United spared third tour defeat by late-game equaliser

United spared third tour defeat by late-game equaliser
Wilfried Zaha battling Sydney's Josh Rose in an exhibition match last week.

Cerezo Osaka 2

Manchester United 2

Wilfried Zaha spared Shinji Kagawa’s blushes with an injury-time equaliser for Manchester United against J. League outfit Cerezo Osaka.

It looked as though United were destined for a third tour defeat against Kagawa’s old club, and the Japan star would only have had himself to blame after missing a gilt-edged chance and a penalty.

But in the dying seconds, Zaha tapped home Anderson’s low cross to claim a draw after Kenyu Sugimoto and Yusuke Maruhashi had struck either side of Kagawa’s equaliser.

United set off with clear intent and Robin van Persie brought a sharp save out of Kim Jin-Hyeon inside the first minute.

The Dutchman had recovered from the thigh problem that forced his precautionary withdrawal in Yokohama on Tuesday and was denied by Kim once more, before Phil Jones sent his diving header narrowly over.

In conditions so hot and sticky it was decided to take a drinks break midway through both halves, Osaka were starting to get into their stride.

Anders Lindegaard had already made two good saves when Edno sent his header straight at the Dane from point-blank range, when a foot either side would have seen the hosts go ahead.

They did not have to wait long, though, as a woeful error on the edge of his own box by Chris Smalling gifted an opportunity to Sugimoto, which the 20-year-old drilled into the bottom corner.

Kagawa’s first embarrassing blunder came not long afterwards.

Under normal circumstances, Van Persie would surely have gone for goal himself as the loose ball fell to him after Danny Welbeck had fired against a post. Instead, he squared unselfishly towards the player who has been feted at every turn since his arrival on tour on Monday.

Unbelievably, Kagawa screwed his shot high over the bar, the groans from a capacity crowd underlining the disappointment.

United continued to press and Ryan Giggs curled an effort narrowly over before Welbeck came close once more.

Kagawa then saw another chance go awry. After Ashley Young had been brought down, Van Persie stood aside to let the Japan international take the penalty, but he spurned that opportunity too as Kim made a decent low save.

There was an element of relief and embarrassment about his celebration when Kagawa eventually scored, from a Giggs cross, and he was replaced by Zaha not long afterwards.

Cerezo were not inhibited by that setback, though, and Minamino put them back in front with a superb shot from the edge of the area that arrowed into the top corner.

United almost conceded a third as Lindegaard was forced into a fine fingertip save to deny Maruhashi.

The Premier League champions looked to be heading for another loss though until Zaha, one of those to impress on this three-week trip, finished from close range.

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