Tevez to united's rescue

Manchester United, as ever, kept going and when Carlos Tevez scored from a late corner, the shared point meant United will STAY AHEAD of Chelsea, writes Paul Wilson.

Carlos Tevez played like a drain all afternoon then handed Manchester United an almost certain 10th Premier League title with two minutes to spare. For 88 minutes, this game appeared to be setting up the mother of all twists to the season's tale. Chelsea could have gone a point above United, with two games left, by winning at Stamford Bridge on April 19, at which point the unflappable Avram Grant would probably have been crowned manager of the year.

Blackburn were worth three points for 88 minutes too, matching United in all areas and only coming under siege in the closing seconds. It was not the most convincing display by United, but, as ever, they kept going and when Tevez scored from a late corner, the shared point meant United would stay ahead of Chelsea. Recently, Sir Alex Ferguson was saying his team needed to win their next three games to win the league. It might take a little while longer now, but the odds are they will still win it.

The return of Nemanja Vidic meant United could field a full-strength side, with the exception of Edwin van der Sar, who is nursing a groin injury.

Scholes inadvertently created the first chance for Blackburn, giving the ball away to Roque Santa Cruz on the edge of his own area and obliging Tomasz Kuszczak to make an untidy save from Jason Roberts. The way Roberts tumbled brought shouts for a penalty, although the goalkeeper played the ball with his foot before his bodycheck flattened the striker.

United should have taken the lead after 11 minutes, when Wayne Rooney gave Ryan Nelsen the slip and produced an immaculate low cross from the byline, only for Tevez to fail to make any useful contact on the six-yard line in front of goal.

It was the sort of miss that looked likely to prove costly and, even though United looked capable of producing opportunities at will, they went behind 10 minutes later to the sort of goal that drives managers up the wall. Under only slight pressure from Roberts when a long throw from Morten Gamst Pedersen reached the penalty area, Vidic and Rio Ferdinand conspired to make a present of the ball to Santa Cruz, whohas not reached 20 goals for the season by passing up clear sights of the target from 12 yards out.

Like the miss from Tevez, it was not a moment in the game that was marked with the stamp of champions and, when David Bentley forced a save from Kuszczak with a dipping shot from 25 yards, it appeared Blackburn were beginning to enjoy themselves.

Rooney was denied a penalty when Rob Styles failed to notice that Steven Reid took his legs rather than the ball just before half-time, but there was no chance of anyone missing the ludicrous lunge on Christopher Samba that earned the wound-up striker a booking minutes later. United failed to fashion another chance from open play before half-time, although Cristiano Ronaldo forced a save from Brad Friedel with a header from a corner.

Nani replaced Ryan Giggs at the interval and almost immediately received the Reid treatment, the defender picking up a caution for hacking at the winger's heels. Ronaldo attempted to inject some fizz into the free-kick, but it bounced harmlessly off the wall, which is more than could be said for Ronaldo a minute later, when he bounced spectacularly, and somewhat painfully, off a surprisingly robust Pedersen.After a few more theatrical rolls than were strictly necessary, Ronaldo recovered sufficiently to crash a shot against Friedel's lefthand upright just after an hour and the goalkeeper also had to react smartly to prevent a ricochet from Nelsen crossing his line.

As the minutes ticked away, it was not all United by any means. Santa Cruz headed just over and Pedersen almost scored with a shot from a tight angle that flashed across Kuszczak and the face of goal. Rooney was furious when Nelsen caught him in the back and somehow earned Blackburn a free-kick, though the real cause of United's frustration was their inability to create anything promising in front of goal. A few crosses were aimed in the direction of Tevez and Rooney, but Samba and Nelsen easily saw them off.

Ten minutes from the end, Rooney set up Ronaldo and saw Blackburn block the shot, and when Tevez swivelled onto the loose ball, Friedel held the shot on the line at the second attempt.

When friedel denied Rooney and then John O'Shea in the final minutes, it began to look as if it might not be United's day. Then, from a corner, Scholes leapt to send a header goalwards and Tevez produced a second header to turn the ball past Friedel. Cue delirium at the Darwen End. Grant's reaction can only be guessed at, but it was probably no more than one syllable.


April 20: Aston Villa 5 (Young 28 & 63, Carew 42 & 53, Agbonlahor 78) bt Birmingham 1 (Forssell 67). Half-time: 2-0; Manchester City 3 (Vassell 11, Petrov 13, Benjani 74) bt Portsmouth 1 (Utaka 24). Half-time: 2-1; Newcastle 2 (Owen 4 & pen-45) bt Sunderland 0. Half-time: 2-0.

April 19: Arsenal 2 (Adebayor 30, Silva 38) bt Reading 0. Half-time: 2-0; Blackburn 1 (Santa Cruz 21) drew with Manchester United 1 (Tevez 88). Half-time: 1-0; Fulham 0 lost to Liverpool 2 (Pennant 17, Crouch 70). Half-time: 0-1; Middlesbrough 0 lost to Bolton 1 (McCann 61). Half-time: 0-0; West Ham 2 (Zamora 20, Cole 77) bt Derby 1 (Mears 65). Half-time: 1-0; Wigan 1 (Heskey 12) drew with Tottenham 1 (Berbatov 6). Half-time: 1-1.

April 17: Everton 0 lost to Chelsea 1 (Essien 41). Half-time: 0-1.

April 14: Chelsea 1 (Essien 55) drew with Wigan 1 (Heskey 90). Half-time: 0-0.