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23 Aug 2010

Brede Hangeland made amends for an own goal with a late header to rescue a point for Fulham and spoil Manchester United's 100% start to the season.

Paul Scholes's 25-yard drive put United ahead but Simon Davies' 12-yard finish deservedly drew the home side level.

Hangeland diverted a corner into his own net to give the lead to United, for whom Nani saw a penalty saved by David Stockdale minutes later.

Hangeland rose to head in from a corner to give his side a share of the spoils.

It was the least Fulham deserved for their contribution to a match that had seen them denied possession for large periods but give as good as they got against in-form opponents.

The Cottagers may have changed manager since last season, but Roy Hodgson's replacement, Mark Hughes, will be pleased to see that much of what made Fulham such a tough opponent under his predecessor remains.

No better is this illustrated than in their determination and ability to battle back into the game not only once but twice, when lesser teams would have wilted, especially after such a seemingly decisive late blow as Hangeland's own goal.

That their keeper Stockdale also saved a penalty - diving to his right to palm away substitute Nani's effort after Damien Duff was adjudged to have handled in the box when the ball struck his knee and then arm - between the final two goals of the game serves only to enhance this durable quality.

Such late drama was unforeseeable after the opening 10 minutes, which the away side completely dominated and deservedly led through Scholes's superb low drive - his 150th goal during a career spent entirely with United.

Two seasons ago Scholes was sent off at Craven Cottage in a 2-0 United defeat, the first of two on the ground for the Red Devils in 2009, but he more than made up for this indiscretion with another strong performance on Sunday.

The midfielder was always available, always neat and continually central to his side's patient, progressive and polished play.

The other key figure in United's first goal - Dimitar Berbatov, who teed Scholes up - was also heavily involved throughout the game, shouldering much of the senior attacking responsibility in the absence of the ill Wayne Rooney.

An often maligned figure during his time at Old Trafford, Berbatov has been accused of not scoring often enough, and while he opened his account early this campaign with a goal in the 3-0 opening win over Newcastle, here he was wasteful.

He was presented with half a dozen goalscoring opportunities, and despite testing Stockdale with the majority of them, he should have done better.

But the same could be said of many of Fulham's attacking players.

But for greater accuracy in their own shooting, and the superb intervention of their former goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar - who rescued his current employers United by firstly blocking from Dickson Etuhu and then somehow tipped the midfielder's follow-up effort over the bar - they would have gone into the break level.

A quarter of an hour into the second half the home side were level as Duff robbed Patrice Evra and fed Bobby Zamora down the right, whose pull-back was fired home by the onrushing Davies.

Both sides continued to press for the advantage: Nani flicked the top of the net with a free-kick from the left and Nemanja Vidic headed wide from a corner for United, while Zamora miscued an effort past the far post from a tight angle after being found by Paul Konchesky's flighted free-kick.

It was no surprise that further goals came, only that they were both from the same source.

Central defender Hangeland can consider himself unlucky to see a corner ricochet off his shin and fly in after 84 minutes.

But he can be equally proud of his response at the other end, rising to head home from a corner to give his side a thoroughly warranted equaliser - made possible by Stockdale's spot-kick save.

Dropping two points, even though early in the season, is a blow to United, with reigning champions and title-rivals Chelsea having hit six goals for the second successive game on Saturday to leave them as the only side with maximum points.


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