Pienaar’s ‘moment of madness’

Cristiano Ronaldo scored an 88th-minute penalty to give Manchester United a 2-1 victory over Everton at Old Trafford on Sunday that kept them within a point of Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Everton seemed set to extend their unbeaten run to 14 games in all competitions after Tim Cahill’s 27th-minute header had cancelled out the opening goal by Ronaldo five minutes earlier.

However, a lazy trip by Steven Pienaar on Ryan Giggs allowed Ronaldo to score his second of the day from the spot and extend United’s home league winning streak to nine games.

Arsenal, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on Saturday, lead the way on 43 points with United second on 42. Chelsea, who visit Blackburn Rovers later on Sunday, are third on 34.

Manchester City, who drew 1-1 at Aston Villa, also have 34 while Liverpool, 4-1 home winners over Portsmouth, are fifth on 33. Everton remain sixth on 30, ahead of Portsmouth on goal difference.

Everton arrived on Sunday full of confidence after a run that has propelled them to the top six, into the League Cup semifinals and the last 32 of the UEFA Cup.

They allowed United to go ahead in the 22nd minute when Ronaldo collected the ball in an innocuous position on the right but was given room to cut inside and clip a left-footed shot beyond Tim Howard.

Everton hit back when Pienaar floated in a cross from the left and Cahill showed great determination to climb above Patrice Evra to power in an excellent header.

United looked lively and inventive but, until Pienaar’s moment of madness, found Everton difficult to break down despite the wealth of attacking talent on show.

The South African thrust out a leg behind him in a playground tackle that Giggs was only too happy to fall over and present Ronaldo with an opportunity he accepted with minimum fuss.

Sunday’s double made the Portuguese winger the league’s leading scorer with 11 and took his tally in all competitions to 16.

”This game was very tough, Everton played very well,” Ronaldo told Setanta Sports TV.

”We played not too good in the first half but we created more chances in the second and deserved to win.

”It’s an important win with many games to come and not too much time to rest.”

Everton manager David Moyes rued Pienaar’s late lapse, saying: ”It was a moment of madness for Steven. The players have worked really hard to take something from the game but it is just one of those things.

”I thought we played well, the players showed a lot of confidence and we’re not down.”

Later on Sunday, Newcastle United host bottom club Derby County, whose only win of the season came against Newcastle in September. – Reuters

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