Manchester United hosted Southampton on Saturday at Old Trafford and a physical, back-and-forth match ensued.
Already six spots above the Red Devils in the English Premier League table when the day began, the Saints were able to score a late equalizer from defender Dejan Lovren and earn a 1-1 draw at full time.
The match featured five yellow cards and 30 combined fouls and each team peppered the goal with shots from all over the pitch. But it was Southampton who looked like the stronger side throughout and they will go home with the road draw because of it.
The EPL's official Twitter account had this post as things went final at Old Trafford:
Live Football added this tweet with an accompanying picture many United fans can relate to:
While David Moyes' outfit have had a rough start to the season, Saturday's match was the latest chance to start climbing back up the table.
But United knew they were going to be in for a tough go against Southampton, who came into the match in fourth place in the EPL table with 14 points. The Red Devils started the day with 10 points and the No. 10 position in the league.
Additionally, Southampton have been one of the strongest defensive outfits throughout the 2013-14 campaign. The Saints had not yielded a goal in their last four matches before Saturday's trip to Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie changed that.
United got themselves on the board in the 26th minute, when Wayne Rooney missed a one-on-one chance to find the back of the net past Artur Boruc. Van Persie was there to clean up his mess and the Red Devils took a 1-0 lead.
101 Great Goals had this highlight of the strike on Twitter:
Robin van Persie! (Man United) 1-0 v Southampton http://t.co/AzuNGSd32h— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) October 19, 2013
The EPL's official Twitter account added this epic photo and stat:
Not everyone was ecstatic about the goal, including English commentator Richard Keys, who felt Rooney was offside on the pass he received from Adnan Januzaj before the initial shot:
Rooney off side in the build up to Utd's goal.— Richard Keys (@richardajkeys) October 19, 2013
But the official allowed play to continue, and United had no problem with that decision. Moving toward halftime, both teams were aggressive in trying to add digits to the scoreboard, but they were unable to do so before added time ended after 45 minutes.
Paddy Power wasn't so sure the Saints could find the necessary cohesion to find an equalizer:
Good game at Old Trafford. Southampton are lively but not really threatening. A bit like Barney the Dinosaur.— Paddy Power (@paddypower) October 19, 2013
The return trip to the pitch yielded no scoring in the first part of the second half, but it did yield a number of hard challenges by various players in each lineup.
BBC's Ben Smith commented on one such situation on Twitter:
Yellow card for Adnan Januzaj for a tackle on Nathaniel Clyne. Referee Mike Jones not a popular man at Old Trafford.— Ben Smith (@BenSmithBBC) October 19, 2013
Januzaj, who earlier in the day signed a five-year contract to stay at Old Trafford, as reported by BBC Sport, wasn't able to provide the scoring spark he did in his first start for the Red Devils, but he showed effective pace and had chances to contribute.
One such chance came in the 63rd minute, when he took a pass from Michael Carrick and fired the ball at Boruc, who was able to make the save.
That shot not withstanding, the rest of the second half was all Southampton.
Pablo Osvaldo was very effective at putting himself in position to score goals; he had three strong chances to score down the stretch and showed his teammates that United's defense was vulnerable as the match wore on.
A late corner managed to showcase that theory even more.
Lovren was among those scrumming for position in the box as the ball came in, and his header past David de Gea in the 89th minute was the defining moment for the Saints, who put together another strong effort in all phases of play.
Fox Soccer Trax had this tweet with information from the equalizing moment:
Off a corner, the ball is whipped in and it looks like Lovren will get credit for that. Real mess in the box for Man U. Deserved goal.— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) October 19, 2013
Southampton had a chance to score again on shots from Osvaldo and Adam Lallana, but Mauricio Pochettino has to be happy with the outcome in a match his club played very well in.
As noted by Stan Collymore, the stats sided with Southampton:
Manchester United v Southampton. Southampton 56% posession. @talkSPORT ON AIR— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) October 19, 2013
The Saints now have 15 points in the EPL table and are on track to contend for a Champions League bid if their defense continues to stay in good form. Manchester United missed a huge opportunity to pick up three points and fell apart late at home.
The reigning EPL champs have work to do.
|United Player||Grade||Southampton Player||Grade|
|David de Gea||B+||Artur Boruc||B+|
|Patrice Evra||C+||Dejan Lovren||A-|
|Phil Jones||C-||Jose Fonte||B-|
|Jonathan Evans||B-||Luke Shaw||B|
|Wayne Rooney||D||Morgan Schneiderlin||B|
|Michael Carrick||C+||Steven Davis||C+|
|Marouane Fellaini||D||Victor Wanyama||C+|
|Adnan Januzaj||B||Adam Lallana||B|
|Robin van Persie||A-||Pablo Daniel Osvaldo||B-|
|Ryan Giggs||B+||James Ward-Prowse||A-|
|Danny Welbeck||B||Rickie Lambert||B+|
|Chris Smalling||C||Guilherme Do Prado||C+|
The Red Devils have just three days to prepare for their next match, a UEFA Champions League showdown with Real Sociedad. After that, two Premier League matches (Stoke City and Fulham) will be split by a Capital One Cup contest with Norwich City.
Southampton will return to action on Oct. 26 against Fulham. An EPL match with Stoke City also awaits the Saints before a Capital One cup clash with Sunderland on Nov. 6.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant on Twitter.