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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Manchester City Vs. Everton Match Report

Another game, another United win, another record.

This hard-fought victory extended the champions’ lead at the top of the table and, in keeping another clean sheet, Edwin van der Sar has now broken the all-time record in the entire English football league.

Like last season, the game was settled by a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty. This one, which came just before the interval, was the winger’s 14th goal of the season.

And the Reds held off a determined Everton side to end the visitors’ nine-game unbeaten run and go eight points clear of Liverpool and Chelsea, who face off on Sunday.

United had made one change from the side that demolished West Brom in midweek, with Darren Fletcher, scorer at Goodison Park earlier in the season, replacing Ryan Giggs.

Everton were boosted by the availability of Tim Cahill and Marouane Fellaini after the influential forwards passed fitness tests.

It was a decidedly more cagey opening to the game than United had experienced at The Hawthorns, with both sides preferring to test the water rather than dive-bomb into it.

United enjoyed the majority of the possession early on, however, with Everton content to get behind the ball and punt long balls towards Cahill and the considerable frame of Fellaini.

Unsurpisingly, the visitors’ main threat came from set-pieces and United’s defence had to muscle up to clear more than one dangerous-looking free-kick.

In the seventh minute Ji-sung Park’s low cross evaded everyone and almost deceived Tim Howard, who was at full stretch to prevent the ball creeping in at the far post.

The ex-United keeper was called upon again five minutes later, superbly scooping over a close-range Carlos Tevez stab after Everton had failed properly to clear a Ronaldo cross.

Tevez was at his bullish best and his persistence almost created a chance for Ronaldo as he burst past Leighton Baines and Joleon Lescott but saw his cross cut out.

Just before the half-hour mark Ronaldo had two chances to open the scoring in quick succession. Firstly he toe-poked the ball against the post from the edge of the box, then saw his dipping shot tipped over by Howard.

But Everton refused to buckle and, indeed, were themselves causing United more problems than most sides have done at Old Trafford in recent weeks, with Baines more than happy to get forward down the left to support the attack.

Phil Neville’s clever through-ball presented Fellaini with a half-chance, but the striker failed to control the pass which would have put him through one-on-one with van der Sar.

Carrick flashed a left-foot volley just wide after controlling the ball superbly on his chest, and just before the break he was involved again in winning the decisive penalty.

The midfielder charged towards goal and was tripped by Mikel Arteta, with referee Mark Halsey adjudging the offence to have been committed just inside the area.

Ronaldo did the honours, blasting the penalty down the centre of Howard’s goal for his third goal in five days.

Arteta’s misery was compounded early in the second half when he sliced a presentable free-kick embarrassingly wide.

Carrick thought he had won another penalty a minute later when he charged onto a John O’Shea pass and was sent flying by Lescott, but Halsey pointed to the dead-ball line and not the penalty spot.

Soon after Tevez should perhaps have extended United’s lead when he controlled Park’s cross and made room for himself in the box, only to flash wildly over.

Wes Brown continued his injury comeback when he replaced Gary Neville just before the hour. The United skipper had, in truth, endured a torrid first half in which he gave away several free-kicks.

Arteta fared better with another long-range free-kick but van der Sar clung onto his low drive. By now the United keeper had kept Everton scoreless for the 72 minutes needed to break his second record in a week.

With 20 minutes left Steven Pienaar clattered into Carrick on the edge of the box and Tevez’s free-kick took a deflection, looped up and forced Howard to tip over.

At the other end Pienaar attempted to make amends but curled his shot from 20 yards way over van der Sar’s bar.

Fletcher made way for Giggs and the Welshman’s corner almost led to a second United goal, but Ronaldo headed over when well placed. Then Tevez found space on the edge of the box but mishit his attempted chip into Howard’s arms.

Halsey waved away Everton’s penalty appeals with seven minutes left as Rio Ferdinand grappled with Lescott in the box.

Howard was again on hand to deny the Reds with time running out, blocking Park’s shot from an acute angle.

The Everton keeper had enjoyed a good game on his return to Old Trafford but it was all in vain as the champions won again to march inexorably onwards.

Manchester United Vs. Everton Highlights Video Clip

Manchester United [1 - 0] Everton
44' [1 - 0] C. Ronaldo