English Premiership

United in controversial draw

2010-12-29 07:50
Dimitar Berbatov (File)

Birmingham - Lee Bowyer's controversial late equaliser saw Birmingham City deny Premiership leaders Manchester United victory in a 1-1 draw at St Andrews on Tuesday.

It seemed Dimitar Berbatov's 14th league goal of the season had given United, who started this late kick-off match a point behind second-placed Manchester City, victory.

But instead of leading their local rivals by two points, United now top the table on goal difference alone following Bowyer's 89th minute leveller that took the Blues out of the relegation zone.

However, it appeared Birmingham substitute Nikola Zigic may have handled in the build-up to Bowyer's goal, with the midfielder possibly offside as well.

Nevertheless, United are still unbeaten in the league this season and have two games in hand over Manchester City.

Their position is all the more impressive given Wayne Rooney has not scored in open play since a goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League at the end of March.

It is a statistic with which the England striker has become uncomfortably familiar and his search for that elusive goal was not helped by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to start him out wide on the left on Tuesday.

Rooney's struggles could not be more of a contrast with Berbatov's form.

The Bulgarian's seemingly casual attitude has often been a source of irritation at Old Trafford.

But there is always the chance he will burst into life with devastating effect and he did so just before the hour mark at St Andrews.

His rolled back heel pass to Darron Gibson was sublime while his first touch and finish low beyond former United keeper Ben Foster, after the return, was of the highest class.

His fleeting genius emerged again moments later when he struck the base of Foster's right-hand post from the edge of the area with Foster beaten.

Ferguson obviously felt Rooney could expose the ageing limbs of Stephen Carr and on a couple of occasions in the opening exchanges he cut inside and tested Foster with low shots.

Questions are still being asked whether Ferguson was too hasty in allowing England international Foster to leave in pre-season and one save, when his fingertips prevented Ryan Giggs's swirling cross from finding the far corner was a reminder of what United had lost.

Of the few chances Birmingham did create, Cameron Jerome wasted an excellent one inside the first five minutes, with a poor header from Sebastian Larsson's cross. It was one of the few occasions Alex McLeish's five-man midfield were able to make their numerical advantage pay in the opening 45 minutes.

Within eight minutes of the re-start Birmingham should have opened the scoring. Larsson's cross produced an ungainly shot from Jerome which screwed to Craig Gardner eight yards out.

But the former Aston Villa midfielder's connection with his volley was not ideal and United keeper Edwin van der Sar made a comfortable save.

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