Cristiano Ronaldo News

Monday, January 08, 2007

Report: United 2 Aston Villa 1

07/01/2007 13:55, Report by Steve Bartram

Once again Ole Gunnar Solskjaer emerged as United's supersub with a dramatic injury-time winner as United edged past Aston Villa and into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Debutant Henrik Larsson, who impressed throughout, gave United the lead with a fine goal just after half-time, but substitute Milan Baros seemed to have nicked a replay for Martin O'Neill's side after equalising 16 minutes from time.

It was Solskjaer who had the final say in an entertaining tie, however, as he fired underneath the body of Gabor Kiraly in the first of four added minutes to send United through.

Sir Alex Ferguson named a strong side for the midlanders' visit, having voiced his pre-game desire to be the first manager to lift the FA Cup at the new-look Wembley.

Larsson was handed his debut in tandem with Wayne Rooney upfront and it was the Swede, who had shown some neat early touches, who was almost played through on goal after five minutes following clever play from Ronaldo, but the winger's final ball was agonisingly too weak.

Rooney lashed a wild effort wide from long range after a clever knock down from Larsson as the Swede's movement continued to cause Villa problems.

The visitors almost sneaked into the lead after 13 minutes, but Michael Carrick was alert enough to slide in and block Isaiah Osbourne's shot.

Larsson came close to opening his United account twice in quick succession, as firstly his header was stopped on the line by Gabor Kiraly before the on-loan goalkeeper then held the Swede's left-footed shot after a clever turn inside the box.

The clearest chance of the first half fell to Rooney, who lobbed tamely at Kiraly after being given a decent opportunity by Larsson's clever ball.

That miss almost proved costly on 25 minutes as Stilian Petrov was clumsily fouled by Carrick on the edge of the area, and Villa skipper Barry's free kick clipped the roof of the net on its way over the bar.

A similar fate befell Osbourne's shanked cross shortly afterwards, but it was United who thought they had taken the lead on the half-hour.

Ronaldo teased Hughes down the left wing, whipped a ball in for Rooney and, having controlled the ball well, the England striker saw his left-foot shot well tipped around the post by Kiraly.

The striker later dwelled on the ball when Park and Larsson combined to put him through, allowing Bouma to clear, but moments later the visitors were indebted once more to Kiraly.

Larsson beat the midlanders' offside trap to latch onto Carrick's fine through ball, but Kiraly did well to save the Swede's low shot with his trailing leg.

United were rampant by this point, with all 11 Villa players regularly confined to defensive duties in their own half as Martin O'Neill's side clung to parity.

The half's final chance saw Larsson crowded out as he endeavoured to head in Ronaldo's back post cross, but Kiraly collected the loose ball on his line.

Immediately after the interval United continued to pile on the pressure, as Wes Brown's close range header was deflected just over the bar.

In turn, Villa also threatened. Agbonlahor's cross found Angel at the second attempt, but the Colombian striker was ruled offside after a goalmouth mélée.

Ronaldo sent a powerful effort past Kiraly's upright before helping set up United's opener, and fittingly - almost inevitably - it was debut-boy Larsson who scored it.

Carrick found Ronaldo, whose first-time pass gave Rooney the ball inside the area. His flicked ball went straight to the onrushing Larsson, whose quickfire control and shot gave Kiraly no chance.

Giggs hit the top of the bar with a 20-yard free kick shortly afterwards as United continued to enjoy the lion's share of possession and looked to put the tie to bed.

Ferdinand saw his header deflected wide, Giggs had an impudent chip headed off the line and Ronaldo battered a shot into the side netting as the Reds threatened to bury the visitors.

Villa very nearly sneaked a leveller on 66 minutes, however, as Gary Cahill headed Gavin McCann's corner just wide - although Kuszczak did appear to be impeded by substitute Baros as the cross came in.

A minute later the Pole was called into his first real action of the afternoon, getting down brilliantly to deny Osbourne after Barry's superb through-ball.

Ronaldo had an effort deflected wide, while Brown's header from the ensuing corner was cleared off the line by Cahill as the tie continued to churn out chances at a breathtaking rate.

The next opportunity fell to Baros, and he made no mistake to haul his side level. Cahill's scuffed shot found the Czech international clean through and onside, and he slotted clinically past Kuszczak.

Almost immediately Larsson had another header cleared off the line, while Gary Neville's flicked header landed on the roof of the net as the entertainment level showed no sign of tailing off.

Larsson left the field to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Solskjaer with 12 minutes left, having done much to suggest that his loan arrival could be an extremely shrewd move.

It was the substitute, yet again, who came up with the dramatic winner his side needed.

With the game seemingly heading for an unwanted replay, the Norwegian striker took Rooney's fine ball in his path and drilled a low shot towards goal which Kiraly could only fumble across the line.

Old Trafford erupted, and the Reds held firm to deservedly and dramatically seal their passage through to the fourth round.

Manchester United: Kuszczak, Neville, Ferdinand, Brown, Evra, Carrick (O'Shea, 88), Giggs, Park (Fletcher, 69), Ronaldo, Rooney, Larsson (Solskjaer, 78).
Subs not used: Van der Sar, Heinze.

Aston Villa: Kiraly, Hughes, Ridgewell, Cahill, Bouma, McCann, Petrov (Samuel, 66), Osbourne, Barry, Angel (Baros, 53), Agbonlahor.
Subs not used: Olejnik, Davis, Whittingham.


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