Champions leave it late to seal victory at Eastlands...Manchester United once again left it late to seal victory over rivals Manchester City as a stoppage time goal from Paul Scholes handed the champions all three points to move them to within a single point of leaders Chelsea.
Roberto Mancini opted to make one change for the clash, with Wayne Bridge welcomed back into the side. For the visitors, Wayne Rooney made his return but a groin injury kept Rio Ferdinand out with Jonny Evans deputising.
A typically feisty first half was low on chances for both sides with the visitors just edging proceedings but unable to beat Shay Given in the City goal.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men went close just four minutes into the match with Ryan Giggs teeing up Darren Fletcher who smashed a dipping shot that looked to have beaten Given, but also flew wide of his right hand post.
Carlos Tevez, who has made a habit of scoring against his former employers this season, almost added another to his collection five minutes later. Picking himself up after being fouled by Darron Gibson, the Argentine curled the subsequent free kick over the wall but not past a diving Van der Sar who plucked the ball out of the air before it reached the top corner.
City were starting to get some joy down the United right and just before the half hour mark Craig Bellamy carved out a great chance. The Welshman scampered down the flank before firing in an inviting cross but none of his team-mates had caught up with play to poke home.
As the half grew to a close, United worked themselves another couple of chances Valencia heading into Rooney’s path and the striker beating Toure but unable to find the target as he dragged his shot wide.
The champions went even closer a minute before half-time. More good work from Valencia down the right saw the winger cross for Giggs at the near post but his flick with the outside of his boot was straight at Given who saved comfortably.
The second half began in similar style and it took a full 10 minutes for either side to create a clear cut chance. This time it was City with Tevez leading a break before sliding in Bellamy, completely unmarked down the left flank, who disappointingly hit his shot wide.
Welcome to Manchester | Scholes greets his former team-mate in typical style
With an hour on the clock, the visitors opted to change things sending on Nani for Gibson as United started to pile on the pressure dominating possession in the City half but without really troubling Given.
To try to stem the tide Mancini sent on Patrick Vieira for Adam Johnson but the visitors continued to probe with Nani sending Evra’s cross just wide with 20 minutes to go.
Suddenly the game sparked into life with Gareth Barry getting forward and reaching Adebayor’s pass, before beating Neville and going to ground in the box but not impressing referee Martin Atkinson who, correctly, waved the City penalty appeals away. Seconds later and a long ball sent Giggs clear on goal but Given came out well to deny the Welshman.
With time running out and a point suiting neither team, both managers made changes with Dimitar Berbatov replacing Rooney whilst Shaun Wright-Phillips came on for Adebayor.
Yet still both goalkeepers found themselves under-employed with Van der Sar easily saving from De Jong whilst Berbatov couldn’t work Given from Nani’s cross.
Perhaps the best chance of all came with five minutes to go. A corner from the right saw Van der Sar unable to clear prompting an almighty scramble yards from the United goalline but neither Onuoha nor Tevez could prod home and somehow the visitors survived.
With the game drifting towards a result neither team wanted there was still time for some late drama. Two minutes into stoppage time Evra drifted in a cross and found Scholes who rose highest to direct a superb header past Given and low into the bottom corner.
The goal was greeted by wild celebrations from the visitors who keep their title hopes alive and pile the pressure back on Chelsea who head to White Hart Lane in the evening kick off.
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