Sunday, 22 August 2010

Fulham 2 Manchester United 2: Brede Hangeland makes up for own goal with late header to deny United
By Matt Lawton

This happy Brede: Hangeland rises high to beat Berbatov and Vidic to the ball and head powerfully home from Duff's corner to earn Fulham a well-deserved point

According to one particular interview that appeared on Sunday morning, Brede Hangeland is someone who tries to avoid standing out in a crowd despite his towering frame.

Well, the 6ft 4in Norwegian failed miserably at Craven Cottage a few hours later, succeeding instead in drawing attention to himself in the most spectacular fashion.

Two goals in the final 10 minutes, scored first in his own net and then in Manchester United's, brought this fiercely contested encounter to a dramatic conclusion. It was a thoroughly entertaining game from the start, with Paul Scholes continuing his remarkable run of early-season form with a trademark strike for his 150th United goal.

But it finished with an even bigger bang, Nani managing to miss a penalty between the goals at either end from Hangeland.

Sir Alex Ferguson appeared to regret that penalty miss more than anything - for the most part because he thought it should have been taken by Ryan Giggs, but also because he knows that two points lost is a two-point lead free-scoring Chelsea will not surrender easily.

No stopping that: Scholes hammers home United's first goal from 25 yards

But United's manager, while earning the disapproval of the Premier League with his refusal to speak to the BBC, was gracious enough to recognise that his hosts deserved a draw.

Rewind a year and Ferguson did not seem terribly impressed with Mark Hughes. He was a 'noisy neighbour' and a former Old Trafford servant who had joined the enemy.

But now that Hughes has been evicted from Manchester City and resurfaced in west London, Ferguson is clearly feeling more generous towards him.

Fulham were excellent, not just in the way they fought back from that stunning 11th-minute strike from Scholes but in the way they put United under so much pressure.

Leveller: Fulham's Simon Davies (right) equalises from close range

Bobby Zamora, in front of Fabio Capello, delivered a tireless display that provided a real test for Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic.

Yesterday he even produced the ball that enabled Simon Davies to mark his new three-year contract with the first of the hosts' equalisers.

For United, it was rather less encouraging. They might have started well and they can at least take consolation from the fact that a draw still amounts to an improvement, given that they have lost on their last two league visits here.

But in the absence of Wayne Rooney they were lacking in firepower, Dimitar Berbatov's failure to convert decent opportunities another source of frustration for Ferguson.

Off target: Stockdale saves Nani's late penalty to keep Fulham in the game

With Rooney sick, the United boss chose to deploy Javier Hernandez alongside Berbatov, the Mexican marking his first competitive start in England with a prayer on the centre-spot moments before kick-off.

Little more than 10 minutes later, he played a vital part in the build-up to the goal. It was his shot that was blocked and spun to Berbatov, whose follow-up effort was turned away for a corner by David Stockdale.He again showed he can replace Mark Schwarzer should the Australia goalkeeper complete a move to Arsenal.

Stockdale was unable to deny Scholes' shot that came moments later, however. The 35-year-old midfielder connected from 25 yards after a neatly worked short-corner routine between Patrice Evra and Ji-sung Park.

This was followed by Berbatov guiding the ball into the path of a man who has long excelled in the art of beating goalkeepers with long-range shots. That trait, Arsene Wenger would no doubt agree, is his good side.

On target: Owen celebrates after Hangeland inadvertently scored an own goal past Stockdale

Both teams enjoyed further chances in the first half, with Stockdale again thwarting Berbatov. But even his efforts could not compare to the stunning double save Edwin van der Sar somehow produced to deny Dickson Etuhu. The Dutchman diverted the ball over his crossbar with his left-hand, having just dived to the ground to block the Fulham midfielder's first effort.

After 12 minutes of the second half, though, Fulham were level and deservedly so. Damien Duff skipped past Evra, Zamora delivered the cross and Davies, timing his late run to perfection, scored with a shot that Van der Sar could not keep out.

The hosts might have had a penalty after that, when Vidic pulled on the shirt of Moussa Dembele.

But if that was frustrating for Hughes it was nothing like as disappointing as the manner in which United secured the lead in the 83rd minute. Nani's corner was missed by a jumping Aaron Hughes and struck an unsighted Hangeland on the shin before squeezing between Stockdale and Jonathan Greening.

Crushed by cruel luck, Hangeland looked to the clock to see if enough time remained for Fulham to score a second equaliser. But when Peter Walton then awarded a penalty to United that looked extremely harsh, given the fact that Duff struck his own arm with an attempted clearance, Fulham appeared to be finished.

Only three minutes of normal time remained after all. That Nani stepped up to take the kick was surprising; that he was denied with a relatively routine save from Stockdale less so.

But it still took something extraordinary for Hangeland to run to the opposite end and a meet a corner from Duff with a thumping header. It took a big man, in more than just physical stature

source: dailymail


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