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Man United leave it late to earn precious point
April 20, 2008 09:10 IST
Carlos Tevez scored late in the match to earn Manchester United [Images] a 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday just when it looked like the Premier League title race had been blasted wide open.
Roque Santa Cruz's 21st minute shot gave Rovers the lead and they were hanging on grimly despite intense United pressure until Argentina forward Tevez swooped to flick in a header with two minutes of normal time left.
Defeat would have left United just two points above a resolute Chelsea side, who they face at Stamford Bridge next week. Thanks to Tevez's crucial touch they are three clear with three games to go and also boast a superior goal difference.
"We should have won the game," United manager Alex Ferguson told Setanta Sports. "Apart from the fact that (Blackburn goalkeeper Brad) Friedel had a fantastic game we dominated the second half and were very, very unlucky not to win that match."
"You can't get more important than the game next week. It's down to one game, if we win that we win the league."
United, who face Barcelona on Wednesday in their Champions League semi-final, first leg, have 81 points, Chelsea have 78 and Arsenal [Images], who beat Reading 2-0, have 74.
Liverpool are fourth with 69 points after a 2-0 victory at Fulham that left the London [Images] club staring relegation in the face.
Bolton Wanderers won 1-0 at Middlesbrough to move out of the bottom three above Birmingham City, who play Aston Villa on Sunday, and Reading. Wigan Athletic drew 1-1 with Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United beat relegated Derby County 2-1.
United welcomed Nemanja Vidic back to their central defence but they appeared anxious in the first half at Ewood Park where they have struggled in recent years.
Tevez should have given them the lead when he failed to connect from inside the six-yard box.
They were stunned just before the midway point of the first half when a mix-up between Vidic and Rio Ferdinand allowed Paraguayan Santa Cruz to cooly finish past United keeper Tomasz Kuszczak who was in goal instead of Edwin van der Sar.
Wayne Rooney [Images] was furious not to be awarded a penalty before halftime when he appeared to be clipped by Steven Reid and the striker was lucky to only be booked soon afterwards when he committed an ugly foul on Christopher Samba.
United stepped up the tempo in the second half and Cristiano Ronaldo [Images] shot against the post just past the hour. Morten Gamst Pedersen went close to making it 2-0 with a cross shot before United laid siege to Rovers' goal.
Friedel made two outstanding saves to deny Tevez and United substitute John O'Shea and United had a penalty appeal turned down when Brett Emerton appeared to block a Michael Carrick header with his arm.
With time running out Nani's corner was headed towards goals by Paul Scholes and Tevez twisted to glance the ball past Friedel to the relief of manager Alex Ferguson and the travelling United fans.
With Chelsea having beaten Everton 1-0 on Thursday in a match that was moved forward, Arsenal had to win to keep alive their faint hopes of finishing runners-up. They did so by recording just their second victory in nine league games.
Reading, now just a point above the drop zone, held out for half-an-hour before Emmanuel Adebayor showed a delightful touch to make space in the area and sidefoot a shot past American keeper Marcus Hahnemann for his 21st league goal of the season.
Eight minutes later Reading had a mountain to climb when Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva's shot brushed off the forehead of Andre Bikey beyond the diving Hahnemann.
Fulham, who raised their hopes of survival by beating Reading last week, are now five points from the safety zone after goals by Jermaine Pennant and Peter Crouch earned Liverpool a victory that almost certainly means they will finish fourth and take the last Champions League qualification spot.