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27 Sep 2010

Manchester United failed to capitalise on a defeat for Premier League leaders Chelsea as a Michael Owen goal rescued a draw for them at resolute Bolton.

The home side went ahead when defender Zat Knight flicked in a corner only for Nani to end a powerful run with an angled strike to equalise.

Martin Petrov restored Bolton's lead when he cut inside and had a shot deflected in off Darren Fletcher.

Substitute Owen then glanced in a Nani free-kick to earn a point for United.

The draw will have annoyed United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who had emphasised his side's need to close the gap at the top of the table to a single point following Chelsea's loss at Manchester City 24 hours earlier.

Phelan expects 'nip and tuck season'

And with the Red Devils having registered 10 wins from the last 11 games against Bolton, the visitors might have been confident of victory.

However, as with so many of the underdogs over the weekend, Bolton upset their more illustrious opponents, while the defensive frailties which have undermined United's season so far were again exposed.

The visitors went behind early on when Knight beat United centre-back Jonny Evans to a corner and glanced in a shot.

Bolton's work ethic in closing down and pressing United unsettled their north west opponents but the visitors still carried a threat on goal.

An unmarked Ryan Giggs shot straight at Bolton keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, who also dived low to his right to keep out a Fletcher strike.

Bolton boss Owen Coyle is working on trying to create more of a passing side but the Trotters still have much of the physical presence of past years.

Powerful striker Kevin Davies is central to a more direct style and he produced a flick-on that Johan Elmander was close to diverting past keeper Edwin Van der Sar.

Bolton centre-back Sam Ricketts produced a surging run from defence and had a 22-yard shot saved before United winger Nani produced a similar solo burst on the home goal but, in contrast, finished with an angled shot from 18 yards.

The alert Knight had to clear a Nani cross with Wayne Rooney set for a tap in as the visitors slowly turned up the pressure on the Bolton defence.

Rooney, who was booed by the home fans on his first away appearance since allegations about his private life emerged, fizzed a 22-yard shot over as he tried to add to his one goal for United so far this season.

Ferguson has been concerned at the impact of the media spotlight on a striker who cut a forlorn figure for the most part and his involvement ended on 61 minutes as he was replaced by Federico Macheda.

Macheda instantly played a one-two with the in-form Berbatov, who had a stinging shot blocked away by Jaaskelainen.

United's desire to get forward left them susceptible to the counter-attack and Bolton showed the ability to capitalise.

Petrov cut inside Park Ji-Sung and drove in a shot which was deflected past Van der Sar by Fletcher.

United centre-back Rio Ferdinand was not included in the visitors's squad for the match and watched from the stands as events almost got even better for Bolton.

The hard-working Elmander cleverly flicked the ball past Nemanja Vidic only to blaze a shot horribly over.

The miss was quickly punished as Owen glanced in a Nani free-kick as an absorbing game finished with the spoils shared and United still searching for their first away win in the league this season.


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