It looked for all the world as though Manchester United would claim the points against Cardiff City. Goals from Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra had given them a 2-1 lead in the first half, a lead that the defending champions held through most of the second. But the Bluebirds simply wouldn't give up, and pounced at the death through Bo-Kyung Kim to secure a well-earned 2-2 draw.
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The opening spell turned out to revolve around Rooney. Cardiff City started brightly, and could have gone ahead through Jordon Mutch when the big midfielder got on the end of a free kick only to direct his header straight at David de Gea. Minutes later, Neil Swarbrick decided that Rooney's decision to assault Mutch on the United left was worthy of no more than a booking.
The hosts were rightly angry, and that anger turned to utter fury when the inevitable happened and Rooney grabbed the game's first goal. Ben Turner gave away possession as Cardiff tried to play out of defence, leaving Antonio Valencia on the ball and driving towards goal. Steven Caulker was left to deal with both Rooney and Javier Hernandez, which didn't turn out very well for the former Tottenham Hotspur man. Chicharito flicked on for his strike partner, and after taking what looked like one touch too many Rooney's shot found the net via a deflection off Gary Medel.
Cardiff had another close shave a little while latter when Marouane Fellaini got onto the end of an Adnan Januzaj free kick -- David Marshall did well to save at his far post -- but they managed to get back into the game just after the half hour mark. Medel gave Mutch the run on Tom Cleverley with a smart pass through the centre, and two touches later Frazier Campbell was in behind Jonny Evans to finish off the move with a well-taken shot.
Just when it was looking as though we'd head to halftime all square, United struck again. Patrice Evra's become a huge threat on set pieces, but apparently nobody explained that to Medel. The Chilean let his man make a diagonal run to the near post, and Evra glanced a fine header over Don Cowie on the line to give the visitors a vital 2-1 lead.
The two sides exchanged chances after the break. Marshall was forced into a fine save after Fellaini once again got his head to a free kick, but Cardiff came closer when Campbell's audacious lob (he probably should have passed to Mutch, mind you) left de Gea helpless only to cannon back off the crossbar.
Time was ticking down, and the hosts needed a goal. They very nearly got it when Andrew Taylor floated in a cross for Campbell at the far post. The striker beat Evra to the ball and nodded back over de Gea, but with Kim lurking dangerously, Rio Ferdinand was on home to hammer clear. The effort cost Cambell, who stayed down as United counterattack, and the goalscorer was then replaced by Andreas Cornelius.
That could have been the end of Cardiff. It wasn't. In the 89th minute Craig Noone won a free kick after a rash tackle by Chris Smalling, and after a false start as Swarbrick chastised both teams for pushing and pulling into the box, Peter Whittingham's delivery came swooping into the six-yard box. Evra failed to track Kim's run, and the substitute's header fizzed past de Gea to bring the hosts back to level pegging.
Rooney had a chance to immediately restore United's lead when through on Marshall's goal, but rather than shooting he tried to set up Danny Welbeck for an open goal and made an awful mess of it, allowing the goalkeeper to gather. Then, with time running out, Smalling slashed a loose ball wide. That was to be the last action of the match -- Cardiff will be thrilled with the point, but David Moyes and company will surely be left ruing the missed opportunity.
Cardiff City starting lineup (4-4-2): David Marshall; Andrew Taylor, Ben Turner, Steven Caulker, Kevin Theophile-Catherine; Peter Whittingham, Jordon Mutch , Gary Medel, Don Cowie; Frazier Campbell (Andreas Cornelius 85'), Peter Odemwingie (Craig Noone 65').
Goals: Campbell 33', Kim 90'.
Manchester United starting lineup (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling; Tom Cleverley, Marouane Fellaini; Adnan Januzaj (Danny Welbeck 68'), Wayne Rooney, Antionio Valencia; Javier Hernandez (Ryan Giggs 73').
Goals: Rooney 15', Evra 45'.