Cristiano Ronaldo News

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Report: Sheff Utd 1-2 United

18/11/2006 16:56, Report by Adam Bostock

United will defend a three-point lead when they take on Chelsea thanks to Wayne Rooney's ruthless finishing.

The striker's clinical couple, one in each half, took his tally to three goals in four days, following his return to the England scoresheet in midweek. But it wasn't all plain sailing for Sir Alex Ferguson's men as they pursued a seventh Premiership win on the spin.

Ferguson's former fledgling Keith Gillespie, playing for his fifth team in the top-flight after spells with United, Newcastle, Leicester and Blackburn, headed home a shock opening goal for Sheffield United in the 13th minute.

Pressure from Colin Kazim-Richards forced Rio Ferdinand to make a hasty clearance from the right-back position and when Blades' left-back Derek Geary whipped in a great cross to the far post, Gillespie sneaked in behind Patrice Evra to beat Edwin van der Sar.

It was the only Sheffield United attack of note in the first half. The Premiership leaders dominated before the goal - Gillespie's former youth team-mate Gary Neville had a shot blocked by Paddy Kenny's legs - and they dominated afterwards.

The Reds would doubtless have been in front at half-time had the referee Mark Clattenburg not turned down two strong shouts for a penalty.

For the first one, Robert Kozluk jumped into Louis Saha's back, poleaxing the Frenchman. When the penalty failed to arrive, Ryan Giggs protested his way into the book.

Ferguson's men equalised from open play in the 30th minute. Giggs fed Neville and when the captain curled a low pass into the box, Rooney killed the ball with his right foot and despatched it beyond Kenny with his left. A difficult feat, made to look easy.

Clattenburg's inconsistency came blindingly to light when he turned down another penalty appeal for the Reds, just before the break. Scholes seethed after being shoved by Geary, but unlike Giggs, he escaped a caution. Perhaps the ref thought Paul had a point.

A point was much less than the Reds wanted or deserved from a match in which they were so dominant, especially with the half-time news that Chelsea were leading their London derby with West Ham - and therefore threatening to close the gap ahead of next Sunday's six-pointer at Old Trafford.

Louis Saha was fortunate to avoid serious injury early in the second half when he was on the receiving end of a reckless challenge by Claude Davis. Happily the Frenchman played on after a brief consultation with physio Rob Swire.

The Blades managed more attacking play in the opening part of the second period than they did in the entire first half.

Kazim-Richards, with the aid of the home fans, tricked Clattenburg into giving the Blades a free-kick on the left and when the ball eventually fell to Hulse, the ex-Leeds striker turned between Neville and Vidic and fired a shot over the bar.

Ronaldo crossed elaborately with his back foot to force a corner as the Reds put the pressure back on the Blades. But the resulting setpiece, like many of United's on the day, were not dangerous enough to concern Kenny and his competent cohorts.

A better ball in from Giggs on the right was defended superbly by Phil Jagielka, the long-serving centre-back stretching marginally ahead of Saha to concede another fruitless corner. The attack ended with a shot from Giggs on the other flank striking the side-netting.

Giggs continued to probe from the right, tormenting Geary, but other players in behind the left-back - including striker Hulse - repelled the danger.

Evra's cross from the left had a different outcome, beating Hulse and crucially dropping over the head of Davis for Rooney to fire a first-time shot across Kenny and into the net. With 15 minutes to go, United finally had the lead and on the balance of play they would surely not relinquish it.

Ferguson reinforced his back-line for an anticipated aerial onslaught by bringing on Heinze for Evra. But it was Sheffield United who continued to defend, Jagielka making two more excellent clearances - one from inside his own six-yard box and the other on the goal-line as Scholes tried to bury the rebound from Ronaldo's header against the bar.

There was still time for Kenny to make a sublime save - denying Saha - and for Ronaldo to produce a ridiculous miss, spooning the ball over an open goal following Giggs' sliderule pass and Rooney's inspired backheel.

The home fans had a chuckle but the last laugh went to the visiting supporters, who'll now follow their team to Glasgow - for a meeting of the top sides in England and Scotland - and then back to Manchester for that game against Chelsea. Should be quite a week.

Team Line-ups

Sheffield United: Kenny, Kozluk, Davis, Jagielka, Geary, Gillespie, Law, Leigertwood, Alan Quinn (Kabba, 86), Kazim-Richards (Nade, 79), Hulse.
Subs not used: Morgan, Sommeil, Montgomery.

United: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra (Heinze, 80), Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Saha.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, O'Shea, Fletcher, Silvestre.


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