Sport Soccer

Sunday 18 November 2018

Reds reign in Moscow

Manchester United 1 Chelsea 1 (Man United win 6-5 on pens)

Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Ryan Giggs and Mikael Silvestre of Manchester United celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Luzhniki Stadium on May 21 2008 in Moscow, Russia. Credit: John Peters, Getty Images
Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Ryan Giggs and Mikael Silvestre of Manchester United celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Luzhniki Stadium on May 21 2008 in Moscow, Russia. Credit: John Peters, Getty Images

Henry Winter

Manchester United last night painted the Russian capital red, sending their fans partying into Red Square, after an absorbing, draining collision between English heavyweights. The red theme intensified with a vengeance with Didier Drogba's dismissal for slapping Nemanja Vidic before United prevailed on penalties.

Ronaldo and John Terry both missed in the penalty shoot-out, forcing sudden death, and Nicolas Anelka saw Chelsea's seventh penalty saved.

United's victory was awash with history. No more fitting tribute to the 50th anniversary of Munich could be imagined than the sight of Ferguson's adventurous young team shining on the European stage.

Holy Trinity

No more appropriate celebration of the 40 years since United first lifted the trophy could be scripted than this triumph for the new holy trinity of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez.

For the vanquished Avram Grant, Chelsea's coach now faces an awkward meeting with the club's benefactor, Roman Abramovich, who so craved lifting the trophy on Russian soil.

For the defeated dressing-room, questions will inevitably intensify over the future of Drogba and Ricardo Carvalho.

The 30,000 United fans who flocked to the Luzhniki, fathers and sons, groups of friends, revelled in a night they will never, ever forget. Whatever happens in the future, they will always have Moscow, always have that image of Rio Ferdinand lifting the European Cup. Ferguson had been bold, unleashing his most attacking players, Tevez joining Ronaldo and Rooney in a 4-4-2 formation with Owen Hargreaves starting on the right.

Wary of Chelsea's central strength, Hargreaves often tucked inside to assist Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick.

And so the duels began, Ronaldo running at Michael Essien, so quickly and cleverly in the 15th minute that the Ghanaian right-back was left tackling thin air.

On Ronaldo sped, whipping in a cross that cleared Rooney and the onrushing Hargreaves. Then came Patrice Evra, also making good ground down United's left before lifting in a cross that Terry just reached ahead of Rooney.

The England striker briefly lost his temper with Ashley Cole, who had objected to Scholes's involvement in an aerial collision with Claude Makelele that ended with bookings for the two midfielders and urgent medical attention to Scholes' bloodied nose. Scholes soon returned to the fray, immediately making a telling contribution.

When Ashley Cole conceded a throw-in deep in Chelsea territory, Scholes combined with Wes Brown three times to engineer a magnificent opening. Brown suddenly proved inspired, working the ball on to his left foot as United's attackers made their moves.


Rooney darted towards the near post, Tevez ventured towards the centre, dragging Chelsea's centre-backs with them, isolating Essien against Ronaldo.

As Brown's cross dropped, Ronaldo outjumped Essien, showing power and timing as he met the ball firmly with his head, sending it flying past Cech from 10 yards.

Chelsea had to come out and attack now, and they stormed forward, blue waves rolling towards Edwin van der Sar's goal as a sensational game moved up a gear.

When Drogba headed back Lampard's cross, Michael Ballack pressured Rio Ferdinand into a goalbound header that Van der Sar instinctively clawed away. Both keepers excelled.

Now it was Cech's turn to show his prowess, following a United surge of breathtaking brilliance.

When Rooney acquired the ball in his own half, he immediately spotted Ronaldo's lung-breaking burst down the left. Rooney found him, triggering a remarkable sequence of events.

Ronaldo's hard cross was met by the stooping Tevez, whose header drew an unbelievable save from Cech.

Terry completed the clearance but only to the edge of the area where Carrick was arriving like the Trans-Siberian Express.

The midfielder met the ball sweetly enough, but too close to Cech, who stretched out his right hand and palmed the ball away. "Come on'' screamed Cech.

What a game. Tight? Cagey? No chance.

These two Premier League heavyweights kept tearing into each other, a sliding Tevez almost converting a fabulous cross from Rooney.

Back came Chelsea, Ballack firing a free-kick over and then came that emotional equaliser for Lampard.

The England midfielder began and ended the move, re-directing a Ferdinand clearance to Essien, who charged forward, unleashing a shot that caused havoc in United's area.

The ball caught Nemanja Vidic, then Ferdinand before falling invitingly for Lampard.

All that training in the back garden with his father Frank senior, all that developing of technique down the years were made for moments like this.

As Ferdinand slid in with a vain attempt to rescue the situation, Lampard's left foot made perfect contact, placing it over the diving Van der Sar. As Ferdinand and the rest of the United team vented their frustration, Lampard raced away, pointing to the heavens, remembering his mother, who passed away so tragically recently. "That's for you,'' Lampard mouthed.

Now in the ascendant, Chelsea started the second half the stronger as Drogba began to impose his considerable talent, constantly troubling Vidic.

Ballack let fly from 25 yards. "Chelsea, Chelsea'' reverberated around the Luzhniki. Lampard was everywhere. Makelele controlled midfield. Terry headed over. "Attack, attack, attack,'' countered the United hordes, Tevez responding too literally by whacking Makelele. Back came Chelsea, Drogba hitting a post from 30 yards.

Ferguson sought to inject fresh ideas, moving Rooney to the right of a 4-3-3, and then fresh legs, removing Scholes for Ryan Giggs, who broke Sir Bobby Charlton's club record of 758 appearances.

As normal time expired, Ferdinand was hugely fortunate to escape for a high challenge on Joe Cole in the box.

Now came the test of lungs and heart -- and woodwork. Lampard, turning brilliantly, lifted a shot onto the bar as the extra-time drama unfolded.

But United still hinted at defiance. When Evra crossed, Terry somehow headed Giggs' shot over. The action was compelling, the nerves twisted into knots.

Manchester United -- Van der Sar; Brown (Anderson 120), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Hargreaves, Scholes (Giggs 87), Carrick, Ronaldo; Tevez, Rooney (Nani 101). Subs not used: Kuszczak (g), O'Shea, Fletcher, Silvestre.

Chelsea -- Cech; Essien, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Makelele (Belletti 120); Ballack, Lampard; J Cole (Anelka 99), Drogba, Malouda (Kalou 92). Subs not used: Cudicini (g), Shevchenko, Mikel, Alex. Referee: L Michel (Slovakia).

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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