Manchester United all but ended Arsenal's hopes of taking the title with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford.
Red Devils come from behind to see off arch-rivalsManchester United all but ended Arsenal's hopes of taking the title with a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford. The Gunners took the lead through Emmanuel Adebayor at the start of the second half, but were eventually beaten by a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and a fabulous free-kick from Owen Hargreaves. With their title dreams hanging in the balance before the match got underway, it came as no surprise that it was the visitors who started the brightest and forced the pace of the game during the opening exchanges. Cesc Fabregas flashed a couple of early efforts narrowly past the frame of Edwin van der Sar's goal, while Emmanuel Adebayor wasted the best of the Gunners' chances. Wayne Rooney looked lively, if slightly isolated, up front for United and it was he who went closest for the Red Devils during a goalless opening period. In a game which had promised goals throughout the first half, it took just three minutes of the second period for a breakthrough to be made. Van Persie swung over a dangerous cross from the left, which Van der Sar then inexplicably let drift past him straight to Adebayor. The Togolese hit man appeared to bundle the ball home with his arm, but the goal stood and the Gunners had a deserved lead. However, United's response was almost immediate as they levelled things up just five minutes later. William Gallas was adjudged to have used his arm to cut out a Carrick pass, enabling Ronaldo to calmly dispatch a twice-taken penalty low into the corner of the net. Once back on level terms United looked the most likely to snatch all three points, and duly obliged when Hargreaves curled a sublime free-kick past a stranded Lehmann on 72 minutes. Nicklas Bendtner then went close for the Gunners with two far post headers, but Arsene Wenger's side were ultimately unable to force a second.
HangoverDespite being knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool in midweek, Arsenal showed little signs of a hangover in the first half. They enjoyed a lot of possession, stretched United and will feel they could have made the breakthrough. Adebayor rattled in a shot that Rio Ferdinand did well to deflect to safety before Park Ji-Sung glanced a header wide of the post following a cross from Hargreaves. It was end-to-end stuff at this stage of the game and Adebayor sent his shot into Edwin van der Sar's arms following a one-two with Cesc Fabregas. Then Wayne Rooney went close in a swift counter-attack in what was developing into an open game.
ScrambleRooney almost made the breakthrough in the 23rd minute only to see his effort scrambled away at the near post after Ronaldo had created the opening. Alexander Hleb then released Adebayor 13 minutes later. He had a clear sight of goal but only succeeded in sending his effort into Van der Sar's arms. United hit back and Rooney got away from Kolo Toure a minute later and fired in a shot. However, Jens Lehmann stuck out his leg and steered the ball away for a corner to Arsenal's relief. Fabregas then got away down the left for Arsenal and tried to pick out Adebayor at the back post but Van der Sar was alert and made the interception. Arsenal made the breakthrough in the 48th minute thanks to good work from Robin van Persie.
HesitationHe got clear down the left and delivered a quick cross into the area. While Ferdinand and Michael Carrick hesitated, Adebayor got beyond them to direct the ball into the net, though there was a suspicion that he used his hand rather than his head. Either way, it was his 26th goal of the season and just the boost Arsenal were looking for. They almost added a second a minute later when Van der Sar was forced to make a smart save and prevent an own goal from Ferdinand after he got his bearings wrong following a cross from Adebayor. United drew level, however, thanks to Ronaldo's 38th goal of a remarkable season from the penalty spot in the 54th minute.
InfringementWilliam Gallas was adjudged to have handled Carrick's shot and referee Howard Webb had no hesitation in the pointing to the spot. Ronaldo lashed his penalty into the top corner only for Webb to order him to retake it after spotting an infringement. Such is Ronaldo's confidence, however, he again made no mistake to bring United level at 1-1. Carlos Tevez then went close to giving United the lead after stepping off the bench, his 30-yard shot go narrowly wide in the 65th minute. Arsenal swept forward again though in the 68th minute and Wes Brown's attempted clearance from Gael Clichy's cross came back off the post.
AscendancyHargreaves then gave United the lead with a superb free-kick. With the Arsenal defence perhaps expecting a Ronaldo thunderbolt, the former Bayern Munich man curled his effort up and over the wall and beyond Lehmann. It was only Hargreaves' second goal since his £17million move from the Bundesliga in the summer and it was one to savour. Arsenal were stung after seeing United suddenly regain the ascendancy, knowing their title hopes were fading fast. They kept driving forward in the hope of securing a point at least but it was all to no avail.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Arsenal|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|7||Shots on Target||7|
|8||Shots off Target||7|