Van Persie saves the day to keep United’s FA Cup dream alive
Manchester United looked to be heading out of the FA Cup in the third round until, on the brink of the final whistle, Robin Van Persie equalised for his side to set up a replay against West Ham at Old Trafford.
United started as the better side, creating chances early in the game with Javier Hernándezfinding the back of the net with only 16 minutes played; however, the Mexican was flagged offside.
Constant pressure soon paid off for the visitors as they took the lead in the 23rd minute. Tom Cleverley got at the end of a cross from Hernandez to put his side 1-0 up.
The celebrations were cut short as just four minutes later the home side equalised. Joe Cole, who was making his comeback for West Ham, provided the assist for an unlikely goal scorer in James Collins. The centre-back got himself in a good position for his powerful header that David De Gea didn’t have an answer to.
In the second half, Hammers came out with the same momentum they had before the break and it didn’t take them long to take the lead against their opposition. The second goal United conceded was almost identical to their first one, with Carlton Cole once again setting up Collins for a header.
With 13 minutes left to play, West Ham made a change by substituting out Cole, who left the pitch to a standing ovation from adoring fans. Matthew Taylor was brought on. However, it was the United substitutions that proved pivotal for the fate of the match; Paul Scholes and Javier Hernandez made way for Antonio Valencia and Robin Van Persie.
The Dutch striker scored a wonderful goal to keep his team in contention for the FA Cup. Ryan Giggs found Van Persie with his cross-field pass and the 29-year-old controlled the ball from his first touch and looked unstoppable as he passed the West Ham defence to finish in style.
The match finished 2-2 with a replay on 16th January at Old Trafford, where United will be favourites to progress.
Elsewhere Chelsea cruised into the fourth round away at Southampton. The London team had to come back from a goal down to seal the win with a comfortable 5-1 scoreline. New signing Demba Ba continued his scoring streak and grabbed himself a goal each half to contribute to his new team’s tally. Other goals came from Victor Moses, Branislav Ivanović and Chelsea veteran Frank Lampard, who added the fifth to end a miserable afternoon for Southampton. Lampard’s goal made him the joint second highest goal scorer for Chelsea Football Club alongside Kerry Dixon – both on 193. Lampard, whose agent has confirmed that the English midfielder will be leaving Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, is trailing Bobby Tambling who leads on 202.
Manchester City also had a good night against Watford with a routine 3-0 home win. The goals came from Carlos Tévez, Gareth Barry and 17-year old Marcos Lopes, who made his debut for City with under 10 minutes left to play. Watford didn’t challenge City’s Romanian keeper Costel Pantilimon, who was introduced into action as Mancini decided to rest a few key players including Joe Hart and Mario Balotelli.
Umida Ibrahimova, sports correspondent
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