West Ham 1-1 Manchester United: Blind levels late

United manager Louis van Gaal congratulates goalscorer Daley Blind after the game. Picture: AFP

United manager Louis van Gaal congratulates goalscorer Daley Blind after the game. Picture: AFP

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WEST HAM were denied a first Premier League win over Manchester United in seven years and 13 attempts by Daley Blind’s stoppage-time strike.

The Hammers had looked like enhancing their European hopes and denting United’s bid for Champions League football when makeshift defender Cheikhou Kouyate twice juggled the ball before, with his third touch, hitting a superb volley on the turn into the net.

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Radamel Falcao missed a glorious opportunity to equalise 14 minutes from time, but Blind popped up to score late on and earn a 1-1 draw for the visitors, who finished the game with ten men after Luke Shaw was sent off for two bookable offences.

Wayne Rooney, Falcao, Angel di Maria, Adnan Januzaj and Robin van Persie all started for United against an injury-depleted West Ham, who deployed midfielder Kouyate in central defence. The fact goalkeeper David de Gea was the away team’s best player after 30 minutes, saving twice from Enner Valencia, told how Louis van Gaal’s expensively assembled side struggled to assert themselves.

Kouyate’s deflected strike, after Rooney’s poor header, sparked United into life, but they had not won away from home after conceding first since December 2013, and not at all under Van Gaal.

But they avoided following Liverpool and Manchester City in leaving Upton Park defeated this term as Blind swept the ball into the net when Carl Jenkinson, on his 23rd birthday, failed to clear Marcos Rojo’s lofted ball into the box.

It was harsh on West Ham but extended United’s unbeaten away run in the Premier League to seven games.

Juan Mata was the odd man out as Van Gaal made five changes, while Kouyate might have felt uncomfortable at the back on his return from the African Nations Cup and injury.

Alex Song’s hospital pass towards Kouyate almost gifted the visitors an opener inside five minutes. Van Persie intercepted, but could not control the ball.

The hosts then benefited from a poor defensive decision as Rojo failed to head clear Song’s lofted pass and Valencia struck a swerving effort from 25 yards which De Gea saved.

The goalkeeper denied the West Ham striker with a more acrobatic save from the resulting corner after James Tomkins had won the ball.

West Ham’s pace troubled United when Rojo miscontrolled a pass, lost out to Valencia and clattered Mark Noble.

Referee Mark Clattenburg played advantage, but Diafra Sakho’s cross was poor.

A yellow card for Rojo followed, but only after Di Maria had an effort from 25 yards saved by Adrian.

West Ham took the lead four minutes into the second period when United’s defensive flaws were exposed.

Rooney failed to clear Noble’s free-kick and the ball fell to Kouyate, who was being marked by the United captain. The Senegal midfielder-turned-defender pulled the ball down with his back to goal, took a second touch to steady himself – all the while with the ball in the air – and then struck a fierce finish through the crowded six-yard box, helped by a deflection.

The strike seemed to awaken United from their slumber, with Falcao firing wide from 25 yards and Van Persie volleying at Adrian.

The hosts might have had a second, however De Gea saved from Noble and Kevin Nolan in quick succession and substitute Matt Jarvis could only head off target.

Marouane Fellaini, on for Januzaj, caused havoc and Blind’s goal came when Rojo hopefully lofted the ball into the area and Jenkinson’s weak header fell for the Dutchman to fire low into the corner.

There was only time for Shaw to be sent off for a second bookable offence after he caught Stewart Downing out wide as the Hammers were denied.

Noble admitted that the draw “felt like a loss”. “It just shows how far we have come that we’re gutted we drew with Manchester United at home, with some world-class players out there today,” he said.

“I thought in many ways we were the better team and we just couldn’t hold out until then end.”

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce echoed Noble’s view that the east Londoners were unfortunate not to win the game and appeared to take a slight dig at United’s style of play.

“The lads are absolutely gutted in there and so they should be,” he said.

“I think it was an absolutely fantastic performance and, from the point of view of where we were just towards the end [of the match], I thought we were going to make sure we saw it through and, unfortunately for us, it was not to be.”

Allardyce added: “I suppose in the end we couldn’t cope with long-ball United. It was just, ‘thump it forward and see what they could get’ and in the end it paid off for them.”

United manager Van Gaal criticised his side’s first-half display, but praised his players’ determination to salvage something from the match.

He said: “We played very badly in the first half and we showed a lot of spirit in the second half, especially after the [West Ham] goal in the beginning – we gave that goal away I think.

“And then we played football after the goal, but you have to do it from the first minute. But I have to say what a spirit my team showed after going 1-0 behind.”

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