Sunday, April 1, 2007
EPL THIS WEEK.
MANCHESTER , England, March 31, 2007 (AFP) - A Paul Scholes-inspired recovery saw Manchester United blitz Blackburn with four second-half goals on Saturday as the Red Devils edged another step closer to reclaiming the Premiership title.
Scholes proved the missing spark United had so sorely lacked in the first period as he took over the game after the interval, orchestrating his team's comeback from a goal down to win 4-1.
His driving play from deep helped create a pair of chances for Wayne Rooney, a difficult header which flew just wide and a low shot which was well saved by Brad Friedel, before Scholes himself struck a brilliant 61st-minute equaliser.
The goal came from a rare Blackburn mistake as defender Christopher Samba dallied on the ball on the edge of the Rovers area and was stripped of it by Scholes.
The former England midfield player still had much work to day but skipped past Ryan Nelsen and Stephen Warnock before beating the American keeper with a superbly-driven shot.
It was a cruel way for Blackburn to surrender the lead given the discipline and organisation they had shown in stifling United and taking a 29th minute lead through Matt Derbyshire.
But worse was to follow as United, clearly sensing victory, pressed on. In the 66th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo might have edged United in front as David Dunn gifted him a chance only for Friedel to make a superb save as the Portuguese winger bore down on goal.
Even more incredibly, Ryan Giggs had an open goal before him as he met Ronaldo's 67th minute left-wing cross but battered his shot against the cross-bar with such force that it rebounded to safety.
However, United's winner looked inevitable, as did the fact that Ronaldo would play a part in it, and it came after 72 minutes and another marauding, tricky run down the left hand by-line by the winger.
His cross somehow evaded the players in a packed area but flew to the back of the box where the lurking Michael Carrick was able to steady himself and choose his spot, scoring with a precise finish.
An eventually comfortable victory was added to in the 82nd minute when Friedel performed magnificently in keeping out Ronaldo's vicious free-kick only for Park Ji-Sung to net the rebound.
The final goal of an emphatic victory came in the final minute of normal time as unmarked substitute Ole Gunnar Solskjaer met Park's cross and rammed the ball home.
It was a rousing comeback from United who must have been concerned that Derbyshire's strike would do serious damage to their bid to hold off Chelsea in the title race.
The visitors' goal came from a Morten Gamst Pedersen cross which Carrick, sliding in to steer the ball behind, only succeeded in directing on his own goal. After Edwin van der Sar had saved well at the foot of his post, Derbyshire reacted quickly to force the ball over the line.
Rooney should have equalised after Friedel fumbled a Ronaldo shot into his path but the American goalkeeper recovered to pull off a superb block.
If that was a poor miss by the England centre-forward, worse was to follow in the 24th minute when he appeared on the end of Ryan Giggs's superb far post ball with conversion appearing a formality.
However, Rooney first miskicked entirely, a delay that allowed Friedel to recover and make another desperation block from the forward's follow-up attempt.
Seconds later, United's problems mounted as Nemanja Vidic went up for a header with Dunn and Nelsen, falling awkwardly and suffering a suspected fracture of his collar bone which led to him being stretchered off and replaced by John O'Shea.
At that stage, the game, and possibly even the season, appeared to be unravelling for United. However, the Scholes-inspired second half comeback ensured his team maintain their crucial advantage at the summit of the Premiership.
Salomon Kalou headed an injury-time winner at Vicarage Road to earn Chelsea a nervy 1-0 win against Premiership strugglers Watford.
The result keeps Chelsea six points behind United with just seven matches to play after the Reds beat Blackburn 4-1 at Old Trafford.
Elsewhere, Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick as Liverpool overcame Arsenal at Anfield to leapfrog the Londoners and take third place.
Having been trounced by the Gunners in both domestic cup competitions, Rafa Benitez's side comfortably won thanks to Crouch's treble and a header from Daniel Agger. William Gallas poked home a consolation in reply.
A late Emile Empenza goal gave Manchester City a surprise 1-0 win over Newcastle United at St James' Park, while West Ham kept their survival hopes alive with a 2-0 home win over Middlesbrough.
Meanwhile, Kevin Davies proved Bolton's saviour against Sheffield United, the team he supported as a boy. The Trotters striker scored the only goal of the game in the 80th minute to register Bolton's first win since early February.
Late goals were the order of the day, with Ian Pearce snatching an injury-time equaliser for Fulham at Craven Cottage after Portsmouth had taken the lead through Niko Kranjcar.
Pearce had been carried off in the 66th-minute but was forced to later return to the fray as Fulham had already used all three substitutes.
And there was another late goal at The Valley as Darren Bent tucked home a controversial 85th-minute penalty to sink Wigan Athletic 1-0.
Posted by sjmach at 9:04 PM