Title Race Turnaround

by Damien O Grady

Manchester United overtook neighbour’s Manchester City at the summit of the Barclays Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 win over West Brom at Old Trafford while City lost on the road again, this time a 1-0 defeat at Swansea.

Roberto Mancini’s side will need to improve their away form which has seen them win only two of their last eight away games scoring just four goals in the process and with trips to Stoke, Arsenal, Norwich and Newcastle to come they will have to find that form soon if they want to take the Premiership trophy away from Old Trafford. United continued their recent good form which has seen them go unbeaten since the away defeat against Newcasle on January 4th as they looked impressive in beating Roy Hodgson’s in form Baggies side.

It could have been a bigger win for the Champions but for some good saves by Ben Foster and some wasted chances by the Red Devils but Sir Alex Ferguson will be happy to see his side back on top of the league for the first time since October.

Swansea 1-0 Manchester City

Swansea delivered a big blow to Manchester City’s hopes of winning the Premier League with a deserved three points at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday with substitute Luke Moore scoring the winner with just seven minutes left.

Swansea started brilliantly and could have been ahead inside ten minutes after Joe Hart conceded a penalty for bringing down Wayne Routledge. However, Scott Sinclair’s poorly taken penalty was easily saved by Hart as City breathed a sigh of relief. Swansea were dominating the game and Roberto Mancini admitted getting his tactics wrong by replacing Gareth Barry with Sergio Aguero in the 37th minute. Barry didn’t look overly happy with the decision as he took his place on the bench. City had a corner in the 42nd minute which caused a bit of panic in the Swansea area but Yaya Toure’s shot was well blocked by Joe Allen. More rumours of unrest in the City camp at half time as reports of a bust up between Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli in the tunnel.

Swansea almost took the lead in the 51st minute when Danny Graham’s cross was just intercepted before Allen could get a touch on it to finish beore City had a chance through Micah Richards but his shot was well saved by Michel Vorm. Then came the goal; the first mistake was from Stefan Savic who gave the ball away on the halfway line but it looked like he would get away with it as Sigurdsson seemed to delay on the ball to allow City get men back behind the ball. They eventually worked the ball out wide to Routledge who had time to pick out the unmarked Moore at the far post and his header leaves Hart with no chance to give Swansea the lead.

Only now did City start to put Swansea under pressure with a long range effort from Kolo Toure well saved by Vorm again. Mancini and City thought they had levelled the game in the last minute when Micah Richards rose to head past Vorm but as he wheeled away in celebration he spotted the officials flag which is up for offside. Replays show it was the correct call and despite some late pressure by City in injury time they couldn’t find the goal they needed and Swansea held on for a deserved three points which sees them move up to 11th in the league while City slip to 2nd.

Next up for Brendan Rodgers’s side is a trip to London to face Martin Jol’s Fulham and the Swans will be hoping to take their home form on the road with them. For City it’s Europa League action on Thursday night as they look to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg when they welcome Sporting Lisbon to the Etihad before they face Chelsea in their next league game on the 21st of March.

Manchester United 2-0 West Brom

Manchester United moved to the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win over West Brom at Old Trafford on Sunday thanks to goals in either half from Wayne Rooney.
United started the game slowly and could have been behind after five minutes when Phil Jones was caught in possession and Liam Ridgewell crossed for Keith Andrews but he was stretching to get to the ball and couldn’t direct his effort on target. Andrews went close again on sixteen minutes with a free kick which took a deflection but David De Gea got down well to make a save. The Red Devils began to take control then and had a chance to take the lead when Danny Welbeck’s back heel found Ashley Young but the winger couldn’t find Rooney with his pull back. A swift counter attack by United saw Ashley Young cross to find Rooney at the far post but his effort was saved by former United keeper Ben Foster. Rooney got his 25th goal of the season one minute later though when Javier Hernandez cut in from the right and took a shot and Rooney stuck out his leg to deflect the ball past Foster to give United a 1-0 half time lead.

West Brom had a penalty appeal turned down early in the second half after Peter Odemwingie went down in the box under a challenge from Patrice Evra and United nearly doubled their lead straightaway when Rooney picked out Hernandez whose shot cannoned off the post. Rooney then tried an audacious overhead kick but it went straight into Foster’s hands as United upped the tempo in search of that vital second goal. It looked like they were about to get it in the 59th minute when Paul Scholes found Welbeck who rounded Foster but somehow he managed to miss an open goal. With West Brom looking unlikely at getting back into the game there cause wasn’t helped when Jonas Olsson was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Foster was called into action again in the 67th minute when he made a great reaction save to keep out Ashley Young’s deflected shot. Young was involved again in the build up to United’s second goal when he found himself in a one on one with Keith Andrews and he went past him only for Andrews to pull him down and concede a penalty. Rooney stepped up and made no mistake to ease the nerves around Old Trafford. West Brom had a chance to pull a goal back with ten minutes left but Shane Long’s effort was well saved by David De Gea and United saw out the final minutes comfortably.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side now turn their focus to Thursday’s trip to Bilbao in the hope of overturning a 3-2 first leg defeat before travelling to Molineux in the league on Sunday with the aim of extending their lead at the top to four points. For West Brom it is a trip to the DW Stadium on Saturday to face relegation strugglers Wigan as Roy Hodgson’s men look to rediscover the form they showed before their visit to Old Trafford

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