Manchester United 1 – Chelsea 1 : United won 6-5 on pens
Full match report below
Manchester United are Champions of Europe once again, after a dramatic win on penalties against rivals Chelsea. With the sides locked at 1-1 after 90 minutes and neither being able to break the deadlock during extra time, United went on to win 6-5 in the shoot-out.
In the vastly anticipated so-called “Game of Games”, it started as was expected, with both sides nervy and staying tight, giving no real flow to the game. But soon the Reds managed to enjoy some possession and string some passes together, with Owen Hargreaves seeing much of the ball on the right, and sending in a couple of good crosses.
The Reds broke the deadlock in the 26th minute, when a throw-in deep in Chelsea’s on the right side saw a neat exchange between Scholes and Brown, and Brown’s inviting cross picked out Ronaldo, who rose up and directed the ball brilliantly past a motionless Cech into the corner of the net. This goal was Ronaldo’s marked Ronaldo’s first against Chelsea, and was a perfect response to speculation that he doesn’t perform so well in “big games” – some pundits should well be choking on their words.
But, more importantly, United had got just what they wanted – the first goal and in the first half. After this, the midfield area noticably opened up, with Chelsea now searching for an equaliser. And the Reds had two great chances to go 2-0 up, both falling to Carlos Tevez; first, United broke forward from a Chelsea corner in their own half, with Rooney delivering a superb ball across the field to Ronaldo, who planted a fantastic cross onto Tevez’s head – but Cech was equal to the Argentine’s diving effort, pulling off a fantastic save and then parrying Carrick’s follow-up effort from the edge of the area, completing a brilliant double-save.
And just a couple of minutes before the break, Rooney again did well to hold up the ball on the right flank, and fizzed an inviting ball across the Chelsea goal, which the outstretched boot of Tevez could only graze – so close for United.
But right on the stroke of half-time, Essien found some space and took a shot, which ricocheted off both Vidic and Ferdinand, and Lampard was quick to pounce and cooly lifted the ball past Van der Sar, who was caught wrongfooted from the original Essien shot. Chelsea’s undeserved equaliser had brought them completely back into the game, and would certainly make for an exciting second half.
Lifted by their goal, Chelsea began to take control after the break and the United backline had to be fully alert; the ever-trustworthy Vidic and Ferdinand headed away a series of Chelsea crosses. Carrick also did well to hook away a Malouda freekick, one of a number of freekick opportunities Chelsea received throughout the match.
And then a moment when Red hearts skipped a beat – a turn from Drogba and an arcing shot against the United post, with van der Sar beaten. That was close. The Chelsea frontman then drilled Joe Cole’s low ball across goal wide.
Ryan Giggs came on just before extra time, to mark his 759th appearance from the club and breaking Sir Bobby’s record – with the United veteran watching and and applauding his entry. And he nearly scored, after a fantastic burst into the box by Evra who then passes into the area, with Giggs’ poke brilliantly anticipated by Terry, who superbly flicked the ball over the bar with his head.
Another heartstopping moment for the Reds came in the first half of extra time, when some neat passing from Chelsea saw Lampard with the ball in the area, and his shot on the turn came off the underside of the bar – the second time the Blues had struck the woodwork.
In the second half there were explosive scenes when Tevez kicked the ball off to give the Blues a throw-on, after Joe Cole had gone down and Chelsea had kicked the ball out so he could receive some attention. Chelsea appeared to be angry at the fact that Tevez had played the ball out, rather than returning it to them directly; in fact, the Blues had twice done the same to United earlier in the match. Words were exchanged between Drogba and Vidic, and the Blues man was rightly sent off, after a slap on the Serb.
With penalties an almost dead cert, Chelsea brought on Belletti and the Reds brought on Anderson just before the end of the second period of extra time. And so the first ever all-English CL final was to be decided on penalties.
And, as always, it was a nervy shootout indeed. Tevez and Carrick helped ease nerves by scoring the first two, but the United fans behind the goal were stunned into silence as Ronaldo missed the third; his usual pause before the spotkick, this time a markedly long one, didn’t fool Cech, who saved to his right.
Hargreaves and the young Nani put pressure aside and brought the score to 4-4, with Chelsea scoring all of there’s up to that point, and the Blues’ talisman Terry stepped up to the pressure to win his side their first ever European title…but, unbelievably (or perhaps not so, with the questionable condition of the pitch), he slipped at the critical moment, and the ball struck the outside of the post, with the United goalie diving the wrong way.
YES! What a moment! United fans could hardly believe their luck…was it in their fate, 50 years on from the Munich Air Disaster, to go on and win it?
Anderson stepped up for the first spotkick of sudden death, and blasted the ball into the net to give him his first United goal, with Kalou slotting past van der Sar in reply. And then came Ryan Giggs, slotted into Cech’s bottom left corner and sending the Chelsea goalie the wrong way. Nicolas Anelka then stepped forward from the halfway line, placed the ball on the spot…referee blows his whistle…and saved by van der Sar to his left!
Manchester United had done it! The Dutch goalkeeper threw his hands into the air, whilst the United players sprinted towards him. Ecstacy followed thereafter – the Reds had done it again, and the scenes of 1999 were renewed.
For the third time in their history, Manchester United were Champions of Europe – what a history, what a win, and what a season.
Does this feel better than 1999? And how good are our chances of defending our European title next season?