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Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012

United salvages point with furious fightback


LONDON — Three goals down after 50 minutes at Chelsea, Manchester United produced a trademark comeback to draw 3-3 on Sunday and stay within reach of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

News photo
Get a leg up: Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa attempts to kick the ball in front of Manchester United's Antonio Valencia on Sunday in London. The match ended in a 3-3 draw. AP

But even though a point had appeared an unlikely prospect early in the second half, manager Alex Ferguson was still aggrieved.

"It's two dropped points because we played so well," Ferguson said. "Apart from a period of 10 minutes after halftime when we got off to a terrible start and lost two goals, I thought we were the far better team.

"It's not easy coming back from 3-0 and it was a massive effort from our players."

United had inadvertently given Chelsea the lead when Jonny Evans turned the ball into his own net in the first half, and Juan Mata and David Luiz found the net at the start of the second half.

"A lot of teams would have found it easy to put their heads down and accept defeat," Wayne Rooney said. "But we never put our heads down."

The fixture between England's two most successful sides of recent years was marred by some Chelsea fans jeering every touch of United defender Rio Ferdinand, who is black. Chelsea captain John Terry, who was sidelined through injury, is facing a trial for allegedly racially abusing Ferdinand's brother, Queens Park Rangers defender Anton, during a match in October.

"Rio, Rio what's the score?" some Chelsea fans chanted after their third goal came off Rio Ferdinand before going into the net.

"You don't expect opposing fans to cheer your players," Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas told reporters. "This is a normal situation in the Premiership. You have to condemn it when there is discriminatory, aggressive behavior . . . If you want to give importance to situations like this, it's up to you."

Responding later on Twitter to the booing, Ferdinand said: "Well done guys thanks for inspiring me & the lads! That's like fuel to me!"

Evans inadvertently put Chelsea in front in the 36th minute. After racing past Patrice Evra on the right flank, Daniel Sturridge's chipped cross hit United goalkeeper David de Gea's boot and rebounded off Evans' chest into his goal.

De Gea has looked shaky since arriving in the offseason, but was not culpable for Chelsea surging further in front after the break.

After 25 seconds, Mata powered a first-time volley into the net after meeting Fernando Torres' pinpoint cross from the right.

Mata turned provider five minutes later. A free kick from the Spain winger skimmed off Luiz's head and came off Ferdinand's shoulder before landing in the net.

The Blues were cruising — but not for long. The reversal of fortunes came following Hernandez replacing Ashley Young and two penalty decisions.

Syria stuns Japan


AMMAN — Japan hit a roadblock on its path to the London Olympics as Takashi Sekizuka's side lost 2-1 to Syria on Sunday, dropping to second in Group C of the Asian zone.

The young Blue Samurai thought they had escaped with a point after Kensuke Nagai equalized in first-half stoppage time, canceling Mohammed Fares' goal.

Syria, though, had saved the best for last as defender Ahmad Al Salih won it on the stroke of the 90th minute with an awesome effort from midfield.

"It's obviously hugely disappointing," Sekizuka said. "I thought both teams did very little in the first half and that the game would come down to the second half — and it did."

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