West Brom 1-1 Man Utd: Bruno Fernandes scores stunning volley

Bruno Fernandes goal

Bruno Fernandes’ stunning volley salvaged a point for Manchester United at struggling West Brom, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side lost further ground in the Premier League title race.

United moved back above Leicester in second place, but are now seven points behind leaders Manchester City, who also have a game in hand.

The Baggies took a shock lead after just 83 seconds as on-loan striker Mbaye Diagne outmuscled Victor Lindelof to head in from Conor Gallagher’s cross.

United were finding it difficult to make inroads in a lacklustre opening period until Fernandes hooked Luke Shaw’s cross into the top corner with his weaker left foot.

The visitors improved in the second half, Mason Greenwood testing Sam Johnstone with a low strike and Scott McTominay seeing his follow up cleared off the line.

With time running out, skipper Harry Maguire leapt to send his header towards the top corner, but Johnstone tipped the effort against the post to deny United an injury-time winner.

Sam Allardyce’s side could have won it themselves late on, but Diagne struck his effort over the crossbar from six yards out.

Though they claimed a draw, West Brom remain in deep trouble at the wrong end of the table, second from bottom and 12 points from safety.

Defensive issues to deal with for Solskjaer

A poor start from United proved costly, they had won eight games on the road having fallen behind this season, but on this occasion were not able to find a second goal to seal the three points.

Solskjaer’s side extended their unbeaten away run in the league to 19 games but that will be of little consolation as they dropped points against a team staring at relegation, just as they did against Sheffield United in late January.

United’s last title triumph came in 2012-13, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in-charge at The Hawthorns, but the prospect of number 21 in 2021 looks to be fading.

They conceded within two minutes courtesy of Diagne getting ahead of Lindelof to the ball, but the often-criticised Swede should have been stronger and reacted quicker.

De Gea, who conceded poor goals against Everton last time out, was hesitant too and could have come off his line for a ball which was lobbed to the edge of the six yard box.

On a day when defensive target Dayot Upamecano agreed to join Bayern Munich from RB Leipzig, Solskjaer must surely have cast an eye to the summer and the need to bring in a centre-back to shore up a backline that has conceded 31 goals, the most of any club in the top nine.

At the other end, Fernandes’ goal was magical – drawing comparisons with Zinedine Zidane’s famous strike in the 2002 Champions League final – but that was their high point from an attacking perspective.

Anthony Martial was once again anonymous and withdrawn on 65 minutes. His replacement, Greenwood, went close and skipper Maguire thought he had a penalty when he was bundled over by Semi Ajayi and referee Craig Pawson pointed to the spot.

But after consultation with the VAR and viewing the replay on the pitchside monitor, the decision was overturned. Maguire could still have won it deep in injury-time but could not divert his header past Johnstone.

A point gained for West Brom?

Whether this draw will help West Brom stay up at the end of the season remains to be seen, but they will take heart from an assured performance against a side aiming for the title.

Diagne scored his first goal since joining on-loan from Galatasaray in January, but they have collected just six points in 11 games since veteran boss Allardyce took charge.

They have also conceded 55 goals this season – the most in the top-flight – and still have a huge task to maintain survival with 14 games remaining.

West Brom – who have scored just 19 goals this term – did offer a threat in the final third, Robert Snodgrass seeing a header tipped over the crossbar by De Gea and maybe could even have won it.

Diagne dispossessed Maguire in the box but his clipped effort from close range was kept out by De Gea and he had an even bigger chance with three minutes remaining but could not keep his shot on target.

West Brom travel to Burnley in the league next Saturday (kick-off 15:00), while United are in Europa League action on Thursday against Real Sociedad (17:55).

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