Tuesday 6 March 2018

Match report: Crystal Palace 2-3 United

An injury time wonder goal from Nemanja Matic capped a classic United comeback as the Reds reclaimed second place in the table in a superbly see-sawing thriller in south London.

Matic's dipping half-volley from distance in the 91st minute- his first goal for the club - was reminiscent of the Serbian's strike in the FA Cup semi final against Spurs last season, and put the seal on a turnaround that had looked improbable with half an hour to play. After a shocking first half showing, United had gone 2-0 behind as Palace scored early in each half through Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt as we looked set to be condemned to a third successive away league defeat. But the Reds stormed back to snatch an incredible victory after Chris Smalling's header, Romelu Lukaku's untidy finish and Matic's thunderbolt to spark scenes of wild celebration in the away end of Selhurst Park.

James Tomkins was off target early on and Wayne Hennessey blocked well from Alexis Sanchez as the two sides traded chances before Roy Hodgson's struggling and injury-hit Eagles took an eleventh-minute lead. Christian Benteke picked out the onrushing Townsend and his shot took a hefty deflection off Victor Lindelof to loop over David de Gea and in.
Jesse Lingard dragged a shot wide when well-placed but the Reds struggled for clear cut chances as Alexander Sorloth went close and Martin Kelly's header drifted narrowly off target from a corner.
Marcus Rashford was introduced at the interval in an attempt to kick-start below par United, but instead Palace struck again three minutes after the restart. Jeffrey Schlupp's quickly-taken free kick caught our defence flat-footed and found van Aanholt, who raced through and fired home a clinical finish beyond de Gea.

The Reds were reeling but quickly rallied and halved the deficit seven minutes later through the much-maligned Smalling, who headed in his second of the season after Antonio Valencia's whipped delivery. As Palace sat deeper, United started to turn the screw and went close to an equaliser twice in quick succession. Paul Pogba was denied by a superb save from the stretching Wayne Hennessey, before Benteke cleared off the line from a Matic snapshot.
The equaliser was not long in coming however, as the Reds got reward for their pressure on 77 minutes. A deflected Alexis effort came back off the bar but dropped for Lukaku, who pulled the ball down and slotted in through a posse of players to set up a frantic finale.

United laid siege to the Palace goal but it was the Eagles who threatened next, as DDG came to the Reds rescue yet again with five minutes remaining. James McArthur picked out Benteke who headed goalwards, but de Gea's incredible reaction save tipped the ball to safety and paved the way for Matic to get the winner in vintage United fashion.

Team performance: 6/10
United Faithful Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic. Special mention to the 2,000 United fans who never stopped singing throughout and did the team proud once again. Simply magnificent.

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