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RONALDO PENALTY SAVES UNITED BLUSHES

March 11, 2007

 

dream survived an FA Cup rollercoaster at the Riverside.

In front and in control following Wayne Rooney’s clinical strike midway through the first half, United found themselves behind to a durable Middlesbrough as Lee Cattermole and George Boateng found the net either side of the interval.

But, just as on their last visit to Teesside, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were in receipt of a debatable penalty decision as referee Rob Styles ruled Boateng had handled Rio Ferdinand’s flick-on.

That allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to drill home his 17th goal of the campaign and earn an Old Trafford replay on Monday week.

Middlesbrough were worthy of the result, which may have created some kind of record as Gareth Southgate’s men have now required second games in every round of the competition.

United have drawn twice themselves now and will probably not relish the return as much as Boro.

With injuries already starting to bite, United lost Edwin van der Sar before kick-off.

Still technically on loan from West Brom, reserve goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak was given an unexpected chance when Van der Sar limped out of the warm up with a calf injury.

The Pole was called into the action early and reacted quickly to race out and block Stewart Downing’s early effort after the young winger had darted past Gary Neville into the United box.

For a long time after that, Kuszczak was a mere spectator as United assumed total control.

Ronaldo was booed every time he touched the ball but the winger did not show any sign of the reaction affecting him, although he was upstaged by old-timer Ryan Giggs, who, in a role just behind lone striker Henrik Larsson, created mayhem with his direct running.

It was hardly a surprise Giggs should be heavily involved in the move which saw the visitors seize the initiative, calmly feeding Rooney after Larsson had turned the ball into his path.

Rooney has hardly been a prolific scorer this season but the England star happily exploited the room Jonathan Woodgate offered him and belted his 13th goal of the season into the corner of Mark Schwarzer’s net.

Middlesbrough were not totally out of it, and Kuszczak needed to make another excellent save to deny Aiyegbeni Yakubu, who rolled Rio Ferdinand and let fly with a volley which the goalkeeper pushed out with a firm arm.

Giggs was agonisingly close to finishing off a sublime chip from Gary Neville with a volley that bounced away off the post and it took a close-range Woodgate block to deny the Welshman, who had skipped past a couple of would-be tacklers.

But the whole game was turned on its head in two minutes either side of the half-time interval.

Cattermole and Boateng had bagged just a single goal between them before the encounter. But what a time for the central midfield duo to explode into life.

First Cattermole controlled with his chest before smashing home a volley on the turn after Kuszczak had failed to reach a Downing cross nodded back into the danger zone by Arca.

Then, with most supporters still taking their seats for the second-half, Boateng was left completely on his own to attack a Downing corner, the Dutchman getting enough force into his header to prevent Giggs being able to hook it off the line.

Yet, in celebrating their lead, Boro made the fatal error of dropping back far too deeply.

The Teessiders had already survived a couple of hairy moments when Ferdinand flicked Giggs’ corner straight at Boateng.

Referee Rob Styles pointed to the spot, deeming the Boro skipper had deliberately handled.

Ronaldo drove home his first goal outside of league combat this term to earn United another attempt at reaching the last four.

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