English Premiership

United frustrated by Villa

2014-12-20 19:26
Radamel Falcao (AFP)

Birmingham - Manchester United's slim hopes of reviving their Premier League title challenge were dealt a blow as they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at 10-man Aston Villa on Saturday.

Louis van Gaal's side needed Radamel Falcao's second-half header to cancel out Christian Benteke's fine opener for Villa in a contest overshadowed by referee Lee Mason's controversial dismissal of Gabriel Agbonlahor for a seemingly innocuous challenge on former Villa team-mate Ashley Young.

It ended a run of six successive victories for van Gaal's side as they lost ground on second placed Manchester City, who had earlier moved level on points with leaders Chelsea, who face Stoke on Monday.

The gap now stands at seven points between those two and United, who sit third.

But United could have no arguments with outcome after their big-name stars failed to deliver against an organised, efficient and, at times, potent Villa team, who have now lost just one of their last six matches.

Van Gaal made his intentions clear by further bolstering his forward-line with a recall for Colombia striker Falcao, with Wayne Rooney deployed in a deep-lying midfield role.

United adopted Van Gaal's favoured back three yet tactically Villa had the better shape and were always a threat with the counter-attacking game which has become their trademark under Paul Lambert.

Robin van Persie should have done better when he failed to connect with Young's cross, yet it was Villa who deservedly took an 18th-minute lead courtesy of Benteke.

Little appeared on as Fabian Delph's free-kick found the former Genk player at the back post, yet he controlled superbly, twisted Jonny Evans inside out and bent a shot superbly inside the left post.

It was a real moment of magic from Benteke, who looked back to his brilliant best after a recent suspension delayed his comeback from a long-term injury.

Brad Guzan did well to palm away a Young cross-shot, yet United were below their best and it was no surprise to see van Gaal make a change at the interval, with Tyler Blackett introduced for Darren Fletcher.- Thumping header -

The home side picked up where they left off upon resumption and it took a fine last-ditch block from Phil Jones to deny Delph following more good work from Benteke.

The pair combined again from the resulting corner with Delph's delivery met with a thumping header from the Belgium international only for goalkeeper David De Gea to pull off a stunning reflex save as he continued his excellent recent form.

United threatened for the first time in the half when Rooney's brilliantly-disguised ball handed an opening to Van Persie, yet his shot was too close to Brad Guzan.

The visitors finally began to build some momentum and Guzan did well to hold Juan Mata's low driven shot.

And Villa's resistance was broken in the 53rd minute when Falcao emphatically buried Young's left-wing delivery with a bullet header for his second United goal and his first since October.

It was a foothold back into the game for van Gaal's team and they were gifted a significant advantage in controversial circumstances with a third of the game remaining.

Young and Agbonlahor hurtled towards one another as they vied for a 50/50 challenge, yet it was the former who was left crumpled in a heap and Mason reacted by reaching for his red card, leaving Agbonlahor and the Villa Park crowd stunned.

Villa battled on and twice they almost snatched an unlikely lead as Ciaran Clark and Andreas Weimann threatened within seconds of one another as the ball pinballed around the United area.

At the other end, Jores Okore came to Villa's rescue with 12 minutes remaining when he hooked a Michael Carrick header off the line from substitute Angel Di Maria's corner.

It was the visitors who found themselves clinging on, however, with substitute Leandro Bacuna driving inches over the crossbar as full-time approached.


Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Friday, 22 February 2019
Cardiff City v Watford, Cardiff City Stadium 21:45
West Ham United v Fulham, London Stadium 21:45
Saturday, 23 February 2019
Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur, Turf Moor 14:30
Newcastle United v Huddersfield Town, St. James' Park 17:00
AFC Bournemouth v Wolverhampton Wanderers, Vitality Stadium 17:00
Leicester City v Crystal Palace, King Power Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 24 February 2019
Chelsea v Brighton & Hove Albion, Stamford Bridge 14:00
Arsenal v Southampton, Emirates Stadium 16:05
Manchester United v Liverpool, Old Trafford 16:05
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team

Who will claim the Premier League title at the end of the 2018/19 season?

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season is in full swing. Will Mamelodi Sundowns retain their title? Or can one of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Wits, SuperSport United - or another team perhaps - snatch glory from the Brazilians? Be sure to visit Sport24 for all the latest news!

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.