Manchester United will be ruing a series of missed chances and refereeing decisions after a controversial Demba Ba penalty earned ten-man Newcastle a point at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils had earlier taken the lead through Javier Hernandez after Wayne Rooney’s second half free kick ricocheted off the Mexican in the penalty area. However they were pegged back after Ba cooly converted a spot kick after Rio Ferdinand was adjudged to have fouled Hatem Ben Arfa in the penalty area despite getting a clear touch on the ball. The Magpies were later reduced to ten men after Jonas Gutierrez was sent off but survived a wave of United pressure with Tim Krul producing a number of saves as they hung for a point that keeps them in the Premier League top four. Sir Alex Ferguson will be disappointed that his side failed to find the decisive goal during a frantic final few minutes that saw Hernandez have a stoppage time strike ruled out for offside. However credit must go to Krul and the defence in front of him that proved to be a virtual force field as the champions surged forward at every opportunity in search of a winner. Despite losing in the blue half of Manchester last week the Geordies came into the game full of confidence and produced another impressive performance that once again justified their position that many labelled as a flash in the pan. They rode their luck at times as United bombarded their goal in the last 10 minutes showing admirable resolve to hang on for a point.
From the first whistle Newcastle looked to attack with Ben Arfa Ba and former Red Devil Gabriel Obertan proving to be an effective attacking trio up against an experienced home defence. The former two combined brilliantly to produce the first real chance of the game with Ben Arfa’s delicate ball through releasing Ba who volleyed provided an early test for David de Gea. Ryan Taylor then miscued a volley from an Obertan cross before United sparked into life with Krul in the visiting goal the only reason why they went into the break on level terms. The young Dutch keeper had already saved twice from Hernandez before producing a fingertip save to deny Ryan Gigg’s who’s deft flick looked destined for the net. Despite his heroics in the first half there was nothing Krul could do to prevent United’s opener four minutes after the restart. Steven Taylor’s clumsy challenge on Hernandez brought a free kick that Rooney slammed straight into the black and white wall. The England striker reacted quickest to the rebound volleying it back into the area with the ball deflecting off Taylor before hitting the Mexican striker and trickling over the line. It was harsh on Newcastle who had defended superbly up until that point but were soon to reap the rewards of contentious penalty on 64 minutes with Ferdinand’s challenge on Ben Arfa producing a flag on the far side much to the bemusement of everyone situated in Old Trafford. After a brief consultation with his assistant Mike Jones, a late replacement for the unwell Phil Dowd, pointed to the spot with Ba cooly converting against a cauldron of whistles and jeers.
It was a goal the Magpies deserved for their performance but their objective of holding on was made much tougher after Gutierrez was sent off after receiving his second yellow following a rash challenge on Nani. From then on it was backs to the walls stuff for the away side as United poured forward in search of a goal but just couldn’t find a way past a resolute Geordie back line. Krul was on hand again to produce another fine save from Nemanja Vidic’s header before tipping away Patrice Evra’s effort. Credit must also go to Taylor who blocked any ball that dared to find it’s self on target whilst former Old Trafford youngster Danny Simpson then produced a remarkable save on the line before Hernandez saw his close range header ruled out for offside as the home side’s frustrations threatened to reach boiling point. It wasn’t to be though as Newcastle held on to claim a precious point and remain in the top four whilst United will regret missing their chance to close the gap on City.