Cristiano Ronaldo News

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Report: Charlton 0 United 3

23/08/2006 20:59, Report by Steve Bartram

Goals from Darren Fletcher, Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave United their second win of the season at the expense of Charlton Athletic.

The second-half strikes ruined Iain Dowie's first home game in charge of the Addicks and kept United on top of the Premiership table.

A fluid attacking performance from United could have yielded plenty more goals, and made a mockery of pre-match trepidation fuelled by the absence of Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes.

Skipper Gary Neville was also absent, having failed to recover from his persistent calf injury in time to lead his side and forcing Sir Alex Ferguson to field a back four of Brown, Silvestre, Ferdinand and Evra.

The high-profile absence of Rooney and Scholes prompted the inclusion of Darren Fletcher and Ji-sung Park, while new signing Michael Carrick was a surprising - yet highly welcomed - face on the United bench.

Charlton themselves were hit by a suspension, with new signing Djimi Traore replaced by Jonathan Fortune in defence.

On a rain-sodden pitch and with the home contingent audibly buoyed by the absence of Rooney and Scholes, United's early game plan was to remain neat and tidy.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scuffed a volley well wide from outside the area, but United were content to sit back and keep their opponents at arm's length.
When it did come, in the 22nd minute, the Reds' first chance fell to Ji-sung Park, who rose well to head Wes Brown's cross powerfully wide.
Moments later the South Korean was in the thick of the action again, this time drawing a solid save from Scott Carson in the Addicks goal after the home defence went AWOL.

United were clearly in the ascendancy, and they were within a whisker of moving into the lead just two minutes later. After Ronaldo had been felled on the edge of the area by Luke Young, Ryan Giggs whipped a magnificent free-kick against the inside of Carson's near-post and watched in disbelief as the ball bounced to safety.

After a comical series of slips and scuffs from Evra, Ferdinand and finally Silvestre, Darren Ambrose's effort was deflected away for a corner. In a continuation of United's unconvincing defensive play, Silvestre escaped a penalty appeal for a lunging challenge on Hreidarsson.

The see-saw nature of the game continued, with neither side clearly on top. Cristiano Ronaldo, predictably booed throughout by the Addicks faithful, battled defiantly but provoked further derision by blazing a long-range free-kick over the bar on 35 minutes.

Giggs again came close to scoring three minutes before the interval. Having emulated his young Portuguese colleague with a fleet-footed stepover, the veteran saw his curling right-footed effort brilliantly turned away by Carson.
United's next close call had nothing to do with the intervention of the on-loan Liverpool stopper, however. Saha fed Ronaldo 20 yards out, and his unstoppable right-footed shot almost snapped the crossbar before hurtling back into play.

Ronaldo came close again before half-time, heading over the bar from Giggs' corner as United somehow went into the interval only level.Parity didn't last long after the break. After Darren Ambrose had clipped the outside of Edwin van der Sar's post with a long-range drive, United moved ahead.

Ronaldo's right-wing cross looked set to be cleared by Jonathan Fortune, but his slip presented Darren Fletcher with the ball 10 yards from goal.

The Scottish midfielder displayed remarkable assuredness in feigning to shoot twice before lashing beyond Carson for his first goal since his famous matchwinner against Chelsea last season.

Ronaldo almost had another assist on 54 minutes, but again United found themselves denied by the woodwork. Park acrobatically volleyed the ball goalwards from Ronaldo's left-wing cross and Carson was left rooted as the shot cannoned away to safety.

For all their dominance United were still only one goal to the good, and the narrow nature of their lead was underlined when Charlton were denied a penalty just after the hour.

Wes Brown's outstretched arm made the faintest of connections to a Charlton corner, but it was still enough to put Hreidarsson off his header.
Referee Chris Foy waved play on, however, and United were allowed a huge let-off.

It was a rare blip in United's dominance and they threatened again shortly afterwards, this time as Giggs' corner was headed goalwards by Saha, only for Ambrose to clear off the line.

United continued to press, but their fragile lead was exposed again as Darren Bent exchanged passes with namesake Marcus before firing wide on 72 minutes.

Carrick made his debut, replacing Ji-sung Park in the 77th minute and moving into the centre of midfield as Giggs moved out to the left wing, and within two minutes United had made the points safe.

Brown crossed from the left for Saha, whose chest control gave him time to turn and, following a mix-up in the Charlton defence, the space to hammer a low, 20-yard shot inside the far post.

It was the Frenchman's second goal in four days following his header against Fulham, and his final action of the night as he was replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Soon after his introduction, the Norwegian was denied a first goal since September 2003 as Carson lunged across an open goal to prevent Solskjaer rounding off great approach play from Carrick and Ronaldo.

Solskjaer was not to be denied his moment of glory, however, and he sidefooted powerfully home after good work from Saha down the left.

It sparked pandemonium among the United following, not only because the revered striker had ended his drought, but because they had seen a thoroughly impressive United display.

With six points from six and a goal difference of seven already, the signs are that United have heeded Sir Alex's call for a blistering start to the season.

Charlton Athletic: Carson, Young, El Karkouri, Fortune, Hreidarsson, Hughes, Holland, Faye, Ambrose, Hasselbaink (M Bent, 65), D Bent.
United: Van der Sar, Brown, Silvestre, Ferdinand, Evra, Fletcher, O'Shea, Ronaldo, Giggs (Solskjaer, 82), Saha, Park (Carrick, 77).



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