Newcastle 1 Manchester Utd 2: Fergie goes seven up
04 March 2009 11:17
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez cannot question Newcastle's commitment, but the relegation-haunted side still managed to gift Manchester United a victory which restored their sevenpoint lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Benitez had pleaded with Newcastle to do their bit to help Liverpool's faint title hopes, as if a club threatened by relegation and with Arsenal and Chelsea to play at home next needed motivation.
And the struggling home side even had the audacity to take the lead and deny Edwin van der Sar a European record when Peter Lovenkrands opened the scoring after just nine minutes.
But after Wayne Rooney had scored his 12th of the season 11 minutes later to pull the champions level, a dreadful error by new signing Ryan Taylor handed Sir Alex Ferguson's side a vital second to take three points on Tyneside.
Taylor slipped as he tried to chest a long punt in to the path of keeper Steve Harper, allowing Ji-Sung Park to clip the ball across to Dimitar Berbatov who sidefooted into an empty net for his 13th of the season.
Chris Hughton may have a terrible record as the caretaker manager of Newcastle, picking up just one win from his eight games in charge, but he certainly had his troops fired up.
From the opening minute Newcastle's players were chasing every ball and trying to win every tackle.
Although he was named among the substitutes, the loss of stand-in captain and former Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt was the latest blow for Hughton, who has had to survive without injured Michael Owen, Damien Duff, Joey Barton and the suspended Kevin Nolan in recent weeks.
Alan Smith made his first start since the last game of last season and took Butt's central midfield role.
Rooney, back from being suited and booted for the Carling Cup Final at Wembley, charged through the centre and forced Harper to make his first save as Newcastle skipper low to his left. Yet it was the home side who took the lead in the ninth minute, denying Manchester United keeper Van der Sar a European record for clean sheets in the process.
And the Holland international was mocked by chants of 'dodgy keeper' by Newcastle fans for the role he played in Lovenkrands's second goal since he was signed on a free transfer by Joe Kinnear in January.
Jonas Gutierrez seemed to catch Van der Sar by surprise when he turned inside John O'Shea in the visitors' area and unleashed a fierce shot which skimmed off a surface which still had a light covering of snow. Van der Sar spilled the Argentine's shot into the path of Lovenkrands who tapped home from close range.
The goal meant Van der Sar had gone 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal - but he fell 80 minutes short of breaking Bruges keeper Danny Verlinden's record. And the United keeper was fortunate not to concede a second as Newcastle took the game to the champions, creating one sweeping move on the counter attack which Obafemi Martins should have finished.
The move went swiftly from the Newcastle right to left and Gutierrez and Lovenkrands created the opening for Martins who powered past Nemanja Vidic at the edge of the area but unleashed a low shot into the side-netting. Vidic was then booked for a reckless challenge on Martins but Ryan Taylor clipped his right-footed free-kick over the bar.
Edwin van der Sar (had conceded a first League goal in 1,311 minutes
Seconds later, Ferguson's side were level with a goal which demonstrated their frightening power and pace on the break. Park and O'Shea played an incisive one-two round Jose Enrique down the right, O'Shea played the ball in to Rooney's feet and the England striker turned Fabricio Coloccini with embarrassing ease just inside the box before unleashing a shot which flew past Harper.
Cristiano Ronaldo's deflected shot flew narrowly wide, Vidic headed over from a Michael Carrick corner and Rooney screwed a shot wide when it looked easier to score.
But Newcastle had their chances, too, and when Van der Sar spilled a Ryan Taylor corner in a crowded area, Ferdinand was forced to make a vital block on the goal-line.
The first half ended with an unsavoury incident which resulted in two yellow cards, and a certain suspension for Newcastle defender Steven Taylor who punched Ronaldo as the pair chased a loose ball in the corner. He has not heard the last of that ridiculous challenge.
Taylor wisely ran away from the Portugal winger as he writhed on the ground but Manchester United captain Ferdinand chased after the England Under 21 defender and was so upset by the challenge at the half-time whistle that he remonstrated further with ref Bennett and was booked for his troubles.
Newcastle continued to ruffle the visitors with their physical approach and Vidic was caught under the eye by Martins, although the challenge looked accidental and the Serb defender was receiving treatment on the touchline when Berbatov added United's second.