Hernandez carries United to victory at Villa Park
Half-time substitute, Javier Hernandez, has fanned further comparison to club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by earning United a come from behind victory over Aston Villa. With Rooney failing to find the target, and van Persie hitting the crossbar on two occasions, it was up to the Mexican to bring home the victory for United, and he duly rewarded himself by walking off the pitch with the match ball. It is a result which puts United four points clear of second placed Chelsea, who host Liverpool on Sunday, and consolidates their reputation of scoring late goals with a never say die spirit.
It was an uninspiring first half to a match which the Aston Villa fans began in full swing, letting former player Ashley Young know exactly what they thought of him with a barrage of boos every single time he got on the ball. Meanwhile, on the pitch, it was pretty even during the opening period, with both sides trying to get a feel of the game before attempting any of their training ground routines. It was Villa who looked the more dangerous going forward though, and it took a couple of excellent blocks from Rio Ferdinand to stop the home team from getting excellent opportunities at goal.
United were playing their own brand of attacking football though, and it was a visibly excited Paul Lambert that was directing his team from the sidelines. Aston Villa almost took the lead in the 25th minute, as, with Smalling receiving medical attention, United found themselves desperately short at the back before Scholes had his heels clipped to win a free kick, and give them some breathing space. At the same time, there was an interesting battle brewing in midfield, with Paul Scholes being made to work hard by Stephen Ireland.
The match remained a cagey affair till the one added minute at the end of the first half, where Benteke broke down the left wing, beat Smalling, and rolled the ball across for Weimann who smashed it home with frightening speed, straight through De Gea. A goal that left Paul Lambert ecstatic on the touchline, while Sir Alex could be seen furiously pacing toward the dressing room, with more than a few things on his mind no doubt.
At the beginning of the second half, United, looking to make yet another comeback, replaced Young with Hernandez, giving the winger some much needed relief from the crowd. It was Villa who scored next though, with overall miserable defending from United, allowing Weimann to score his second of the game. Rafael, drifting in too deep, let Agbonlahor free on the left wing, and he cut a ball across the face of goal that was met by an advancing Weimann, who faced virtually zero resistance from the centre halves. 2 – 0 to Aston Villa, and an upset in the making.
Things were soon looking ominous for Villa though, with United beginning to press, and the substitute, Hernandez slipped away from the defence to halve Villa’s lead with his sixth goal in five matches. It was an excellently timed run from Hernandez that got him past the Villa defence, and he was found with a pinpoint pass from Scholes, before he slid it through the ‘keeper’s legs, into the back of the net. Within no time, scores were level, as Hernandez snuck in at the back post, and sent an attempt on target that deflected in off Vlaar, leaving the Dutch defender feeling woeful. It was good play from Rooney that set up the goal, as he unleashed Rafael, who sent in the cross to the back post that was met by Hernandez. 2 – 2 the scoreline, and an exciting third of the game looming.
Villa had no intentions of sitting back and defending, and Weimann nearly bagged his hat-trick when he sent in a bullet header towards goal from Bannan’s cross, only to be denied by a reflex save from De Gea. It was then van Persie’s turn to come agonizingly close to scoring, as a sweetly connected header from Rooney’s corner crashed against the crossbar, followed soon after by an equally sweetly timed left foot curler that met with the same fate.
The true agony was to be Aston Villa’s however, as an unnecessarily conceded free kick saw van Persie play a good ball into the box that was headed home by Hernandez, who now has seven goals in his last five matches for United. United, bringing all their experience into play, held out well for the final few minutes, in spite of considerable Villa pressure to win 2 – 3, and keep their league run intact.