Kuszczak hero for Baggies
By Alex Dunn. Last Updated: 07/05/05 12:57pm
West Brom are still fighting for Premiership survival after stealing a point at Old Trafford despite taking a first half mauling in a 1-1 stalemate.
Substitute goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak proved West Brom's hero as a Robert Earnshaw penalty in the second half cancelled out Ryan Giggs' quickly taken free-kick in the first period.
The half time statistics revealed much about the disparity in class between those at the top of the Premiership and those at the bottom.
Whilst Manchester United had managed 17 shots on goal, West Brom's paucity of possession failed to yield a single attempt and were it not for a bit of bad finishing, a lot of good fortune and some inspired goalkeeping from Kuszczak then the scoreline may have been embarrassing.
Despite having indulged in the luxury of resting Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney and a plethora of other regulars, Sir Alex Ferguson's second string still possessed far too much for Albion as Ronaldo and Giggs were in tantalising form.
Within the opening quarter of an hour United had signalled their intent when Russell Hoult was forced to gather at his feet from Ronaldo's driving run and shot, pull off a fine instinctive stop from Quinton Fortune's snapshot but then injured his groin clawing away a wayward header from team-mate Neil Clement.
Moments later, in the 21st minute, United were awarded a free-kick on the edge of West Brom's box and with Hoult clearly labouring Giggs clipped the ball over the wall and beyond the crocked custodian.
Immediately, some would say too late, Hoult signalled to be substituted and was replaced by Kuszczak - who produced the type of display that suggests he could be a face to watch in the future.
The inexperienced Pole was immediately called into action as Giggs eased passed him but saw his cross drift across an unguarded goal and then excelled in blocking Fortune's powerful header at his near post.
Ronaldo's snapshot needed an excellent save to keep United at bay and then the same player was denied by a brave stop from close range.
United's inability to finish teams off has been a major feature of their season and as West Brom went into the interval with only a one goal deficit there was an inevitability that their performance had to improve on a lacklustre first period.
Yet, United had further chances to kill off the most one sided of games early in the second half - when after dazzling wing play from Giggs, the perennial underachiever Kleberson was unfortunate to see his shot on the run superbly parried by Kuszczak.
West Brom's first half-chance fell to Kevin Campbell when he closed on John O'Shea's weak header but Roy Carroll was off his line to clear, before Kleberson had his head in his hands again after blazing widely over from Fortune's cut-back.
When Phil Neville's raking pass played in Ronaldo a goal looked in the offing but having pulled the ball wide another crucial chance was lost.
With Robson looking concerned on the touchline, just past the hour mark, Geoff Horsfield bore down on goal and after grabbling with John O'Shea, referee Mark Halsey pointed to the spot.
Earnshaw kept his nerve from twelve yards to become the first West Brom player in 24 years to score at Old Trafford and earn The Baggies a foot-hold in a game that had at one point looked to have been a complete mismatch.
Sir Alex had seen enough and signalled his big guns off the bench as Louis Saha, Paul Scholes and Wayne Rooney were all called into action.
Rooney was the first to test Kuszczak and saw his daisy-cutter parried wide but not before substitute Kanu was felled by Giggs in the box - albeit if his fall was theatrical.
Scholes then took a lick of paint off Kuszczak's far post, with the rebound somehow not ending in the West Brom goal.
However, the final say deservedly belonged to Kuszczak when he flung himself to his left to deny a Rooney freekick and preserve West Brom's Premiership status for another week at least.
Man Utd v West Brom player ratings
|Manchester United||Team Name||West Bromwich Albion|
|14||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||1|
|13||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||2|
|10||Total Fouls Conceded||13|
|63 %||Possession||37 %|
Barclays Premier League
Sat 7th May
Chelsea1 - 0Charlton
Portsmth1 - 1Bolton
C Palace2 - 2So'ton
Norwich1 - 0Birm'ham
M'boro1 - 0Tottenham
Blackburn1 - 3Fulham
Everton2 - 0Newcastle
A Villa1 - 2Man City
Man Utd1 - 1W Brom
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||11||18|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||11||13|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||11||8|