It was a tale of two halves for Manchester United as they battled back from two goals down to snatch a last-gasp 3-2 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Monday.
- Crystal Palace 2 Manchester United 3
- Townsend gives Palace an early lead
- Van Aanholt doubles their advantage
- Smalling reduces deficit soon afterwards
- Lukaku equalises, Matic scores late winner
The first half belonged to Roy Hodgson’s side, who got off to a flying start when Andros Townsend opened the scoring on 11 minutes, before Patrick van Aanholt doubled their advantage shortly after the restart.
However, United finally started to play as Chris Smalling pulled one back early in the second half and Romelu Lukaku levelled matters to set up an exciting finish, which was capped off by Nemanja Matic’s late winner.
Palace made a bright start as they put the visitors under pressure early on, with James Tomkins hooking an acrobatic effort just wide of the right post on five minutes after Alexander Sorloth flicked on a corner at the near post.
Wayne Hennessey was called into action moments later when he made himself big to stop Alexis Sanchez’s header at close range from Jesse Lingard’s cross on the right.
It proved crucial as the south Londoners broke the deadlock in the 11th minute. Christian Benteke collected the ball on the left and moved inside before squaring to Townsend, whose first-time shot from 19 yards out took a deflection off Victor Lindelof on its way into the top-right corner of the net.
Sorloth threatened again for the hosts seven minutes later when he muscled Nemanja Matic off the ball and advanced towards goal before testing David De Gea with a low strike from 19 yards out.
A weak clearance from the United defence presented Townsend with another sniff at goal on 27 minutes as he brought the ball under control and fired over the crossbar from 25 yards out.
The Red Devils were struggling to make things happen in the final third, with Paul Pogba and Sanchez both guilty of giving the ball away on numerous occasions.
Lingard looked to take matters into his own hands five minutes before half-time as he attempted to beat Hennessey at his near post with a drilled shot from 19 yards out that went to the left of the goal.
Palace were deserving of their 1-0 lead at the break and their night got even better with a second goal three minutes into the second half. Quick thinking from Jeffrey Schlupp saw him release Van Aanholt with a quickly-taken free-kick and the Dutchman lashed a shot past De Gea at his near post from 12 yards out.
United suddenly woke up largely thanks to Marcus Rashford’s introduction at the interval and Pogba drew a routine save out of Hennessey with a powerful strike from distance on 50 minutes, before Smalling steered a header wide at the far post under pressure from Tomkins at a 53rd-minute corner.
They hit back just two minutes later as Smalling picked out the bottom-right corner of the net with a header across Hennessey from Antonio Valencia’s clipped cross to the back post.
De Gea had to be alert soon afterwards when he tipped over Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s cross-shot from the right that almost sneaked in the far corner of the goal, while Benteke got up well at the back post from Van Aanholt’s left-wing cross on 66 minutes that he headed wide.
Hennessey pulled off a good save to parry away Pogba’s placed shot from the edge of the box as the action quickly switched to the other end, before Benteke cleared Matic’s angled strike from the left off the line on 73 minutes.
The pressure finally told three minutes later as the Red Devils restored parity. Juan Mata played in Sanchez on the left and the Chilean shifted the ball to the right before seeing his deflected shot hit the bar, but Lukaku collected the rebound and showed great composure to fire through a crowd of bodies via a slight touch off Wan-Bissaka.
De Gea came to United’s rescue within seconds as he palmed away Benteke’s downward header from Townsend’s cross on the right. It was another fine save from the Spaniard, but Matic produced something even more special in stoppage time as he latched onto a defensive clearance and volleyed into the bottom-left corner of the net from 25 yards out.