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Rooney equalizes but Middlesbrough holds Manchester United 2-2

Rooney equalizes but Middlesbrough holds Manchester United 2-2

Wayne Rooney scored an equalizer and Manchester United hit back for a 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough on Sunday which cut its standings lead to three points.
After second-place Chelsea's 2-0 victory at Manchester City on Saturday, the Red Devils needed to win at the Riverside and took a 10th-minute lead through Cristiano Ronaldo. It was his 37th goal of the season in all competitions.
But Afonso Alves struck twice for his first goals for Boro only for Rooney to deny the home side an upset victory with a 74th-minute goal. The result means United has a three-point lead over Chelsea and six over third-place Arsenal, which drew 1-1 at home to fourth place Liverpool. United hosts Arsenal next Sunday.
"I've said for a while the most consistent team would win and we have to maintain that consistency that we've shown these last few weeks," said United manager Alex Ferguson. "We've got a point today from what I look upon as a difficult fixture. There were periods when I thought we were going to win it but, in the context of the whole game I thought it was a fair result.
"I thought it was a fantastic game of football, the pace of the game was terrific and you've got to give credit to our opponents. If we had scored a second goal (at 1-0) I think we would have gone on to win it."
The game kicked off ahead of Sunday's other Premier League match between Everton and relegated Derby. Also Sunday, League Championship sides Barnsley and Cardiff met at Wembley for a place in the May 17 FA Cup final against Portsmouth, which edged West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in Saturday's semifinal.
In a thrilling, high-quality game with snow falling at the Riverside, the score could easily have been 2-2 by halftime.
After Ronaldo's 30-meter (yard) free kick had been deflected over the bar, Boro failed to clear the corner and Michael Carrick found the winger unmarked with a low cross from the left. Ronaldo struck the ball first time into the roof of the net with his left foot from 12 meters for his 27th league goal.
Ronaldo almost made it 2-0 in the 30th when he dribbled past four Boro defenders and only had goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer to beat but shot well wide of near post. United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar then blocked a powerful 30-meter free kick from Alves before the Brazilian equalized in the 35th minute.
Gary O'Neil's long ball was flicked on by Jeremie Aliadiere and found Alves clear of the United defense and he slid it past Van der Sar for the first league goal conceded by United in six games.
United claimed a penalty when a powerful 20-meter (yard) shot from Ronaldo struck Andrew Taylor on the arm but referee Mike Riley turned it down.
Boro almost added a second in the 40th when a cross found Stewart Downing totally unmarked and Van der Sar raced off his line to block the winger's close range shot.
The home side went ahead in the 55th when Aliadiere won the ball in the air and Alves controlled it to run clear of the defense and slide it past Van der Sar.
The Brazilian, signed from Dutch club Heerenveen during the January transfer window, almost added a third three minutes later when Aliadiere again won the ball in air but Alves' close range effort was blocked by Rio Ferdinand.
Already without Nemanja Vidic for three weeks with a knee injury, United lost his central defensive partner Ferdinand with an ankle problem only three days before it defends a 2-0 Champions League lead over AS Roma in the Champions League.
But the Red Devils struck back to equalize 16 minutes from the end.
Substitute Park Ji-sung set up the chance with a break down the right, turning inside Taylor and crossing for Rooney to stab the ball home from 10 meters.
Saturday's other results were Aston Villa 4, Bolton 0; Blackburn 1, Tottenham 1; Fulham 1, Sunderland 3; Newcastle 3, Reading 0; Wigan 2, Birmingham 0.