Premier League - Lucky United win at West Brom
Sat, 01 Jan 14:44:00 2011
Leaders Manchester United earned a smash-and-grab 2-1 Premier League win over West Brom at The Hawthorns despite being outclassed for long periods of the match.
Wayne Rooney opening the scoring early on for United, only for James Morrison to level on 14 minutes. The Baggies were then denied a clear penalty, while Peter Odemwingie fluffed his lines when they finally were awarded a spot-kick in the 62nd minute.
The hosts were punished for their missed opportunities when substitute Javier Hernandez nodded in a winner for United that they scarcely deserved in the 75th minute.
United remain unbeaten but it was still only their second league win away from home this season, while the Baggies have now lost four on the bounce and are being dragged into the relegation battle.
Sir Alex Ferguson will be worried about the quality of his side's performance, while Rooney also took a knock on his ankle near the end that will have to be monitored.
United got off to a perfect start as Rooney ended a 19-game run without a goal from open play three minutes in, nodding a Gabriel Obertan cross into the ground and net. There was little in the way of power on the header, but it was perfectly placed into the corner beyond the reach of the diving Scott Carson.
That was as good as it got for United in the first half, though, as the Baggies proceeded to dominate with a slick passing game that United struggled to cope with.
Their goal, however, came from a long ball - yet it was a stunner. Nemanja Vidic headed down the long punt on the edge of the area, where it bounced up for Morrison - and he smashed a curling half-volley into the corner of the net with Tomasz Kuszczak beaten all ends up.
The most dramatic moment of the half was yet to come as Gary Neville – making just his fourth appearance of the season - clearly brought down Graham Dorrans in the box in the 26th minute only for referee Chris Foy to wave play on.
Had it been awarded, Neville would have surely been sent off for a professional foul.
Chris Brunt and Dorrans also had efforts before the break and United were lucky to go into the dressing room on level terms.
The Red Devils' passing was shocking throughout and that continued in the second half, although the Baggies' quality also dropped somewhat.
However, they still looked the more likely side to score: a spinning Paul Scharner nearly headed in from a corner in the 54th minute only to see his effort go wide.
They were then awarded the penalty when Rio Ferdinand's trailing leg clearly caught Jerome Thomas in the 63rd minute.
Odemwingie stepped up and dragged an awful effort well wide as United got out of jail once again.
The away side had a penalty shout of their own when Thomas looked to handle in the box, and they took the lead not long after that. Hernandez, on for the out-of-sorts Dimitar Berbatov, cushioned a free header into the corner after being left unmarked during a corner.
That took the fizz out of West Brom's play and crowd, and despite reasonable efforts from Thomas and Morrison, United managed to hang on and not concede one of those late goals that has blighted some of their away performances this season.
There was one unwelcome late moment for them late on though as Rooney was caught on the ankle by Brunt. He hobbled on for the remainder of the game as United had no substitutions left - but a spell on the sidelines cannot be ruled out.SeŠn Fay / Eurosport