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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Southampton 1 - 2 Man Utd

Manchester United needed to draw on all their resources as they came from behind to beat Southampton and progress to the last 16 of the FA Cup.

Michael Owen hit a post with a cross before League One Saints shocked the Premier league leaders when Richard Chaplow crashed home a fierce drive.

The lead was cancelled out when Owen nodded in from close range.

And Javier Hernandez finished clinically after being put in by Ryan Giggs to complete United's comeback.

But the home side can look back with pride on a performance that boasted good football and a lot of heart.

Looking far from overawed throughout, they frequently took the game to the visitors, but it was Saints' lack of a cutting edge and United's superior finishing that proved the difference in the end.

From the start Southampton played with belief, perhaps sensing that there could be gaps in United's unfamiliar defensive line-up - none of their regular back five were even in the squad.

But the League One side's early endeavours brought only two well-struck but off-target free-kicks and a snap shot from Rickie Lambert.

With the game crying out for width, the home fans roared on winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whenever he touched the ball, but he was unable to show why he is a £10m target for Liverpool and Arsenal.

At the other end, a disjointed United almost scored a goal that was in keeping with their scruffy performance as Owen launched a cross from the right that drifted over goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski and came back off the inside of a post.

Owen, who also fizzed a shot wide, and striker partner Javier Hernandez barely threatened in the first half as the visitors lacked inspiration in every position.

Southampton created a good opening when Danny Butterfield picked out Guilherme do Prado with a right-wing cross but the Brazilian got underneath the ball and headed off target.

Still, Saints looked the likeliest to make the breakthrough, and it came when Jonny Evans could only half-clear a long ball and Chaplow took full advantage.

The midfielder used his thigh to nudge the ball into space and then rifled a rising drive into the top corner to leave United's debutant keeper Anders Lindegaard with no chance.

The Red Devils continued to toil after the restart, forcing two corners in quick succession but unable to make the count.

The hosts maintained their discipline and shape, even threatening to grab a second goal on the break - left-back Dan Harding made a scintillating run, skipping past a few challenges before prodding a right-footed shot that did not match his build-up.

Sensing an upset, perhaps, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson sent on Nani and Giggs for the ineffective Darron Gibson and Anderson.

It almost had an immediate impact as Nani crossed from the left and Owen toe-poked over at the near post.

And within five minutes of the change United were level. Gabriel Obertan tuned his marker inside out and delivered a cross from the right that hit Hernandez and sat up perfectly for Owen to nod home.

Yet United failed to kick on dominate as might have been expected and Southampton showed great resilience to come back at them.

Lee Barnard swung at Chaplow's cutback and missed completely and then was just too far away to connect with Harding's flashing ball across the face of goal.

But then Ferguson's men caught Saints with a sucker punch as substitute Giggs intercepted a Ryan Dickson pass and played in Hernandez, who slotted in what proved to be the winner.

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