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Fulham shatter Man Utd -- PL. Match Report

last updated Sunday 09th February 2014, 8:35 PM

Match Report

Manchester United (0) 2 Fulham (1) 2

Premier League - MatchDay 25 at Old Trafford

Sunday 9th February - KO: 16:00

Referee: Kevin Friend


Fulham striker Darren Bent
Fulham striker
Darren Bent
Darren Bent
Darren Bent's last-gasp equaliser earned Fulham a 2-2 draw at Manchester United and left the champions shattered after they thought they had saved themselves from another desperate day.

Trailing to Steve Sidwell's first-half opener, United's search for redemption lasted until the 79th minute -- and then Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick struck within the space of 120 seconds to turn the match on its head.

Carrick's goal brought Wayne Rooney to his knees in celebration and had manager David Moyes punching the air with relief. But United were stunned in the fourth minute of stoppage time as David de Gea parried Kieran Richardson's shot into the path of substitute Bent, who nodded into an empty net.

Now it was former United assistant Rene Meulensteen's turn to punch the air as his side, rock bottom of the Premier League and five points adrift of safety at kick-off, snatched a precious point.

Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen
Fulham manager
Rene Meulensteen
Rene Meulensteen
For Moyes and United, now nine points away from a Champions League place, the season just keeps getting worse. And with a visit to Arsenal on Wednesday, there is no end to the trouble in sight.

Moyes admitted in the build-up that Meulensteen knew more about the home players than he did, something that can only be expected after the Dutchman spent six years as Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant until last summer.

What was less obvious was the Dutchman's method of taking advantage of that inside knowledge. In axing Scott Parker and Brede Hangeland and placing his faith in 18-year-old debutant Muamer Tankovic and midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe, he was injecting his side with the vitality so obviously lacking over an eight-game run that brought just a single win.

So while the visitors required a scrapper's instinct to survive the inevitable bombardment, it meant they had the pace to exert pressure on their hosts when the counter-attacking opportunities came.

Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell
Fulham midfielder
Steve Sidwell
Steve Sidwell
Lewis Holtby was the inspiration behind the visitors' opener. Allowed far too much room to advance down the left flank, Holtby was able to drop a superb cross into the heart of United's penalty area.

Nemanja Vidic had been pulled out of possession and, as neither Darren Fletcher nor Juan Mata had tracked Sidwell's run, the midfielder was able to slide the ball past a stranded De Gea with a degree of comfort.

It was the first time Fulham had scored an opening goal since December -- and they should have scored more. Holtby created a golden chance for Richardson, but the former Red Devils man blazed over. Then Richardson scorched past Vidic, only for Wayne Rooney to intercept a cut-back that looked certain to set up Holtby.

In a season of shattering blows, Meulensteen looked set to inflict the heaviest of all, but United were creating chances. Maarten Stekelenburg superbly denied Carrick's thunderbolt and powerful Vidic header, while Van Persie failed to snaffle a half-chance at the near post.

Even John Arne Riise came close with a clearance to an Ashley Young cross that was far too close to Stekelenburg's goal for comfort.

Match Stats Man Utd Fulham
Goals (0) 2 (1) 2
Scorers van Persie 78 Sidwell 19
  Carrick 80 Bent 94
Goal attempts 31 6
On target 9 3
Possession 75.4% 24.6%
Corners 10 1
Offsides 5 0
Passes 649 216
Pass Success 92.1% 63.0%
Crosses 81 4
Crosses Success 22.2% 25.0%
Tackles 10 17
Tackles Success 50.0% 82.4%
Saves 1 7
Fouls 3 6
Yellows 0 0
Reds 0 0
source: Sporting Life/Soccernet
But the attacking instinct that has terrorised so many opponents down the years was missing from the hosts' game. When Fletcher lifted the ball deep into the area for Van Persie to head into the six-yard box, no one had gambled and Fulham were able to clear with ease.

A rather desperate claim for handball by Van Persie emphasised the concern starting to grip Old Trafford.

Adnan Januzaj's introduction for Fletcher, followed by the arrivals of Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia, meant United had six offensive players trying to score against a team that had kept just four clean sheets all season.

Van Persie tucked home Juan Mata's cross at the far post to equalise and then, when Carrick's shot looped in off Parker a couple of minutes later, it seemed something was finally going to go Moyes' way.

The Scot should have known better. Bent will rarely get an easier goal, and while the boos at full-time were half-hearted there is little that is positive at Old Trafford right now.

Man Utd: De Gea 6; Rafael 5 (Valencia 69, 6), Smalling 6, Vidic 5, Evra 6; Fletcher 6 (Januzaj 62, 7), Carrick 7; Mata 7, Rooney 8, Young 6 (Hernandez 69, 6); Van Persie 6.
Subs: Ferdinand, Giggs, Lindegaard, Kagawa

Scorers: Van Persie 78, Carrick 80

Fulham: Stekelenburg 8; Riether 6, Burn 7, Heitinga 7, Riise 6; Tunnicliffe 6 (Parker 65, 7), Kvist 7 (Cole 80), Sidwell 7, Richardson 6; Holtby 7, Tankovic 7 (Bent 46, 6).
Subs: Hangeland, Kacaniklic, Stockdale, Duff

Sidwell 19 (Holtby spots a run down the centre by Sidwell and picks him out brilliantly. Sidwell, who wasn't tracked, converts with a sliding volley into the bottom corner),
Bent 90+4 (Richardson freed into space and as De Gea can only parry his shot up into the air, Bent is on hand to nod into an empty net.)

Referee: Kevin Friend - 7

Source Soccernet/Sportsmail
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