Everton 3 Manchester United 3: Never-say-die Toffees storm back from the brink in injury time

September 11th, 2010

Boys' own stuff: Mikel Arteta lets fly deep into injury time to fire Everton level

If Wayne Rooney’s absence from what would have been a fraught homecoming was intended to dissipate the unique mixture of passion and venom that greets Manchester United on Merseyside, someone had neglected to tell Everton — fans and players alike.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson withdrew Rooney from the fray to protect him from the abuse of home fans, who would have delighted in letting their former hero know what they thought of allegations about his private life.

But even without Rooney, this was one of the most gloriously frenetic football performances you could wish to see — and one of the most astonishing of comebacks.

‘Football! Bloody hell!,’ said Sir Alex Ferguson after the closing minutes of his 1999 Champions League triumph against Bayern Munich. The same sentiments applied yesterday, though Ferguson was not in such a benign mood.

‘It was thrown away, as simple as that,’ he said curtly. For United, undone last season 3-1 at Goodison, had completed the heavy work of the afternoon, coming from 1-0 down to cross the 90-minute mark with a 3-1 lead before imploding in uncharacteristic fashion.

Just three minutes of added time had been indicated and more than a minute into that, a hopeful Leighton Baines cross was met by the unmarked Tim Cahill, who headed home to make it 3-2.

A muted roar initially greeted the consolation, though the more optimistic of those fans attempted something more guttural to rouse their side for one last, unlikely push.

And within 60 seconds they had repeated the trick. This time Baines was truly heroic, with a surging run down the left again which allowed him to cross for Cahill. The header was blocked, but Mikel Arteta struck the rebound, which deflected off Paul and into the net.

Pandemonium abounded at Goodison, with Everton players darting around in a frenzy of celebration, while United’s stood predictably stunned. Even then, with a mere 60 seconds left, more drama unfolded, with Everton breaking quickly and Phil Jagielka apparently having a chance to win the game, though Edwin van der Sar saved.

As it turned out, referee Martin Atkinson had blown for full-time as the attack progressed, a decision which so incensed David Moyes, he raced on to the pitch to remonstrate. ‘People come here to watch the football, not the referee, to see excitement so it was an incredible decision not to allow the move to progress,’ said Moyes, illogically, as time ends when it ends, no matter what.

Moyes, though, had a better case in querying why only 3min 30sec of added time was played when two goals had been scored, which would normally see an extra minute added in lieu of the time it takes to restart.

Nonetheless, as the Everton boss summed up correctly: ‘It was an incredible game.’ Even Ferguson was almost lost for words to explain why his team had capitulated.

‘I couldn’t tell you,’ he said, with a menacing shake of the head. ‘But football can do that to you. Our last two away games, two minutes to go at Fulham and same again today, we wasted chances. If you can bury Everton, then do it, and we’ve had lots of good chances. We played some good football but it’s wasted because we threw the two points away.’

Indeed, pity poor Nani. As United were seemingly cruising towards victory, on two occasions he broke through but, with players spare to pass to, he opted to shoot.

When he did so on 86 minutes, skewing his shot wide with Darren Fletcher waiting to tap in, Ferguson bounded from his bench in a state of apoplexy.

Some might have dismissed it as obsessive competitiveness, but his instincts are rarely wrong.

This game ebbed and flowed from the moment Everton set about United in the opening 30 minutes with unstoppable intensity. Well on top, with Arteta, Leon Osman and Marouane Fellaini all going close, they still saw United strike the bar through John O’Shea on 16 minutes.

Tim Howard produced a superlative save on 34 minutes, kicking the ball away as he dived in the opposite direction when a strike deflected off Cahill. Howard’s block four minutes later from Ryan Giggs was equally as good, yet just as United found their way back, Everton struck.

Cahill lofted a ball upfield and Patrice Evra, attempting the acrobatic when simplicity would have sufficed, allowed Arteta a clear run on goal. The Basque was denied by Van der Sar’s feet but coolly directed the rebound into the path of Steven Pienaar, who converted the simplest tap-in.

United responded in style. A disputed free-kick on 44 minutes saw Scholes find Giggs, who delivered a fine crossfield ball to Nani. His quick cross was turned in by Fletcher.

A minute into the second half, United were ahead, Nani crossing for an unmarked Nemanja Vidic to head in from three yards.

United’s best moment was yet to come. Scholes delivered a superb crossfield pass to Berbatov, who made light of Sylvain Distin with a feint, took one touch and then struck low past Howard with the outside of his foot on 66 minutes. It should have sufficed, but as a wise man once said: ‘Football! Bloody Hell!’
Source:Daily mail

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