Man Utd join beaten City at summit
Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov each claimed a penalty as Manchester United's 2-0 victory over Stoke drew them level with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
With injury and illness to Anders Lindegaard and David de Gea, respectively, forcing United to hand a league debut to 21-year-old deputy Ben Amos, the penalty decisions ensured the defending Premier League champions enjoyed a comfortable evening.
United took the lead after 38 minutes when Jermaine Pennant was judged to have tripped United's South Korean international midfielder Park Ji-Sung in the area.
In the absence of regular penalty taker Wayne Rooney, who has failed on four of his last eight attempts, Hernandez strode up and calmly beat Thomas Sorensen with a shot into the bottom left-hand corner.
Seven minutes into the second half, Antonio Valencia surged into the area with Jon Walters tugging at him from behind, a move which referee Mike Jones instantly deemed worthy of a penalty.
This time, surprisingly given Hernandez's earlier success, Berbatov strode up to the mark and scored just as convincingly as his team mate had, low into the bottom right.
The opening goal was inevitable in a game in which Stoke's primary aim appeared to be to test United's rookie goalkeeper with long-range shots.
Walters chanced his arm from 25 yards and Kenwyne Jones volleyed wide from outside the box inside the opening 10 minutes.
But the bulk of the first period was spent with United patiently trying to break down Stoke's dogged resistance.
Paul Scholes teed up Michael Carrick for a promising early shot which was charged down by Ryan Shawcross and another Carrick strike won a 21st minute corner.
That resulted in Scholes shooting from outside the area sending a fierce strike just wide of the post and into the advertising hoardings.
Patrice Evra appealed in vain for a penalty after his run into the area was halted by slight contact from Dean Whitehead and Berbatov's telling pass then freed Valencia down the right but his cross was too close to Sorensen who parried the ball to safety.
Carrick then linked intelligently with Park and Berbatov before rolling a left-foot shot inches wide, a miss followed moments later by the opening goal.
Even after taking the lead from the penalty, United might have had a second spotkick when a Hernandez cross struck Shawcross's hand although referee Jones clearly viewed the infringement as accidental.
After Chris Smalling created an early second half opening for Berbatov, which was charged down by the visiting defence, Jones finally decided United merited a second penalty and, thereafter, the game looked well beyond Stoke.
Pennant's free-kick almost presented Jones with a chance and the Stoke winger also crossed well for substitute Cameron Jerome whose header was first fumbled, then saved on the line, by Amos.
Amazingly, it appeared that United should have had a third penalty decision after Evra appeared to be brought down by Whitehead after 70 minutes following another flowing passage of play.
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