Bent stuns Man United by giving Fulham 2-2 draw
MANCHESTER, England (AP) - A late fight back by Manchester United against Fulham counted for little as Darren Bent scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to claim a 2-2 draw for the Premier League's bottom team against the struggling champions on Sunday.
Fulham first stunned Old Trafford in the 19th minute when Steve Sidwell scored to leave seventh-place United facing a ninth loss of its title defense.
It took Robin van Persie until the 78th minute to level and Michael Carrick netted again for United inside two minutes, bringing Wayne Rooney to his knees in celebration and manager David Moyes punching the air with relief.
But just when United thought it was collecting three valuable points, Bent grabbed Fulham's equalizer. Goalkeeper David de Gea turned away a shot from former United winger Kieran Richardson, but sent the ball straight into the path of the substitute Bent who nodded into an empty net.
Now it was the turn of Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen, United's assistant under Alex Ferguson until May, to punch the air as his side snatched a precious point.
For Moyes and United, now nine points away from a Champions League place, a miserable season just keeps getting worse. And, with a visit to Arsenal on Wednesday, there is no end to the trouble in sight.
While Fulham had the instinct to survive the United bombardment throughout, the visitors had the pace to exert pressure on their hosts when the counter-attacking opportunities came.
Lewis Holtby, a midfielder on loan from Tottenham, was the inspiration behind the visitors' opener. Allowed far too much room to advance down the left flank, Holtby was able to drop a cross into the heart of United's penalty area.
Captain Nemanja Vidic had been pulled out of position and, as neither Darren Fletcher nor Juan Mata had tracked Sidwell's run, the midfielder was able to slide the ball past a stranded De Gea with a degree of comfort.
It was the first time Fulham had scored an opening goal since December - and the London club should have scored more. Holtby created a golden chance for Richardson but he could only blaze the ball over. Then Richardson scorched past Vidic, only for Rooney to intercept a cut-back that looked certain to set up Holtby.
But United was creating more chances. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg superbly denied Carrick's thunderbolt and Vidic's powerful header.
But that attacking instinct that has terrorized so many opponents down the years was missing from United's game.
When Fletcher lifted the ball deep into the area for Van Persie to head into the six-yard box, no one had gambled and Fulham were able to clear with ease.
Adnan Januzaj's introduction for Fletcher with around half an hour remaining, followed by the arrivals of Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia, meant United had six offensive players trying to score against a team that had kept just four clean sheets all season.
The Red Devils could not fail to score, and didn't.
Van Persie tucked home Mata's cross at the far post, then Carrick's shot looped in off Scott Parker.
Suddenly it was going Moyes' way. But not for long, and Bent's goal came too late for the hosts to conjure a winner.
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