Bo-Kyung Kim came off the bench to lead Cardiff City with a dramatic injury-time equalizer to rescue a 2-2 draw in a match dominated, one way or another, by Wayne Rooney.
Rooney should have been sent off in the opening 10 minutes for a wild kick out at Jordan Mutch before going on to get the opening goal, and then set-up United’s second for Patrice Evra from a corner. In between, former United striker Fraizer Campbell had deservedly pulled Cardiff level. But, after Campbell had struck the cross bar after the break, the home side appeared to be heading to a harsh defeat. Instead, Kim headed in Peter Whittingham’s free-kick in the first minute of injury time to send the Cardiff City Stadium into raptures. Rooney’s eventful afternoon was complete when he spurned a glorious chance in the dying seconds to secure the three points.
It was no more than Cardiff warranted on the balance of the game. Despite their recent good form, David Moyes’s side were again far from convincing with the quality of their play. The absences through injury of Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick were certainly felt, with United lacking fluidity and creating precious little from the start. Cardiff, who never lacked for endeavor, also struggled to create openings, but Whittingham’s fine set-piece deliveries proved pivotal.
The game’s most controversial and pivotal moment came just eight minutes in. Frustrated at being blocked out chasing a ball down the touchline, Rooney launched a kick into the back of Jordon Mutch’s legs in a manner remarkably similar to his sending off in a Euro 20102 qualifier for England in Montenegro. On this occasion, though, referee Neil Swarbrick incredibly produced just a yellow.
Cardiff had every right to feel aggrieved at that decision and even more so when Rooney grabbed the opening goal seven minutes later. Cardiff defender Ben Turner’s pass went straight to Valencia, whose low cross to the edge of the box was flicked on by Javier Hernandez and Rooney composed himself before firing a shot that deflected in off of Gary Medel.
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Cardiff reacted well to going behind and were causing United increasing problems before they got a deserved equalizer after 33 minutes. In contrast to some of their more direct play, it was an fine incisive move that got them back on level terms. Mutch found himself in space between United’s midfield and defense and played an inch-perfect through ball to catch out Jonny Evans and leave Campbell to produce a cool finish past David de Gea.
The home side continued to impress, but were undone just two minutes before the break courtesy of some sloppy marking and with Rooney’s continued presence on the pitch again proving crucial. Rooney’s corner saw Evra escape the attentions of Medel and head past David Marshall for his first goal of the campaign.
Cardiff continued to struggle to deal with set-pieces and, if not for Marshall, would have found themselves further behind at the start of the second half. The Cardiff keeper did well to deny Marouane Fellaini before, from the resulting corner, blocking a header from Chris Smalling.
Outside of set-pieces, there was little threat from United. Their passing and movement going forward lacked cohesion. Tom Cleverley, part of a midfield duo with Fellaini that, in the absence of Carrick, struggled to impose himself on the game, was almost culpable in gifting Cardiff a second equalizer. Deep inside his own half, a pass from the midfielder went straight to Campbell, who went through to the edge of the box before trying a delicate chip that had De Gea beaten, but came back off the crossbar.
Danny Welbeck’s introduction for the anonymous Hernandez gave United more of a cutting edge. He perhaps should have secured United the three points, though, after his finish failed to match the quality of a one-two between he and Rooney than preceded it.
Still, Cardiff were doing little to suggest they could pull level once more. Instead, for the second time this season, United would concede an injury-time equalizer from a set-piece. From the intial free-kick, Cardiff followed United in escaping a sending off when Medel slapped Fellaini in the penalty box melee. From the retake, Whittingham put in a fine near-post delivery and Evra, who profited from poor marking for his goal, was the culprit in allowing Kim to run off him and head into the net.
Incredibly, United could and should have still emerged with a win. Rooney was clean through on goal after a long pass over the Cardiff defense, and while there was nothing wrong with his decision to try and lay the ball off for Welbeck, he got the execution all wrong and it rolled harmlessly into the grateful arms of Marshall.
The two dropped points cost United the chance to move into the top four, and instead they sit in sixth spot, seven points off the top.