United escape at Villa, Spurs end winless run

Manchester United scored twice in the last nine minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa on Saturday just when they looked to be heading for their first Premier League defeat of the season.

Substitute Federico Macheda and defender Nemanja Vidic cancelled out Villa’s 2-0 lead, established by an Ashley Young penalty and a Marc Albrighton tap-in with 14 minutes to play.

Although they avoided defeat United remained second, three points behind Chelsea having played one more match.

The champions can stretch their lead to six points if they beat Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on Sunday while Arsenal can go above United if they win at Everton on the same day.

Fifteen of the 16 goals scored in the seven matches came in just three games while there were three goalless draws and a solitary goal in the other fixture.

One of those goalless draws came at Eastlands where the title aspirations of big-spending Manchester City took another knock after a 0-0 draw with Birmingham City.

Coach Roberto Mancini was booed by disgruntled fans when he took striker Carlos Tevez off and replaced him with midfielder Gareth Barry as City played out a third successive home match without a goal.

Tottenham Hotspur were the highest scorers with a 4-2 win over Blackburn Rovers while Bolton Wanderers won 3-2 at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Poor performance
Although United avoided defeat at Villa and stretched their unbeaten run to 26 matches in all competitions, their best run for 11 years, those statistics disguise another poor performance.

United have drawn six of their seven away league matches and did not show the form of potential champions.

After a poor first half devoid of any real entertainment, a youthful Villa side went ahead when Young fired in a penalty in the 72nd minute after being fouled by Wes Brown.

Albrighton doubled their lead with 14 minutes left when he finished off a superb counter-attacking move, slamming the ball high into the net from six metres after a perfectly weighted cross from Stewart Downing.

Villa deserved to be ahead, with the goals coming just after James Collins headed against the bar and Gabriel Agbonlahor struck the post from close range.

However United clawed their way back when Macheda powered the ball in from 20 metres after 81 minutes and they equalised four minutes later when Nani jinked his way into space before crossing for Vidic to score with a stooping header.

United manager Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports: “We could have lost six goals in the second half, they had some great chances and we were all over the place.

“Great credit to Aston Villa, they never allowed us any time to settle on the ball. They hit us on the counter-attack time and time again.”

Comfortable ahead
Spurs’ win over Blackburn ended a four-match run without a league win, Gareth Bale scoring twice on his 100th league appearance to help the team move up to sixth.

The hosts went 4-0 up thanks to Roman Pavlyuchenko, who also missed a penalty, and Peter Crouch before a late Rovers rally.

Bolton rose to the giddy heights of fifth after hanging on for a thrilling 3-2 win at Wolves.

Owen Coyle’s men have lost only twice this season and raced into a 3-0 lead with an own goal from Richard Stearman and efforts from Johan Elmander and Stuart Holden. Wolves then rallied with goals from Kevin Foley and Steven Fletcher.

At the other end of the table West Ham United remained bottom after drawing 0-0 at home to Blackpool whose boss Ian Holloway made 11 changes from the side that lost 3-2 to Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Stoke City and Liverpool were completing the programme with their 5.30pm GMT kick-off at the Britannia Stadium. – Reuters

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