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Everton spoil Manchester United' day as Man City closes in

by BBC
23 Apr 2012 at 03:19hrs | Views
Steven Pienaar's late equaliser blew the Premier League title race wide open as Everton fought back to draw with Manchester United yesterday.

United swept to a 3-1 lead when Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Nani scored after Nikica Jelavic's headed opener. But although Rooney was on target again following Marouane Fellaini's volley, Everton scored twice in three minutes during the closing stages, with Jelavic making it 4-3 before Pienaar had the final say.

It was a frantic second half with six goals coming after the break.  Patrice Evra struck the post from close range at 4-2, and Rio Ferdinand was denied a stoppage-time winner by Tim Howard's save.

Sir Alex Ferguson will be disappointed that his team threw away their advantage after some clinical finishing by his young forwards.

Credit must go to Everton, though, who staged a late fightback when it looked like United would be comfortable in victory.

Pienaar's goal was reward for a clever tactical ploy by David Moyes and though they are still searching for their first win in 20 years at Old Trafford, this will feel like a victory of sorts.

Amid the maelstrom Rooney collected his 33rd goal of the season, just one short of his best haul in a season, and overtook George Best and Dennis Viollet to move fourth on United's all-time goalscorers' list with his 179th goal.

But by letting the game go, Ferguson's side have now handed an advantage back to City.

Everton's point was built on a five-man midfield and early pressing, and twice they could have gone ahead before Jelavic's header. With Nani preferred to Ashley Young on the left, the Portuguese helped United recover from a slumberous start and the hosts were just starting to find their rhythm when Jelavic converted a looping header from Tony Hibbert's cross.

The goal meant the Croat became Everton's leading scorer, having signed in January, but it only added to United's momentum and following Tim Howard's fine save from Paul Scholes' deflected effort, Rooney rose highest to nod in Nani's left-wing centre.

Much of United's inroads in recent games have come down the right, but with left-back Sylvain Distin marshalling the influential Antonio Valencia, it was left for Nani to make an impression, and he duly obliged.

Everton were angered by United's second goal on 57 minutes when Pienaar was injured as Valencia went round him, but when the ball eventually fell to Nani on the edge of the area, he tapped it to Welbeck who jinked and curled his shot into the top corner.

Four minutes later Welbeck was the supplier, as he teed up the Portuguese to chip over Howard.

That looked to have settled the crowd and, perhaps the game, but Fellaini's volley from Hibbert's right-wing cross reduced the arrears.

United were not done, though, and Rooney added his second and his 33rd of the season, when he combined with Welbeck to sweep in after a clever one-two.

That finish looked like it would go a long way to helping retain the Premier League title but Everton had other thoughts.

Jelavic took advantage of confusion between Ferdinand and Jonny Evans, before Pienaar collected Fellaini's pass to sweep in, adding another twist to a captivating title race.

Meanwhile, London â€" Tottenham dropped out of the Premier League top four after their failure to win at 10-man Queens Park Rangers on Saturday evening followed an earlier Newcastle United victory.

A goal from Adel Taarabt â€" a former Tottenham player â€" ended up giving Rangers their fourth straight home victory and renewed hopes of avoiding relegation.

Taarabt was later sent off for a second bookable offence but Rangers held on to the lead he had given them.

Tottenham now trail Newcastle, who had beaten Stoke City 3-0 earlier, by three points and are in fifth place, which would qualify them for the Europa League, not the Champions League.

The defeat was the latest setback suffered by Harry Redknapp's side, who had a 10-point advantage over Arsenal, who are now above them in third.

Rangers moved above Wigan to 16th and are three points above Blackburn Rovers, the third bottom team, with three games remaining.

Jamie Mackie fired an early Rangers chance across goal and wide as the home side started strongly.

Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel, making his 300th consecutive Premier League appearance, was then involved in a communications breakdown with team-mate Kyle Walker.

That resulted in a corner, which was cleared, but Rangers kept the pressure on until Samba Diakite fired wide from the edge of the box.

Gareth Bale was also off target with a Tottenham reply and a sustained spell of pressure saw two corners won.

The second, delivered by Rafael van der Vaart was met by the head of Bale and Paddy Kenny, the Rangers goalkeeper, did well to tip it over.

The corner that followed led to a well-struck long-ranger from van der Vaart that Kenny again was able to save.

Rangers' reply was a 24th minute opener direct from a free-kick by Taarabt after Sandro had fouled the Morocco international.

Taarabt was 25 yards away from goal but was still able to beat the wall and Friedel's dive to his right.

Tottenham should have been level within six minutes when Kenny could only parry a drive from van der Vaart into the air.

It went straight to Jermain Defoe, who was starting as Tottenham's lone striker in place of the injured Emmanuel Adebayor, but he could only head over from six yards.

The England forward was desperate to make amends but his next effort almost went out for a throw in.

Taarabt was booked for bringing Walker down on the edge of the Rangers box but the home side held their lead until half time.

Redknapp made a change for the second half, with Aaron Lennon replacing Sandro.

Rangers began with a move that saw Diakite use his strength to get into the box but he could only hit the.

Source - BBC
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