Crystal Palace 2, Manchester United 3: Groundhog Day for Eagles as United comeback sees precious points slip away

Ross McLean
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Nemanja Matic's late strike was his first for Manchester United (Source: Getty)

Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson bemoaned a “Groundhog Day moment” as his side suffered late heartbreak for the second successive Premier League match as Manchester United completed a stunning comeback in stoppage-time.

Victory beckoned for the relegation-threatened Eagles following strikes from Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt, only for Chris Smalling, Romelu Lukaku and then a last-gasp Nemanja Matic blockbuster to turn the tide.

While two goals to the good, Palace were as high as 13th in the table, although their second-half collapse left them in the relegation zone, a point adrift of Southampton and safety.

“It’s been a Groundhog Day moment,” said Hodgson. “We once again go away with no points like the game against Tottenham [on 25 February] and I thought we deserved something.

“I was expecting to come away with one point but once again it is nothing and I feel devastated for the players. If we had drawn the game, I don’t think anyone, Jose [Mourinho] included, would have said it was a scandal.”

Victory saw United overtake Liverpool and reclaim second place, while the Old Trafford club are now nine points clear of Chelsea in fifth.

“We want to finish second, but it is huge pressure for us to finish in the top four,” said United manager Jose Mourinho. “Now we have a little pillow. Even a point would have been good for us after being 2-0 behind.”

Palace had failed to win any of their previous 17 Premier League fixtures against United, scoring only five goals during that run, but set about rectifying that statistic with an 11th-minute opener.

Striker Christian Benteke was the provider, locating Townsend on the edge of the penalty area and the former Tottenham winger’s first-time effort took a huge deflection off the unfortunate Victor Lindelof and found the top corner.

The Eagles doubled their lead moments after the restart as Van Aanholt hared onto a quickly-taken Jeffrey Schlupp free-kick, advanced on goal and lashed clinically beyond helpless United goalkeeper David de Gea.

United’s response, however, was rapid and Smalling evaded the attentions of a statuesque Palace defence and planted a 55th-minute header past static stopper Wayne Hennessey from Antonio Valencia’s cross.

The visitors levelled inside the final quarter of an hour as Lukaku drilled low into the bottom corner after Alexis Sanchez’s shot had looped off James Tomkins and struck the Palace crossbar.

De Gea repelled a Benteke header with an impressive one-handed save, laying the foundations for Matic to snatch maximum points with a dipping 25-yard effort in stoppage-time which veered away from Hennessey.

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