United battle past Baggies
Man Utd went three points clear at the top of the table after a hard-fought 2-1 win at West Brom.
Last Updated: 01/01/11 6:43pm
Manchester United went three points clear at the top of the Premier League after a hard-fought 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion.
Sir Alex Ferguson's side were far from their best, but in what is almost a tale of their season so far, they sealed a crucial win when it looked more likely that they would lose.
Wayne Rooney opened the scoring with only his second league goal of the season as he headed home Patrice Evra's cross just two minutes in.
But West Brom did not falter from their footballing mantra and levelled just 10 minutes later through James Morrison's wonderful effort
And indeed Roberto Di Matteo's side continued to play well and were furious when they were denied a penalty as Gary Neville, making a rare start, brought down Graham Dorrans when clean through in the box.
Into the second half and West Brom were awarded a penalty as Rio Ferdinand clipped Jerome Thomas - but Peter Odemwingie fluffed his lines and he fired wide.
That miss inspired United and they claimed the win they really did not deserve as substitute Javier Hernandez rose in the six-yard box to head home Rooney's corner.
West Brom continued to battle, but United held firm as they maintained their unbeaten record and went clear of rivals Manchester City, who play later on New Year's Day.
Bright New Year
United began in perfect fashion as they went ahead after two minutes. Gabriel Obertan laid the ball back for Patrice Evra to swing a cross to the far post, Rooney intelligently waited, then stooped slightly and headed the ball
back to the far corner.
It was his first goal in open play since he scored an equally early goal in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich in March.
On that occasion, United failed to capitalise and so it was again.
The Red Devils were already on the back foot when Nemanja Vidic climbed above Odemwingie, but got insufficient power in his header to get it past Morrison.
As a former West Brom player, Tomasz Kuszczak is used to the dimensions of the stadium. No amount of local knowledge could have helped him keep the 24-year-old's thunderbolt volley out.
The Baggies then should have had a penalty when, as Dorrans raced into the area with only Kuszczak between him and the goal, Neville lunged in.
No amount of TV replays could get his boot anywhere close to making contact with the ball. As Dorrans went down, the stadium waited for a penalty and red card.
The one man who did not concur was the only one who had the power to make the decision, and from that moment Chris Foy struggled to convince anyone he was going to have a good day.
West Brom shrugged off the disappointment at Foy's mistake and continued to enjoy the best of things.
Odemwingie was a repeated threat, as was Chris Brunt, who went close with decent opportunities either side of the interval.
The penalty they should have had finally arrived seconds after a double United substitution that included an ineffective Dimitar Berbatov being replaced by Hernandez.
Ferdinand was adamant there had been no contact with Thomas as the tricky wide-man cut inside as he entered the box. Foy decided otherwise. But though Odemwingie strode forward with confidence, there was none behind the actual kick, which rolled wide to groans of disappointment from the home support.
It was United's turn to be ranting at Foy as they claimed Thomas had deliberately stuck out an elbow to block Fabio's cross.
The decision again appeared to be incorrect, although a couple of minutes later, no-one in red really cared as Rooney dropped a corner on to Hernandez's head inside the six-yard box.It was not quite all over for United, who had to survive a late pummelling, with Vidic coming to their rescue with a magnificent clearance to deny Thomas, although the cost of victory could be high, depending on the extent of Rooney's injury after he was caught by a late challenge from Brunt.
|West Bromwich Albion||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|3||Shots on Target||4|
|11||Shots off Target||2|