Manchester United’s Ashley Young (R) scores the second goal against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park, Blackburn, Monday. — AFP
BLACKBURN, England — Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young scored late goals to give Manchester United a 2-0 win at Blackburn Monday, extending the defending champion’s lead to five points in the Premier League.
With seven rounds left, United is clear of crosstown rival Manchester City and favorite to win its 20th league title. Valencia cut in from the right wing and fired a swerving shot from a tight angle that flew past goalkeeper Paul Robinson and into the far corner in the 81st minute. Young made sure of the win with a low shot in the 86th.
Blackburn, which dropped into the relegation places on goal difference, had a goal disallowed when Morten Gamst Pedersen’s 63rd-minute shot was ruled out because the ball went out of play in the buildup.
United kept the ball for long periods in the match at Ewood Park, but Blackburn’s defense kept things tight at the back to threaten a frustrating evening for Alex Ferguson’s title-chasing team.
Wayne Rooney created the game’s first chance in the 10th minute. He hit a long pass that Blackburn defender Grant Hanley struggled to clear, but Javier Hernandez dragged his shot wide under pressure from left back Martin Olsson. The Mexican striker went close again soon after, hitting the post from Antonio Valencia’s low cross.
Blackburn manager Steve Kean had opted for a five-man midfield to try and hit United on the counterattack, and the tactic almost paid off when Junior Hoilett forced goalkeeper David De Gea into a diving save after receiving Ayegbeni Yakubu’s clever pass in the 21st.
United had glimpses of goal when Jonny Evans’ shot was saved by Robinson following a 34th-minute corner. Blackburn almost took the lead before halftime when De Gea failed to punch a cross clear. Marcus Olsson volleyed the loose ball back at goal from the edge of the box, but De Gea redeemed himself with a flying save. The Spanish goalkeeper, who endured a tormented time in the December defeat, produced another fine stop to tip Hanley’s header from the ensuing corner over the bar.
Rooney’s free kick was pushed wide by Robinson in the 55th, and the Blackburn goalkeeper was in action again a minute later to block Rafael Da Silva’s shot. Blackburn was still proving potent on the break, however, and Morten Gamst Pedersen fired a low free kick that De Gea smothered in the 62nd.
United broke the deadlock when Valencia rifled a shot in from the right that flew past Robinson and into the far corner. As the massed United fans sang in celebration, Young, on as a second-half substitute, finished Blackburn off with a low curling shot. — AP