Cavani goal, De Gea brilliance prevents Man United embarrassment at Newcastle

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Edinson Cavani came off the bench to salvage a point for Manchester United from a sloppy display in a 1-1 draw at Newcastle United in the Premier League on Tuesday (AEDT).

Playing their first game in 16 days after coronavirus cases in the squad led to two games being postponed, United were outplayed in the first half and Allan Saint-Maximin gave the home side the lead in the seventh minute following a swift break after Raphael Varane was dispossessed.

Cavani entered as a halftime substitute, injected some urgency and pressing into United’s attacking play, and scored a 71st-minute equaliser by poking home a rebound after his initial shot was blocked.

Newcastle were denied victory at the death when Jacob Murphy’s shot came back off the post and Miguel Almiron’s follow-up was brilliantly saved by Red Devils goalkeeper David De Gea.

The Magpies missed out on just a second win of the campaign and stayed in 19th place, while United missed a chance to go fifth with a display that showed the team still has plenty of work to do under recently hired manager Ralf Rangnick.

His team was so off the pace in the first half that Rangnick opted to make two substitutions at half time, with Fred and Mason Greenwood coming off.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who failed to create a single chance, and Bruno Fernandes were often seen waving their hands in the air, complaining at the referee and teammates.

United, back playing after having games against Brighton and Brentford called off, were lucky to go to the break only 1-0 down. The visitors saw Saint-Maximin squander a brilliant chance from close range in the 47th minute, mis-hitting a finish to allow De Gea to claw away the ball when he should have been well beaten.

From then on, the visitors had the better of the chances, with Uruguayan Cavani shooting wide with the goal at his mercy before eventually equalising at the second attempt after being picked out by Diogo Dalot’s cross.

Newcastle lost forwards Callum Wilson and Saint-Maximin to injuries, while Fernandes collected a fifth yellow card of the season and will miss United’s next game against Burnley on Thursday.

PL hit by record COVID cases

Meanwhile, a record 103 positive COVID-19 cases have been found among players and staff in the English Premier League over the past week, following a raft of fixture postponements during the busy festive period.

“The League can today confirm that between Monday 20 December and Sunday 26 December, 15,186 COVID-19 tests were administered on players and club staff – of these, there were 103 new positive cases,” the league said in a statement.

The figure has steadily increased in recent weeks with 42 cases between December 6-12 and 90 testing positive between December 13-19.

The Premier League has had 15 games postponed so far due to COVID-19 outbreaks at various clubs.

Watford, who have had three games called off so far, said they have welcomed back players who were previously isolating but added more had tested positive ahead of Tuesday’s home game against West Ham United.

Watford manager Claudio Ranieri said he would have to bring in some Under-23 players as they held their first “normal training session” since December 10.

“It’s difficult to say if we are ready (and) 100 per cent. When you meet your players for one training session, it’s very difficult to do this,” Ranieri told reporters.

“There are some players who didn’t make some training sessions… I think these players don’t have (what it takes to play) 90 minutes.”

Wolverhampton Wanderers, who had Tuesday’s trip to Arsenal postponed, said they had six confirmed cases in the first team.

“We hope some of those players will be well enough to return for our game against Manchester United on 3rd January,” Wolves said in a statement.

“Our operations team have arranged a deep clean of the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground to try to prevent further infection.”

© AAP

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