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Match Reports

Report: Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United

14 December 2016

Zlatan Ibrahimovic struck three minutes from time to snatch a late win for Manchester United, with Palace fully deserving of the point they held until the final stages.

The Swede scored a sublime winner to clinch the win, but Palace showed plenty of heart to recover from a controversial opener from Paul Pogba to draw level when James McArthur continued his goalscoring start to the season, but in echoes of the Manchester City defeat last month, Alan Pardew’s side men couldn’t quite cling on.

Eyeing the chance to equal Manchester United’s all-time goalscoring record, Wayne Rooney started sharply and headed over a Juan Mata cross from the right in the first couple of minutes, and soon after Pogba tried a blast from 30 yards but saw it fizz over the crossbar.

But after that early pressure, Palace contained their opponents for the majority of the first 45 minutes, with the new French midfield pairing of Mathieu Flamini and Yohan Cabaye soaking up any danger in the middle of the park, and even when United did manage to break through they found Wayne Hennessey at his best, and he did well to thwart Rooney on 35 minutes after the England striker managed to get away a first-time shot on the turn after a delightful pass over the top by Pogba.

The Welshman then produced an ever better stop five minutes after that when a similar pass by Ander Herrera managed to pick out the world’s most expensive player on the edge of the box, and his drilled, low volley was blocked by Hennessey once again.

But just as the Eagles looked to be heading into the interval level, the visitors took the lead in controversial fashion in the half’s final seconds. After winning a free-kick on the left side 30 yards from goal, Matta clipped it into the area where Ibrahimovic, with a hint of handball, used his torso to nudge the ball onto Pogba, who despite being slightly offside was allowed to continue his celebrations after he poked it past Hennessey from close-range.

Falling behind prompted Pardew into a change and Joe Ledley came on for Flamini, and seconds into the half he hammered a shot goalwards from range and saw it flash just wide, and on 62 minutes David de Gea was called into action for the first time when McArthur picked the ball up in a central area, drove forward and pinged a shot that was heading for the top corner, but the Spanish goalkeeper made yet another superb save to add his ever-growing collection as he pushed it into the Holmesdale End.

But on 65 minutes the got the goal they deserved, albeit in unlikely fashion. Joel Ward received the ball on the left and jinked past a couple of players, before finding Damien Delaney inside the D. He produced an outrageous backheel that Ibrahimovic or Pogba would have been proud of to flick the ball into the onrushing McArthur, who coolly tucked it past de Gea to score his fifth Palace goal of the season.

Selhurst was rocking, and riding their luck the Eagles got away with some strong penalty appeals when Ledley accidently prevented Marcos Rojo from heading the ball in the box with an arm, and then it was United’s turn to feel further aggrieved when Mata saw a goal chalked off for offside when the Argentinian defender rose highest again to nod the ball down into his path.

Meanwhile Hennessey continued to excel in goal and he tipped away a curler from the edge of the box by Rooney before Jesse Lingard attempted to give Palace more heartache when he linked up with Ibrahimovic but saw his snapshot saved by the legs of the hosts’ keeper.

However the resistance finally ended with three minutes to go as the Red Devils snatched the win. Once again it was Pogba and Ibrahimovic who combined, but in superb fashion with the Frenchman shrugging off Cabaye before playing a perfect no-look pass into the path of the Swedish attacker, who despite a tight angle managed to steer the ball past Hennessey and steal all the points for Jose Mourinho’s side.

Palace: Hennessey, Kelly, Delaney, Dann, Ward, Flamini (Ledley 46), Cabaye, Lee (Fryers 80), McArthur (Campbell 87), Zaha, C. Benteke. Subs not used: Speroni, Husin, Wan-Bissaka, Townsend.

Manchester Utd: De Gea, Bailly (Darmian 52), Rojo, Jones, Blind, Herrera, Pogba, Carrick, Mata (Lingard 72), Rooney (Rashford 80), Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: Romero, Schneiderlin, Fellaini, Young.

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