Birmingham equaliser keeps United level with City

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

LONDON - A controversial late goal from Lee Bowyer denied Manchester United a win in a dramatic 1-1 draw at Birmingham City.

Tuesday’s result was enough to return United to the Premier League summit, but only on goal difference from their rivals Manchester City after they had earlier gone to the top with a 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa thanks to a Mario Balotelli hat-trick.

Both sides move to 38 points, with United separated from City by goal difference, though Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have played two games fewer.

United went into the match at St Andrew’s aware of the danger posed by Birmingham, despite the home side’s recent descent into the relegation zone, and for much of the first half, there was little to choose between the teams.

The best chance of the first 45 minutes came when Ryan Giggs’ cross had to be tipped onto the crossbar by Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster, formerly of United.

But just before the hour mark, Berbatov fired the away side into the lead, continuing his own superb recent form.

Having begun the United attack with a sublime flick to Darron Gibson, the Bulgarian latched onto the midfielder’s return pass to shoot low inside Foster’s left-hand post.

The home side pressed United in response, but United seemed equally capable of extending their lead until Bowyer’s decisive intervention in the 90th minute.

Roger Johnson’s cross appeared to hit Nikola Zigic on the arm, and the ball ricocheted fortuitously into the path of Bowyer - who may himself have been offside - before the midfielder bundled the ball past Edwin Van der Sar from close range.

Ferguson acknowledged that Birmingham, with a strong home record, would be a difficult place to come to, but believed his side deserved to win the match.

“I have no complaints about my team tonight,” he said. “The result is terribly harsh. I think we outplayed them in the second half, but perhaps we should have finished them off.”

He was critical of referee Lee Mason, who allowed the controversial equalizer: “It was a handball and a foul on the goal, and you expect the referee to see that.”

At Eastlands earlier Tuesday, a penalty in either half from Mario Balotelli, together with a simple tap-in and a header from Joleon Lescott, gave Manchester City a comprehensive win over a hapless Aston Villa side.

City wasted no time in dismantling their opponents and found themselves three goals ahead within half an hour. With just seven minutes played, Balotelli despatched his first penalty after being brought down by a reckless challenge from Eric Lichaj.

Five minutes later, the lead was doubled when Lescott headed Adam Johnson’s corner past Barry Bannon on the line, and any chance Villa might have had was ended when Balotelli tapped in the third after Brad Friedel could only parry David Silva’s powerful strike.

Balotelli then fired in from the spot again to complete his hat-trick after Marc Albrighton bundled over Adam Johnson 10 minutes into the second half.

Tottenham’s superb recent form continued with a 2-0 win over Newcastle at White Hart Lane, despite the home side being forced to play the final 30 minutes without Younes Kaboul after the defender received a second yellow card.

Second-half goals from Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale gave the home side the victory, which takes them above Chelsea into fourth place on 33 points.

Despite being much the better side for long periods, Spurs were unable to break the deadlock until the hour mark, when Lennon’s deflected shot beat Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal. The decisive goal came 10 minutes from time as Bale led and finished a superb counterattack with a low drive past Krul from a tight angle.

Elsewhere, Fulham moved out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win at Stoke with two rare goals from defender Chris Baird, and Blackpool’s excellent away form this season continued with a 2-0 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Two goals from Nikolo Kalinic helped Blackburn to a 3-1 win over West Brom, though the striker was later sent off for a dangerous late tackle on Paul Scharner, while West Ham remain in the relegation zone after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Everton at Upton Park.

Wednesday’s Premier League action sees Chelsea face Bolton at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal travel to Wigan, and Liverpool take on Wolves at Anfield.

Filed under: Soccer

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