Sunday, September 24, 2006

United grab equaliser against Reading


Cristiano Ronaldo's second-half equaliser enabled Manchester United to avoid suffering defeat in their first-ever league clash with Reading.

United dominated most of the proceedings but found themselves trailing to Kevin Doyle's 48th-minute penalty.

Chances came and went for Sir Alex Ferguson's side until Ronaldo took matters into his own hands in the 73rd minute, netting a memorable solo equaliser.

The Portugal winger was booed constantly by the home fans but was undeniably the game's most impressive performer.

However, the result meant United missed a chance to climb to the top of the Barclays Premiership, ahead of Chelsea.

United had begun with Wayne Rooney as their only recognised player up front following Louis Saha's hamstring injury and the England man tested home goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann within two minutes.

The American fumbled his low shot and it needed Royals captain Graeme Murty to hack clear before Kieran Richardson could pounce.

Hahnemann did better with a low drive from Ronaldo but fumbled a free-kick from the same player and was nowhere when a cross from the same man from the left flashed across goal, with Scholes failing to convert from unmissable range only by a matter of millimetres.

Reading chances had been harder to come by with Leroy Lita coming close early on.

The best of the first half fell to Doyle in the 18th minute when a deflection put him in on goal - but he could not beat Edwin van der Sar from five yards.

The Dutchman made a good save low down at his near post to deny Seol Ki-Hyeon, who was posing the fit-again Gabriel Heinze real problems down the right flank, with the Argentinian back in the United side for the first time in a year.

Reading were perhaps relieved to go in at the break on level terms but within three minutes of the restart they were ahead through Doyle's penalty.

Gary Neville was the man adjudged to have been at fault as a Murty cross bounced in the box and off the England defender's arm - the intent did not look that obvious but referee Peter Walton was quick to point to the spot.

Up stepped Doyle, who had seen a spot-kick saved in a Carling Cup shoot-out with lowly Darlington in midweek.

Van der Sar almost kept this one out, guessing correctly, but the ball squirmed in under a glove.

United responded to the setback by once again applying pressure but Kieran Richardson fluffed a great chance by miskicking with the goal in his sights after Ronaldo had laid the ball back.

Richardson was replaced by Saha before the hour mark and with 20 minutes remaining Ole Solskjaer and John O'Shea had joined him on the pitch, at the expense of Heinze and Darren Fletcher.

An equaliser was coming and Ronaldo provided it himself with a fine solo effort in the 73rd minute, cutting in from the left and evading the back-tracking Murty before firing across Hahnemann and into the net.

It was all United after that but Reading hung on gratefully for a point.

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