Owen earns United point
United fail to punish title rivals for slip-ups
By Danny Wright. Last Updated: September 26, 2010 5:06pm
Owen: Header rescued United
Substitute Michael Owen scored his third goal of the week to help Manchester United twice come from behind to snatch a point in a 2-2 draw against Bolton.
Owen netted twice in the Carling Cup in midweek to help defeat Scunthorpe but United were without Rio Ferdinand and looked shaky in the opening stages at the Reebok, allowing Bolton to take full advantage when Zat Knight prodded home Martin Petrov's sixth-minute corner.
But the hosts looked vulnerable in the middle of the park and Nani hit back for his team in stunning fashion to level the scores, taking on the Trotters' defence before slotting into the bottom corner in the 23rd minute.
The affair was open throughout and Owen Coyle's team cut a swathe through United on the counter-attack to regain the lead thanks to Petrov, who blasted home from inside the area after linking up with Johan Elmander and Lee Chung-yong.
Elmander then spurned a glorious chance to put his team in cruise control as Owen, on for Darren Fletcher, glanced a header past Jussi Jaaskelainen to net his 200th club career goal and earn his side a share of the spoils in the process.
United have now conceded nine goals in five league games and trail leaders Chelsea by three points, it was not the best of weekends for them, nor an out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney, who was replaced by Federico Macheda half an hour from the end.
Saturday's results could not have worked out any better for United and the intent behind their attacking play was obvious from the first kick, but defensively they remain unconvincing.
The absence of Ferdinand with Wednesday's UEFA Champions League encounter with Valencia in mind was a further indication that all is not well with the England skipper. And without him, life continues to be a struggle.
A late goal at Fulham, two in injury-time at Everton and a Steven Gerrard brace against Liverpool last weekend when the Reds did not have a single shot of note in open play during the entire game is not a record to be proud of.
To that crime sheet can now be added Knight's back flick. The defender's third goal in as many years could not be described as conventional.
But once Patrice Evra moved away from the far post he was supposed to be patrolling when Petrov curled over his corner, the target was wide enough for him to steer the ball into once he had escaped the attentions of Jonny Evans.
Edwin van der Sar was forced to make a couple of vital interventions as Kevin Davies and Elmander made their presence felt, with Evans not looking entirely comfortable.
The manner of the visitors' equaliser would have come as a disappointment to Coyle. Nani deserved plenty of credit for his ambition as he set off racing towards the Bolton goal from inside his own half.
However, the Trotters defence just kept inviting him to run and the Portuguese winger had got to the edge of the area before he drilled an impressive shot past Jaaskelainen.
In fairness to Bolton, it was something of an aberration given how well they had done at closing down space around their penalty area and forcing United into pumping a succession of crosses into the box.
It was a tactic United persevered with after the interval and eventually resulted in the substitution of an ineffective Rooney half an hour from the end.
Rooney's work rate could not be faulted on his first appearance away from Old Trafford since the storm erupted over his private life.
But he does not threaten at the moment and now Owen has taken his tally to three in a week, compared to one for Rooney - from the penalty spot - all season, an interesting selection dilemma looms for Ferguson in Valencia on Wednesday.
Owen was not even on the pitch when Petrov put Bolton back in front, exploiting more poor defensive work to step inside Park then rocket a shot past Van der Sar that flicked off John O'Shea.
The introduction of Macheda did result in an opening for Berbatov but it took Owen's deft near-post flick for the far corner from Nani's free-kick to bring United level. A late onslaught was expected as United hunted the winner.
But it did not actually materialise, with Elmander, who had wasted an excellent chance to seal victory for Bolton before Owen scored, steering the final opportunity wide as well.
|Bolton Wanderers||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||6|
|6||Shots off Target||7|
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Bromwich Albion||38||49|
|10||West Ham United||38||46|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||38||25|