Manchester United remained top of the Premier League but on goal difference alone after Lee Bowyer’s late equaliser gave Birmingham a 1-1 draw at St Andrews on Tuesday. It seemed as if Dimitar Berbatov’s sublime goal in the 58th minute had wrapped up all three points for United but Bowyer salvaged a share of the spoils in controversial fashion a minute from time.
There was a suspicion of handball when Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic got to Roger Johnson’s cross.
The ball then rebounded to Bowyer – whom United were convinced was offside – and he slid in to score a goal that ensured Birmingham, briefly in the relegation zone, climbed out of the bottom three. “It was handball,” frustrated United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told Sky Sports. “If the ref can’t see that what chance have you got?
“It’s terribly harsh…We deserved to win, we were the better team,” added Ferguson, who turns 69 on Friday.
Unsurprisingly, Birmingham manager Alex McLeish had no complaints about Bowyer’s goal.
“He wasn’t offside, definitely not,” said McLeish, who played under Ferguson at Aberdeen before his former boss joined United in 1986. “It does look as if it came off Zigic’s arm but it would have been harsh to be penalised as deliberate handball. In other words, I don’t care.”
United, unbeaten in the league this season, needed nearly an hour to pierce Birmingham’s defence before Berbatov started and finished a fine move that saw the Bulgaria striker score his 14th goal of the season.
By contrast, Wayne Rooney was left searching for his first goal in open play since March after yet another frustrating match for the England striker. Meanwhile, West Ham remained in the drop zone after a 1-1 draw at home to Everton. Tony Hibbert’s 16th minute own-goal gave the Hammers the lead before Everton’s Seamus Coleman levelled three minutes before half-time.