Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fulham gets a late equalizer

Brede Hangeland redeemed an earlier own goal to head in a deserved equaliser as Fulham came from behind twice to take a share of the spoils.

It had looked like the defender had gifted Manchester United all three points as a nasty deflection off his shin had put United in front with just eight minutes remaining.

Both teams started off lively at Craven Cottage, with the majority of possession belonging to Manchester United, with the home side trying to rely mainly on the counter attack.

As United continued to keep the ball and pushed further forward, it was only a matter of time before the deadlock was broken, and Dimitar Berbatov was unlucky not to see his name on the scoresheet as a brilliant acrobatic volley was tipped over by an even more spectacular save from David Stockdale.

In the end it was only going to be one man to provide the breakthrough and Paul Scholes did just that. A fantastic lay-off from Berbatov allowed Scholes to run onto and drill a low, blistering shot into the bottom left-hand corner of Stockdale’s net from 25 yards out to register his 150th goal in all competitions for United.

Unlike with Wigan Athletic yesterday, Fulham kept their heads up after going down and came close to an immediate response when Bobby Zamora’s flick-on found Simon Davies, who attempted an impressive volley which sailed just over the angle of post and crossbar from 20 yards.

But United kept coming back as Javier Hernandez, who started in favour of Michael Owen, came close to scoring his first goal in the Premier League when he pounced on a Darren Fletcher pass to fire just wide from the edge of the area, followed by a fierce drive from Berbatov which was foiled by a strong hand from Stockdale.

Despite the continued pressure from last season’s runners-up, Fulham suddenly found themselves with a golden opportunity to equaliser and Dickson Etuhu really should have. A neat flick into the box by Clint Dempsey let the Nigerian in, and his first low shot was well saved by the Dutchman in goal and then the rebound was powered into the pitch to pop up for Edwin Van der Sar, who was still on the floor, to grasp out and tip the ball over the bar for a fantastic double save.

Fulham again refused to be demoralised and an entertaining end-to-end game was materialising.

Fulham came out at the beginning of the second half in a new set of strips due to the old set were “sweat-retaining”, and, as with the famous United kit change against Southampton in 1996, it immediately paid dividends as 10 minutes into the second half Fulham were level.

Clever work on the right flank by Damien Duff found Zamora in space in the area, his smart cut-back allowed an onrushing Simon Davies to hammer past Van der Sar for a deserved equaliser.

The Cottagers could have found themselves in front mere minutes later as Nemanja Vidic appeared to pull Moussa Dembele over inside the area, but the referee waved away the strong penalty appeals.

As the game entered the latter stages, both teams were going all out for the win, first Nani whizzed in a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque freekick, that dipped a little too late to really trouble Stockdale, then, down the other end, Paul Konchesky floated in a long free-kick aimed at Zamora, the England international connected with it well but could only watch in vain as it trickled past the far post.

Zamora may have lived to regret that missed chance as just five minutes later, Ryan Giggs whipped in a corner for United and, with no red shirts around him, Brede Hangeland was the victim of a nasty deflection off his knee to send the away team into the lead of the second time.

The drama wasn’t over there either as just one minute later, United were given the chance to put the game to bed as Damien Duff was harshly ruled to have handled the ball inside his own area, but Stockdale, who was fantastic throughout the match, was more than a match for Nani’s penalty attempt.

Fulham would survive to thank Stockdale, as in the 90th minute of normal time, Brede Hangeland redeemed himself for the earlier own goal to jump high and power a header low past Van der Sar in goal to bring the west London side back level for the second time and to give his team a deserved share of the spoils.

Man united stuns Newcastle

Manchester United kicked off their Premier League campaign with a comfortable victory over newly-promoted Newcastle United at Old Trafford, courtesy of first-half goals by Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher before Ryan Giggs added a late third.

The Red Devils began the game with Berbatov partnering Wayne Rooney up front, with new signings Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling on the bench and no room at all in the squad for former Magpie Michael Owen.

The visitors, meanwhile, started with a five-man midfield, a lone striker in the shape of Andy Carroll whilst also handing a Newcastle debut to new signing James Perch at right back.

Yet Newcastle began the game well and had the best chance of the opening exchanges on the 10 minute mark. A corner in from Joey Barton found Carroll, completely free having lost his marker, but the striker conspired to head wide from six yards.

It was to prove a costly miss for the visitors as after an indifferent start, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men slowly took control of the match and opening the scoring just after the half hour mark.

Antonio Valencia poached the ball from Jonas Guterriez and found Paul Scholes who slid a perfectly weighted ball into the box for Berbatov to smash low, back across goal and beat Steve Harper.

The goal was all the encouragement the home side needed and less than 10 minutes later they doubled their lead thanks to Darren Fletcher.

Some good work down the left found Nani sliding in Patrice Evra who drove a ball across the box; Rooney managed to get a touch but couldn’t control it however the ball fell perfectly to the Scot to slot home from close range.

he second half began in much the same fashion, with the home side content to dictate proceedings and Paul Scholes at the heart of everything for Manchester United.

After picking up a customary booking for a late challenge on Nolan, the midfielder had a claim for a penalty after swapping passes with Berbatov before taking a tumble after contact with Coloccini yet referee Chris Foy waved his appeals away.

Seconds later the 35-year-old was involved again finding Rooney on the edge of the box, who dinked in a ball to Berbatov. The Bulgarian just had Harper to beat but slid his shot just wide of the post with the outside of this boot.

Yet Newcastle held firm, and even though Rooney put the ball in the back of the net on the hour mark, it was ruled out, harshly according to replays, for an offside earlier in the move.

That was to be the English striker’s last contribution of the game with Ferguson opting to change things, replacing him with Hernandez who received a rapturous applause from the Old Trafford faithful for his home debut.

However, the substitution did little to alter the flow of the game with chances continuing to come for Nani and Berbatov, yet it was another substitute, Ryan Giggs who was to add further gloss to the scoreline.

Again Scholes was the creator lofting the ball into the Welshman who volleyed it into the far corner to seal a convincing victory for the home team who travel to Fulham next, a ground on which they have struggled in recent seasons.