter-attack.
The first half ended with a scuffle, as Darren Fletcher and Boateng grappled on the turf after the Scot tackled overzealously.
Within three minutes of the restart, United were back in front after a counter-attack that showed them at their incisive best.
Darren Fletcher lofted a pass down the right channel for Giggs, who squared for Rooney and the striker finished low past Begovic.
Then, on 54 minutes, Rooney grabbed his third. Piquionne half-tripped, half-barged Giggs over just inside the box in an innocuous position. While hardly a stone-waller, it was the clearest of the three penalties. Rooney again found the right corner with minimal fuss.
Grant's Portsmouth put on a spirited display and showed signs they may yet beat the drop.
Boateng was especially lively, and tested Kuszczak again from the edge of the box following a Nemanja Vidic slip, while John Utaka hit the bar with a late volley.
Three minutes from time, Giggs capped an accomplished display with a clever goal, curling a low free-kick around the outside of the wall and into the left corner past the unsighted Begovic.
United rode their luck, but these fixtures are often an exercise in banana skin avoidance, and - without performing at their best - they nimbly dodged a costly slip-up.