Date:Wednesday January 26 2011
January 25, 2011 - 19:30
Ian Holloway described himself as 'gutted' after a brilliant Manchester United fight back overcame the fantastic Blackpool.
The Seasiders surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 in the final minutes, but can be proud of the tremendous performance against champions-elect United.
Headers by Craig Cathcart and DJ Campbell capped a first half full of endeavour and quality attacking football which blew away Alex Ferguson's table toppers.
And it looked like the home side would take the three points and sit in seventh until the 72nd minute when Dimitar Berbatov sparked a comeback. His goal put Pool onto the back foot and he added the winner after Javier Hernandez had equalised to leave Bloomfield Road stunned.
It had started so well for Blackpool, whose passing and moving - especially in the middle of the park - was causing all sorts of problems for Paul Scholes and co.
With all the talk before the game surrounding Charlie Adam and his proposed move to Liverpool, it was one of the unsung heroes who proved to be the key to unlocking United; Gary Taylor-Fletcher was able to find pockets of space between the deep-lying Scholes and his midfield teammates Fletcher and Gibson. GTF's quick feet and intelligence was in tune with the running off the ball of DJ Campbell and impressively David Vaughan who joined the game from deep.
But despite the attractive passing play, it was two set pieces which were the undoing of the Red Devils' defence.
Charlie Adam whipped a luscious corner into the six-yard box which was met by the diving head of Craig Cathcart, who thumped his effort beyond Edwin Van der Sar. The goalkeeper might have felt he could have come to claim the ball and the defending was questionable with Cathcart allowed a free header.
Moments later, the Seasiders were almost 2-0 up. It came from a poor ball into the box by the (largely) imperious Adam which had Nemanja Vidic back peddling and the Serbian centre-half almost guided the cross beyond his goalkeeper but Van der Sar made a smart stop to save his captain's blushes.
Elliot Grandin also missed a guilt-edge chance but it wasn't long before Pool were two up. Just before the break, David Vaughan's low drive had the goalkeeper scrambling to tip wide and from the resulting corner Adam found DJ Campbell at the back post to nod home past Rafael on the post.
Sir Alex brought Ryan Giggs on for the poor Gibson at half time and the attacking impact was obvious from 45 minutes onwards.
Scholes - who was pushed a little further forward - found himself in a yard of space and tested Richard Kingson from 20 yards before Nani showed glimpses of what he was capable of.
Still the Reds failed to break down the stubborn rearguard with Ian Evatt a man mountain - winning all every header throughout. Unfortunately, the pace and beating of the offside trap of Javier Hernandez (who replaced the awful Wayne Rooney) was the turning point in the game.
Holloway noted that the refusal of a Luke Varney penalty shout was the turning point (and it did look like one from where I was sitting - Varney was bundled over as he broke into the area) but for me Hernandez totally changed the game.
In fact, he was on for just six minutes before United got back in the game.
With Hernandez occupying a centre half, Darren Fletcher was able to break free into the box (after not being tracked by Charlie Adam) before pulling the ball back to Berbatov who tapped into the gaping goal on 72 minutes.
On 74, they drew level. The young Mexican Hernandez sprung the offside trap (with Pool playing far too high up the pitch) from a Ryan Giggs through ball and clinically finished beyond Richard Kingson to send the travelling support delirious.
Just a side note: to see the fans of the biggest club in the country going mental at scoring an equaliser at Bloomfield Road is completely surreal. 'Proud to be a Seasider' has already been posted on our forum, and it rings so true.
Unfortunately, we were to see them going mental at a winner just two minutes before the 90 were up. After a huge delay for a nasty looking injury to Rafael, United kept their momentum up and on 88 completed the stunning comeback when Berbatov bagged his second to give them the three points.
In the build up to two of the three goals there were suspicions of offside, but upon replays it does seem that all were well-timed runs and that is what the team are up against when playing the best teams in the country. There are no arguments from me goal-wise, although referee Peter Walton has looked out of his depth throughout the season and tonight was no different - some strange decisions were made throughout.
One gripe I do have is with Holloway and his decision making in the second half. Making substitutions at 2-0 in hindsight was a mistake - bringing Matt Phillips on saw the team unable to keep hold of the ball as he came up against Evra, who in truth had him well sussed.
As alluded to before, the defensive line pushed up too much. If they had dropped back five to 10 yards and allowed United to have the ball in front of them and produce something special in order to find a way back into the game.
However, take nothing away from Ollie and his team. They are a credit to the Premier League, the football club and the town.
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Date:Wednesday January 26 2011
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