Cristiano Ronaldo News

Monday, November 27, 2006

Report: United 1 Chelsea 1

26/11/2006 17:50, Report by Adam Bostock

United fans didn't know whether to laugh or cry after seeing their team maintain a three-point lead over Chelsea but miss a big chance to double it.

The Reds led at half-time through Louis Saha's exquisite strike but were pegged back when Ricardo Carvalho's header from a Frank Lampard corner went in off Saha with 20 minutes remaining. At the final whistle, it seemed a better result for the Blues as they celebrated in front of their travelling fans.

Sir Alex Ferguson kept faith with the eleven who dictated but lost the Celtic game in Glasgow - his strongest eleven in many people’s eyes. Chelsea’s team, however, showed two changes from Wednesday’s defeat to Werder Bremen - Lampard and Carvalho returning at the expense of Joe Cole and Khalid Boulahrouz.

Chelsea kicked off attacking the Stretford End, to a cacophony of boos as they negatively worked the ball back from Didier Drogba and Andriy Shevchenko on the halfway line to skipper John Terry at the heart of their defence.

The visitors’ robust style saw two United players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nemanja Vidic, clutching their faces after early clashes with Michael Ballack. The first foul, after less than 60 seconds, resulted in a free-kick to the Reds which Ronaldo whipped into the area towards the head of Wayne Rooney. The striker connected but alas couldn't cap his new contract extension with a goal.

Referee Howard Webb was busier than both goalkeepers in the opening minutes as the two sides tested each other’s mettle in midfield with some full-blooded challenges - Cole on Ronaldo and Rooney on Makelele to name just two. But the ref sensibly refrained from showing a card until Claude Makelele used his upper arm to thwart United’s attempt at a quick counter-attack in the 20th minute. Ballack’s prior handball was only punished by a free-kick, struck well by Ronaldo but tipped over by Cudicini.

Cudicini was well beaten, however, by Louis Saha’s wonderful finish in the 29th minute. Chelsea’s midfield seemed to open up as Rooney played a pass from the centre circle into his strike partner’s path and although both Terry and Carvalho were back behind the ball, Saha kept his head and picked his spot, caressing a left-foot shot inside the left-hand post.

This moment of beauty was followed by an ugly episode, Drogba planting his elbow into Vidic’s face as the two players competed in the air. Without the benefit of TV replays, Webb waved only a yellow when really a red was warranted.

Unfortunately for Chelsea, their first decent chance fell not to Drogba but to Geremi. To the right-back's credit, his shot was on target and needed van der Sar to fist it away. The Dutchman’s next save saw him dive the other way, his right, to clutch Lampard’s low drive.

Geremi made way for Mourinho’s first substitute at half-time, Arjen Robben. An attacking change by the Blues but it was the Reds who almost drew the first blood after the break. In fact, they came agonisingly close to what might have been a decisive second goal when Rooney received Carrick’s reverse pass on the left flank, shrugged off Drogba and pulled the ball back for Saha or Ronaldo. Both men snatched at it, the Portuguese in particular could have buried it at the far post.

The battle for midfield supremacy claimed another name for the referee’s book in the 54th minute as the excellent Carrick for once mistimed his movement and tripped his England team-mate Frank Lampard.

Chelsea were by now enjoying a larger share of possession but two attempts to beat van der Sar in the space of a minute failed to find their target, Lampard firing a shot across goal and Drogba heading wide under pressure from Ferdinand. At the other end, Carvalho cleared a loose ball after Ronaldo chested down Heinze’s left-wing cross and Cudicini parried a fierce shot from Giggs on the right.

Carvalho the goal-saver turned goalscorer in the 69th minute when he leapt to meet Lampard’s corner from the right and powered in a header which hit Saha on the line and came down off the crossbar. TV replays later showed Saha had himself headed the ball - he could yet be credited with an unwanted owngoal by the dubious goals committee.

United immediately tried to bite back, but Terry blocked Saha’s shot and when Scholes hit a trademark thunderbolt on the rebound, it spun off the grounded Saha and out of play.

With 15 minutes to go, Mourinho again demonstrated his strength in depth by replacing the ineffective Shevchenko with attacking England midfielder Joe Cole.

Joe's namesake Ashley had his name taken for a foul on Ronaldo - and then chanted in disdain by the fans. Cristiano played no further part - he was replaced by Darren Fletcher, while John O'Shea came on for Saha.

With United's two most potent threats on the day withdrawn, there was to be no dramatic, air-punching finale for the home faithful. Instead of euphoria there were feelings of relief that Chelsea's second-half improvement didn't produce a second goal and concern that the substituted players could miss the next Premiership assignment in just three days' time.


United: Van der Sar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Heinze, Ronaldo (Fletcher, 86), Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Saha (O'Shea, 86), Rooney.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Evra, Silvestre.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Geremi (Robben, 46), Carvalho, Terry, A Cole, Essien, Makelele, Ballack (Ferreira, 90), Lampard, Drogba, Shevchenko (Cole, 75).
Subs not used: Hilario, Boulahrouz.


Post a Comment

<< Home