United 4 Blackburn 1

March 31, 2007

In an end to end affair, second-half goals from Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Ji-sung Park and substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cancelled out Blackburn’s 29th minute opener to maintain United’s lead at the top of the Premiership.

Watched by a record Premiership crowd of 76,089, the final score flattered United somewhat after a frustrating first-half display that saw the Reds lose Nemanja Vidic with a broken collarbone and go into the change-rooms a goal down.

Sir Alex made three changes to the United team that beat Middlesbrough in the FA Cup 13 days ago. Kieran Richardson made way for Ji-sung Park, while Paul Scholes returned from a three-match suspension to partner Michael Carrick in the centre of midfield.

In goal, Edwin van der Sar started his first match since picking up a calf injury three weeks ago. He needed to be alert early on as David Dunn flashed a shot narrowly over the bar.

The Reds soon settled but found it difficult to create many clear chances against a Blackburn defence well marshalled by captain Ryan Nelson. Ronaldo shot just wide of Brad Friedel’s right hand post inside 10 minutes before Wes Brown and Michael Carrick combined to mop up in the Reds’ area.

The first real chance of the match fell to Wayne Rooney on 15 minutes after Ronaldo’s long-range shot proved too hot for Friedel to handle. But the big American stopper recovered well to tip the England striker’s follow-up around the post.

Rooney had another, arguably better, chance to open the scoring eight minutes later when Ryan Giggs’ cross found the no.8 unmarked at the far post. But Rooney fluffed his volley and then saw his second attempt well saved by Friedel’s legs.

ooney had another, arguably better, chance to open the scoring eight minutes later when Ryan Giggs’ cross found the no.8 unmarked at the far post. But Rooney fluffed his volley and then saw his second attempt well saved by Friedel’s legs.

Vidic was forced off after challenging bravely for a header before United were made to pay the ultimate price for their poor finishing when Matt Derbyshire gave the visitors a shock lead on 29 minutes.

Michael Carrick slid in to intercept a low Morten Gamst Pedersen cross but could only manage to deflect the ball goalwards. Edwin van der Sar did well to save smartly at the near post but the rebound fell to Derbyshire, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net from two yards.

It was the first time the Reds had gone behind at Old Trafford in the Premiership since Arsenal stole all three points in September. Buoyed by vocal home support, United surged forward in search of an equaliser. Ronaldo, Gabriel Heinze and Ryan Giggs all had chances to find the net, but failed to hit the target on each occasion.

The rest of the first half was a niggly affair as the Reds’ frustration grew and Blackburn were content to run the clock down at any opportunity.

Little changed as the second half began, with Gabriel Heinze entering referee Chris Foy’s  book for what seemed like a fair challenge. He was the second player, after Blackburn’s David Dunn,

to be shown the yellow card.

United continued to press and again the chances fell to Wayne Rooney. He saw a back post header bounce wide on 50 minutes before Friedel denied him again minutes later. It was a frustrating afternoon for Rooney and one in stark contrast to last weekend’s match in which he scored twice in the Reds’ 4-1 win over Bolton. But today, Rooney’s first touch was often heavy and his passes mislaid.

Instead, it was Paul Scholes who took charge and forced United’s equaliser on 61 minutes. The 32-year-old, who had suffered a heavy knock just minutes earlier, dispossessed Christopher Samba on the edge of the area before jinking past two Rovers defenders and firing across goal and into the bottom corner. It was the kind of individual brilliance United sorely needed on an afternoon when it looked as if Friedel may never be beaten.

Indeed, the Blackburn goal appeared to be leading a charmed existence in the minutes after United drew level, with Friedel pulling off a string of fine saves to deny the Reds a second. He was beaten on 68 minutes, but Ryan Giggs, with the goal at his mercy, thumped his shot against the crossbar when it looked so much easier to score.

Few teams manage to soak up such sustained pressure at Old Trafford and Blackburn inevitably succumbed on 72 minutes. Ronaldo made his way to the by-line before cutting the ball back to Michael Carrick, who calmly side-footed the ball through a crowd of players to send United 2-1 up and Reds fans into rapture.

source: Manu homepage


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