Manchester United are now eight points off the pace at the top of the Premier League after Adam Lallana’s last-gasp equaliser gave Southampton a deserved 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.
United looked like they were heading back to their best as Robin van Persie’s goal seemed destined to give them victory.
However, Adam Lallana deflected Jose Fonte’s header past David De Gea in the 89th minute to give Southampton a point which they merited after a good performance.
The Red Devils have made their worst start to a Premier League season but looked to have turned a corner after an impressive first half. Michael Carrick showed his passing range with a lovely chipped pass over the top for van Persie after 10 minutes, but the Dutchman was unlucky to see his deft volley from a tight angle land inches wide of Artur Boruc’s far post.
The former Arsenal man did force the Polish goalkeeper into action just after though and it came down to a clever turn from Nani on the right wing. The Portuguese international skipped away from the industrious Morgan Schneiderlin and pulled the ball back for van Persie to hit on his right foot, but Saints’ inform shot-stopper did well to keep the drilled shot out.
That’s not to say it all went United’s way though as Southampton profited from a bad mistake by Wayne Rooney to create a golden chance in the 24th minute. The England strike was caught on the ball in a dangerous position by the lively Lallana and the Southampton youth graduate picked out Dani Osvaldo with a good pass, but the Italian striker’s shot was weak from ten yards and comfortably saved by De Gea.
It was a vital miss as United grabbed the opening goal just two minutes later. Adnan Januzaj split the Southampton defence with an impressive pass, but Rooney couldn’t beat Boruc in a one-on-one from 15 yards out. The rebound fell to van Persie who did really well to nick the ball around the goalkeeper and find the bottom corner with a low strike that evaded the defender looking to block the ball on the line. The goal was the first Southampton have conceded in nearly eight hours of league action, but the goal gave David Moyes’ side a new level of confidence that they sorely needed.
It was close to being 2-0 in the 27th minute, but Southampton were grateful for the frame of their goal for bailing them out. Nani did well again on the right well and pulled the ball back for Rooney to strike at goal from 15 yards, but the ball thumped back off the crossbar with Boruc well beaten. It was unlucky for the in-form Rooney, who put in a good playmaking performance for United.
Saints were restricted to long-range efforts in their attempt to get back level before half-time, but De Gea had to be smart to keep out Lovren’s shot from 30 yards just a minute before the break. The centre-back put plenty of dip and swerve on the shot, but De Gea kept his concentration and held on to the ball.
The defender was leading the charge for an equaliser in the second half too and was unlucky to see his header from Steven Davis’ corner cleared off the line by van Persie. The shot may have been heading wide, but the striker was taking no chances and United knew there was still a lot of work to be done to see out this game.
Moyes must have felt that United’s best way of doing that was to add a second goal and they were very close to doing so in the 63rd minute. Rooney’s corner was met by van Persie’s deft header at the near post but the ball bounced back off the crossbar for the second time of the game. Moments later, Januzaj forced Boruc into a top save with a 30-yard piledriver as United flexed their muscles, but Fellaini blasted over from the rebound when he probably should have scored.
Credit must go to Saints for their unwillingness to give up on the game and Lallana, in particular, was a driving force for Maurico Pochettino’s side. The young English midfielder forced a good save from De Gea with a powerful left-footed shot after skipping away from Fellaini’s challenge with some very quick feet.
With the game headed into the final four minutes, Saints continue to fly forward. Lallana slipped in the run of Nathaniel Clyne from right-back with a nice pass, but the former Crystal Palace man was denied as once again, De Gea made a top clasee sprawling save to keep it out. Unfortunately for the Spanish shot-stopper, he could do nothing about the goal that saved a point for the South Coast club.
James Ward-Prowse swung in the corner and Fonte over-powered Phil Jones before volleying towards goal from six yards. The shot took a slight touch off Lallana near the goal before nestling into the bottom corner, sparking wild celebrations from the away fans. It was slightly harsh on United, who had put in a good performance against an in-form Saints side, but Moyes will know that dropping points at home in the final minute in these circumstances is just not acceptable.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)