Cristiano Ronaldo News

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Report: United 3 Man City 1

09/12/2006 14:30, Report by Adam Bostock

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his Player of the Month award with a killer assist for Wayne Rooney and a crucial third goal for himself as United went nine points clear at the top of the Premiership.

Ronaldo had barely handed back his Barclays trophy to the pre-match presentation team when he won the first free-kick, just ten seconds into this lunchtime local derby. His assailant wasn’t the left-back Ben Thatcher, too slow out of the traps as Cristiano skipped past him; instead it was central midfielder Joey Barton who steamed in to send the Reds winger flying over the South Stand touchline.

Ronaldo gained his revenge when he set up United's first goal in the 6th minute. The number seven took the ball down on his chest, strode defiantly towards the baying away support and whipped the yellow sphere into the box with his right foot. The low centre beat not one but two miskicking centre-halves - the so-called solid crew of Distin and Dunne - and landed perfectly for Rooney to gleefully grab the opener.

With the Blues reeling, the Reds almost bagged an immediate follow-up as Saha threaded a pass through to Rooney. But as Wayne bore down on goal and prepared to pull the trigger, City skipper Dunne dropped to his knees and somehow smuggled the ball away from danger. It was a fortunate escape for a frantic defence.

Thatcher earned his inevitable booking for a foul on Ronaldo after 15 minutes. City’s other full-back, Micah Richards, then lived up to his growing reputation when he came close to scoring a shock equaliser. A high ball dropped beyond the battling Vidic and Samaras on the edge of the box and Richards beat Heinze, then Ferdinand, to head it past the far post.

Claudio Reyna earned City’s second yellow card - for dissent - before this lively game moved up another gear to bring both goalkeepers into service. First, the rejuvenated Nicky Weaver - playing in only his second derby - beat away a fierce shot
from Rooney. Then van der Sar prevented City’s counter-attack spoiling the party, saving well from Samaras.

Samaras had another chance to beat van der Sar when the goalkeeper stretched to push away Barton’s deep cross from the right. But the Greek striker took too long to turn into a shooting position, long enough to allow Ferdinand to cover and block.

Ronaldo was much quicker on the draw when he was fed by Scholes but his left-foot shot was saved by Weaver. Saha later had time and space to produce a better effort than the one which flew high and wide into the East Stand.

The Stretford End held its breath when City’s last corner of the half, from Barton on the left, found the head of Richards and the right-back sent a powerful header towards goal. The hapless Samaras got in the way but controlled the ball and spun to fire wide.

Saha made amends for his miss just before the break when he dashed into the six-yard box to beat Weaver and Thatcher to Heinze’s driven low cross and stabbed the ball in off the crossbar. Like Vidic’s equaliser against Benfica, Saha’s strike against City was perfectly timed - forcing the opposition boss to tear up his script for the interval team-talk.

Stuart Pearce also had to change his team-sheet, bringing on Andreas Isaksson for Weaver - presumably injured as Saha scored - and Stephen Ireland for Reyna. Both of City’s subs had important touches of the ball in the opening minutes of the second half. The goalkeeper smothered a low shot at one end and Ireland forced another save at the other with a left-foot strike that van der Sar parried.

Isaksson's next two saves were more difficult - finger-tipping Giggs' far-post rocket over the top and before that diving smartly to block Rooney's drive after Scholes weaved his way through the City pack. Sadly, Saha skied the rebound.

Graham Poll booked two more players before the hour was up - Rooney for a foul of frustration on former Everton team-mate Dunne and Corradi for using an elbow in aerial combat with Vidic.

Rooney continued his battle with the City goalkeeper but the Swede denied him twice in the space of a few minutes, diving to his left to deal with a mid-range shot and then producing the save of the match, month and maybe the season when he parried a point-blank volley from Giggs' left-wing cross.

Isaksson's acrobatics were crowned in the 73rd minute by a brilliant goal from Trabelsi, the man who gave the ball away for United's second goal. City could have been three, four or more down but now they were just 2-1 behind after the Tunisian midfielder's rising strike beat van der Sar in the top right-hand corner and bounced in off the crossbar.

United had by now withdrawn one striker - O'Shea replacing Saha - but City kept their attackers on, sensing they might just snatch an equaliser. They had little choice - Richards' hip injury forced Pearce to make his third change at the back with Nedum Onuoha coming on.

Van der Sar had one or two rocky moments before Ronaldo settled the nerves, tucking the ball home from close range after Dunne failed to clear another cross, from the ever-dangerous Rooney.

City's misery was compounded in injury time - Corradi was sent to turn the bath-taps on when his pathetic dive in the box brought a second yellow card from Poll. The World Cup referee did his sums right this time and showed the red card to cap a day when the Reds ruled supreme - locally by three points and nationally by nine.

Team Line-ups

United: Van der Sar; Neville (c), Ferdinand, Vidic, Heinze; Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs; Saha (O'Shea, 66), Rooney.
Subs not used: Kuszczak, Silvestre, Solskjaer, Fletcher.

City: Weaver (Isaksson, H/T), Richards (Onuoha, 75), Dunne, Distin, Thatcher, Trabelsi, Barton, Reyna (Ireland, H/T), Vassell, Corradi, Samaras.
Subs not used: Dickov, Beasley.

Attendance: 76,000


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