Bent’s last-gasp equaliser stuns United

Manchester United 2 Fulham 2

Substitute Darren Bent scored deep into injury time to rescue a point for Fulham in a remarkable game.

Steve Sidwell fired them into a first-half lead before Manchester United scored two late goals in as many minutes – Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick finding the net – to seemingly condemn the Whites to another defeat.

But Bent levelled to give the Premier League’s bottom side a huge boost in their battle to stay in the top flight.

And it eased the pressure on former United coach Rene Meulensteen, who selected a surprising line-up on his return to Old Trafford.

Sidwell's goal put Fulham in front.
Sidwell’s goal put Fulham in front.

The Fulham boss left out the likes of Scott Parker and Brede Hangeland, with Muaner Tankovic, 18, deployed as a lone striker, with Lewis Holtby supporting the Swedish youngster from midfield.

Record signing Kostas Mitroglou was not in the matchday squad but deadline day arrival Johnny Heitinga made his debut and Ryan Tunnicliffe, recently signed from United, was also given a starting place.

Fulham’s new-look team opened the scoring when Holtby chipped the ball forward and Sidwell sneaked in unmarked to fire home from 10 yards.

Van Persie then missed a great chance to equalise when he blazed over after being found by Rafael’s right-wing cross.

And as Fulham absorbed more pressure, Maarten Stekelenburg produced fine saves to keep out Ashley Young’s header and Carrick’s driven shot.

But Fulham remained a threat on the break and ex-United man Kieran Richardson squandered a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 by shooting wastefully over following good work by Tankovic.

United kept up the pressure after half-time and Stekelenburg pulled off another superb save, this time denying Wayne Rooney from close range.

Fulham were hanging on grimly and appeared to have a let-off when United appealed in vain for a penalty after the ball struck the hand of centre-back Dan Burn.

The game eventually swung in the hosts’ favour, Juan Mata pulling the ball back for Van Persie to score from four yards before Carrick’s shot went in via a deflection off substitute Parker.

But Fulham hit back in dramatic fashion, with Bent heading in the loose ball after Richardson’s shot had been parried by keeper David De Gea.

Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether, Burn, Heitinga, Riise; Tunnicliffe (Parker 65), Sidwell, Kvist (Cole 80), Richardson; Holtby, Tankovic (Bent 45).
Subs not used: Stockdale, Hangeland, Kacaniklic, Duff.

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