LONDON, Aug 22, 2010 (AFP) - Brede Hangeland salvaged a point for Fulham against Manchester United in a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage when the defender headed a 90th minute equaliser after scoring an own goal just moments earlier.
United had only themselves to blame for dropping two points on Sunday after Nani missed an 86th minute penalty that would have given the visitors a 3-1 lead and almost certainly guaranteed victory.
Earlier Sir Alex Ferguson's team had appeared to be in complete control of the game when Paul Scholes confirmed his excellent early season form by scoring his 150th goal for United in the 12th minute.
But Simon Davies levelled for the home side in 57th minute and Hangeland managed to cancel out his own goal to ensure Mark Hughes avoided defeat in his first home game as Fulham boss.
|Simon Davies (C) scores past Manchester United's Antonio Valencia (R), Goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar (C) and John O'Shea (L). AFP|
It was a result which will leave Ferguson rueing the concession of early ground to reigning champions Chelsea, who have begun their defence of the title with successive 6-0 victories.
Wayne Rooney was missing from the United line-up having been forced to withdraw because of illness, prompting Ferguson to pair Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez up front.
And, while United missed Rooney's more direct approach, the forward duo initially linked effectively during an opening period that should have seen the visitors establish a more commanding lead.
As it was, Ferguson's side had only one goal to show for their early efforts, a typically outstanding long range effort from Scholes.
The goal came immediately after Berbatov had conjured the first real chance when he leapt acrobatically to volley from 12 yards only to see his effort tipped over by home keeper David Stockdale.
Fulham's reprieve lasted less than a minute as, from the resulting corner, Valencia picked out Berbatov with a low cross.
The Bulgarian's first touch laid the ball back into the path of Scholes and the midfielder struck first time with a low drive from 25 yards that arrowed into the bottom corner.
Fulham's response had been limited and for 25 minutes last season's thrilling journey to the Europa League final seemed a very distant memory as Hughes's side fought to establish a foothold in the game.
However, there was evidence of the threat they would pose in the second period when Dickson Etuhu forced an outstanding double save from United's former Fulham keeper Edwin van der Sar.
Etuhu played a neat one-two with Bobby Zamora before forcing his way into the box and after blocking the midfielder’s first effort, van der Sar reacted superbly to tip the follow-up over the bar.
Fulham began to dominate midfield after the restart, negating the influence of Scholes and Darren Fletcher in the central areas and finding more space down either flank.
And the 57th minute equaliser came when Damien Duff tricked his way past Patrice Evra and played in Zamora whose pull back was crashed home by Davies.
An apparently comfortable victory had turned into a desperate fight to avoid defeat for Ferguson's side but they stood firm and eventually restored their lead thanks to Hangeland's error.
The Fulham defender was unable to pull his shin out of the way as Nani's corner swung into the home area and the ball dribbled agonisingly over the lead with six minutes remaining.
Two minutes later United should have made sure of the points when Duff handled, only for Nani to fire the resulting spot-kick too close to Stockdale.
The miss proved costly with Hangeland making up for his earlier mistake by heading the equaliser in the final minute of normal time.