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Friday 21 September 2018

Magical Matic helps United storm Palace

Late hero: Nemanja Matic lets fly to hand Manchester United all three Premier League points against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last night
Late hero: Nemanja Matic lets fly to hand Manchester United all three Premier League points against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last night

Manchester United secured a vital 3-2 victory at Crystal Palace when Nemanja Matic struck in stoppage time to complete their recovery from two goals down.

An unconvincing start from Jose Mourinho's team contributed to goals from Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt, the second shortly after half-time, but after repeatedly threatening they gradually earnt all three points through finishes from Chris Smalling, Romelu Lukaku and then Matic.

United's initial sluggishness suggested they were distracted by the prospect of Saturday's fixture with rivals Liverpool, but they fought back convincingly, extending Palace's winless run to six and denying them a win that would have taken them from 18th to 13th in the Premier League.

Moved

While avoiding a first-ever Premier League defeat by Palace, United also moved ahead of Liverpool and up to second while continuing to build the sense of momentum that began with their recent victory over Chelsea.

Leveller: Romelu Lukaku scores Manchester United’s second and equalising goal against Crystal Palace last night
Leveller: Romelu Lukaku scores Manchester United’s second and equalising goal against Crystal Palace last night

Roy Hodgson's team, who this season at Selhurst Park had held league leaders Manchester City - a team who have long looked beyond United's reach - were without the on-loan Timothy Fosu-Mensah, ineligible against his parent club.

Amid injuries to 10 senior players they again had Martin Kelly and Jeffrey Schlupp available, and both started as they made a promising start.

It was in the 11th minute when Townsend put them ahead. The improved Christian Benteke played a square ball to the winger on the edge of the area, from where he curled into the top right corner and beyond David de Gea via a significant deflection off Victor Lindelof.

They threatened again by half-time and were rarely stretched, but it took until three minutes after the restart for them to double their advantage. From a quickly-taken free-kick, Schlupp sent Van Aanholt through on goal and, despite suspicions of offside, his powerful strike beat De Gea.

Mourinho had at half-time introduced Marcus Rashford for Scott McTominay and adapted a more attacking shape, and after Palace went 2-0 up it began to show.

Smalling had already gone close when, in the 55th minute, he gave them the lift they needed with the first goal. Antonio Valencia had picked him out with a fine cross from the edge of the area and, under minimal pressure, he routinely headed into the back of the net.

Struck

Matic then saw an effort cleared off the line by Benteke before, in the 76th minute his fellow Belgian Lukaku found the vital equalising goal. After Alexis Sanchez struck the crossbar the striker collected the rebound and remained patient before picking his spot and calmly finishing low beyond Wayne Hennessey.

De Gea was then needed to produce an outstanding save from a header from Benteke when for a period Palace looked the likeliest next goalscorers, and before Matic scored his first ever goal for the club to complete the visitors' fight back.

It had just been confirmed that three minutes' stoppage time would be played when, after a cross into Palace's penalty area came back out off of James McArthur, he met the loose ball with a powerful strike from just outside that Hennessey had little chance of stopping.

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