Thursday, May 22, 2008


Report: Utd 1 (6) Chlsea 1 (5)

United are Champions of Europe for the third time after beating Chelsea in dramatic fashion... 6-5 on penalties.Edwin van der Sar was ultimately the man who made the Reds' dream come true when he saved the Blues' seventh spot-kick taken by Nicolas Anelka. John Terry also missed in the shoot-out, when a goal with his kick would have won the cup for Chelsea.

Earlier, during normal time, Cristiano Ronaldo had put the Reds in front with a first-half header before Frank Lampard equalised in first-half injury time.

Sir Alex Ferguson surprised many pundits, and no doubt his opposite number Avram Grant, by starting with Owen Hargreaves on the right, Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes anchoring the midfield and Cristiano Ronaldo taking up the left flank position. Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez were up front. As for the bench, Gary Neville and Louis Saha were understandable absentees after spending much of the campaign troubled by injury. The biggest shock was perhaps the omission of Ji-sung Park.

The Luzhniki Stadium was a sea of colour and noise before kick-off with the travelling Reds in typically good voice. There wasn’t too much for both sets of supporters to shout about early on; as expected the opening exchanges were very tight with neither side giving an inch. United were the more lively outfit with Hargreaves in particular seeing a lot of the ball and sending in a couple of decent crosses from the right.

United were temporarily down to ten men whilst Paul Scholes received treatment for a bloodied nose after a clash with Claude Makelele – for which both players were booked. Thankfully Scholes was back in time to play his part in the opening goal.

Neat play between Scholes and Wes Brown after a throw-in on the right flank gave Brown time to pick out a cross for Ronaldo who expertly directed his header past Petr Cech - his 42nd of a staggering season. Who can’t do it on the big stage then, eh?

Chelsea, who had so far offered little in attack, went close to drawing level on 34 minutes. Drogba headed Lampard’s deep cross to the far post, back across goal. Rio Ferdinand dithered for a just second with Michael Ballack breathing down his neck. His presence forced the United skipper into heading towards his own goal, but Edwin van der Sar was alert, beating the effort away at point blank range.

United broke forward immediately from the resulting corner, Wayne Rooney finding Ronaldo with an exquisite 40 yard cross-field pass. The winger controlled it brilliantly and delivered a perfect cross onto Carlos Tevez’s head. Cech blocked the diving effort from the Argentine and was also on hand to parry Michael Carrick’s follow-up shot from the edge of the box. An awesome double save.

The Reds were clearly growing in confidence and Ronaldo in particular was giving Chelsea's stand-in right-back Michael Essien a torrid time. Two minutes before the break Hargreaves won possession, broke forward and fed Rooney on the right. He fizzed in an early daisy-cutter which evaded Makelele at the front post. Tevez was waiting just behind him but just wasn’t able to poke the ball goalwards.

At the other end, Ferdinand was booked for a foul on Lampard right on the edge of the box, but Ballack curled the subsequent free-kick over van der Sar’s crossbar much to the delight of the jubilant United fans behind the goal.

That jubilation turned to deflation right on the stroke of half-time when Chelsea drew level. When the marauding Essien's shot cannoned off both Vidic and Ferdinand, it dropped to Lampard in the area. Van der Sar raced to meet him but slipped at the vital moment, allowing the Chelsea midfielder to side-foot home.

Buoyed by their ill-deserved equaliser, Chelsea began to take a grip of proceedings after the break. Essien broke forward down the right and, after holding off the attentions of Ronaldo, cut inside and hit a powerful left foot drive. Van der Sar slipped, as he had done for the goal (dodgy pitch, anyone?) but thankfully for United the shot flew over the bar.

United’s back line were on red alert thereafter - Vidic brilliantly headed Ashley Cole’s cross away from danger as Drogba lay in wait, before Ferdinand twice did the same as the Blues’ attacking barrage continued. Michael Carrick then hooked Florent Malouda’s inviting free-kick away from danger. The Reds breathed another sigh of relief 12 minutes from time when Drogba arced a left-foot shot against van der Sar’s left-hand post with the Dutchman well beaten.

The half chances were all falling to Chelsea, who had dominated the second period. Drogba went veryclose to steering Joe Cole’s low centre home three minutes from time, but blasted wide.

Ryan Giggs entered the fray just before extra-time, thus breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time appearance record in his 759th match for the Reds. But the occasion was almost spoiled when Lampard spun to clip a shot against the crossbar.

Giggs himself almost scored when Evra burst into the area, before pulling the ball back. The record-breaking Welshman was set to net the winner until John Terry somehow headed his flicked shot off the line.

The second half of extra-time was marred by ugly scenes which saw Drogba receive a red card for slapping Vidic while Tevez and Ballack were shown yellows during the same melee by the referee Michel Lubos.

A further yellow card, for a foul by Essien, was to be the last noteworthy event before the game headed for penalties. There United were to have their glory but not before Ronaldo had his penalty saved by Petr Cech, to give Chelsea a brief advantage. When Terry squandered his opportunity to win it for the Blues, Anderson scored to level for United - then Kalou and Giggs both netted before Anelka stepped up for the final decisive spot-kick, saved superbly by Edwin van der Sar. Cue scenes of ecstasy in Moscow as the Reds made history, wonderful history.

Team line-ups

United: Van der Sar; Brown (Anderson 120), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Hargreaves, Scholes(Giggs 87); Ronaldo, Rooney (Nani (101), Tevez.

Subs not used: Kuszczak, O'Shea, Fletcher, Silvestre.

Booked: Scholes, Ferdinand, Vidic, Tevez

Chelsea: Cech, Essien, Terry, Carvalho, A Cole, Makelele (Belletti 120)., Ballack, Lampard, Malouda (Kalou 92), J Cole (Anelka 99), Drogba.

Subs not used: Cudicini, Shevchenko, Mikel, Alex.

Booked: Makelele, Carvalho, Ballack, Essien

Sent off: Drogba

Attendance: 69,552


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