United denied by Stoke
Crouch equaliser ends 100 per cent winning record
Last Updated: 25/09/11 9:22am
Crouch celebrates after drawing Stoke level
Manchester United's perfect start to the Premier League season came to an end as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Stoke at the Britannia Stadium.
While the Red Devils have displayed a swashbuckling attacking style in sweeping aside most of their previous opponents this term, it was their battling qualities that had to come to the fore against the Potters in a keenly-contested clash.
Sir Alex Ferguson also had to field a new-look strikeforce, with Wayne Rooney absent due to a minor hamstring problem and Javier Hernandez limping from the field after just a few minutes following a Jonathan Woodgate challenge in the box that had United screaming, unsuccessfully, for a penalty.
Nani was present, however, and the Portuguese winger maintained his fine form with the opening goal of the game on 27 minutes, stroking a shot into the bottom corner following a neat exchange of passes with Darren Fletcher.
Much-maligned goalkeeper David de Gea then preserved United's lead with a superb reaction save to tip Andy Wilkinson's ferocious drive onto the crossbar, before leaping to his right to turn a Jon Walters effort round the post.
Stoke were not to be denied, though, and deservedly drew level early in the second half when Peter Crouch headed home from Matthew Etherington's corner to score his first goal for the club.
Both sides pressed for a winner but in the end had to settle for a point apiece which keeps United ahead of Manchester City on goal difference at the top of the table and Stoke seventh.
The result was definitely just deserts for Stoke, who put in a battling performance and have now lost only once in 12 games in all competitions this term.
A trip to the Britannia Stadium had always promised to give a searching examination of De Gea's ability under the high ball and he looked insecure in the opening seconds, flapping at Rory Delap's first long throw into the box before the danger passed.
Moments later the Potters survived a scare of their own as Hernandez found himself through on goal.
Woodgate made a challenge from behind which sent the Mexican sprawling into the onrushing Asmir Begovic, but while Hernandez stayed down hurt and United boss Ferguson cried out for a penalty, referee Peter Walton allowed play to go on.
Glenn Whelan was then booked for upending Patrice Evra before Phil Jones saw his header from Anderson's free-kick cleared by Delap.
Hernandez was unable to continue and in the 11th minute came off for Michael Owen, scorer of two goals in the midweek Carling Cup win at Leeds.
Another Delap throw led to Stoke winning a corner and De Gea looked stranded when it came in from Etherington, with Crouch heading wide at the back post but penalised for climbing over Jones.
At the other end, Dimitar Berbatov - who had been called in as Rooney's replacement to make his first league start of the season - nodded Anderson's corner off target.
The deadlock was broken just before the half-hour mark when Nani linked up with Fletcher, burst into the area and fired past Begovic.
Within seconds, Stoke nearly equalised as De Gea did superbly to tip Wilkinson's fierce drive onto the woodwork.
Ponderous play from Begovic almost let in Nani to make it 2-0 but the Portugal international put his effort over the bar.
Back came Stoke, and after Delap had cracked a shot wide from distance De Gea produced another fantastic save to turn Walters' shot around the post.
Woodgate headed over from the resulting corner with De Gea again failing to convince in an aerial situation, and Crouch and Jermaine Pennant then both slid in to no avail in an attempt to get on the end of Walters' cross.
Having finished the first half strongly, Stoke picked up where they left off after the restart and seven minutes in, were level.
Etherington swung in a corner and with De Gea stood on his line, Crouch rose to head home.
Berbatov sent a shot into Begovic's arms, but it was Stoke who had all the momentum and Crouch looked set to score again when he brought down Pennant's chip in front of goal, only for De Gea to get in the way enough for the ball to deflect over.
Begovic then got down to save a low effort from Anderson and De Gea punched away Marc Wilson's firm free-kick.
After Ashley Young's strike had been batted away by Begovic, the former Aston Villa winger came off for Ryan Giggs while Danny Welbeck replaced Berbatov.
Giggs delivered a ball into the six-yard box, but Ryan Shawcross was on hand to get there ahead of Owen, who then looped a header over the bar.
Both sides had chances to win it towards the end, with Crouch sending a header and volley wide before Giggs fired over in stoppage time.
|Stoke City||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|5||Shots on Target||4|
|5||Shots off Target||6|
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