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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wembley goes blue as United see red in penalties!

“Revenge for Moscow”, I texted.

“Revenge for 0-3”, texted my friend.

These were my predictions before the start of the community shield match. This game was billed as a build up to the Prem League season. It was going to be a test for both the teams. It was Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti’s first competitive game in the country and the newspapers were predicting an early exit for the Italian, considering 5 different coaches at the Stamford Bridge in the last 2 years. Manchester United, on the other hand, was keen to shrug off the CR07 absence tag. Not that the burly Argentinian would be missed. There was much talk ahead of the game as Carlo’s “Diamond” was being thrown around.

After a round of applause for the Late Bobby Robson, the game kicked off. United fans would have to wait for the summer signings as Alex Ferguson chose to bench his new signings (Owen and Valencia). Plagued by injuries, United’s defense read – Evra, Jonathan E vans, Rio Ferdinand and John O’Shea. Carlo Ancelotti’s much touted “diamond” saw Florent Malouda starting at left , Michael Essien at Right , Mikel at Centre Defence and Lampard at the top. Chelsea’s signing Zhirkov had to pull out. As the game kicked off, Wembley saw a spell of United’s dominance for about half an hour within which Manchester United took the lead from a trademark Nani strike at the 10th minute. His shot from just outside the box could not be kept out by Cech, though John Terry seemed to have been in an awkward position for the Czech goalkeeper to have a decent stretch. Chelsea seemed to be giving away possession far too easily as Rooney seemed to be everywhere on the pitch. Petr Cech had a tough time keeping out the shots from Park, Fletcher . The Chelsea goal never seemed coming as a shot from Ivanovic were kept out by a precarious Evra clearance that just bounced off the crossbar. Towards the end of the first half, Chelsea seemed to get a bite back in to the game. Ben Foster was given constant problems by Drogba up front. The Englishman, who Ferguson calls the number one in England, seemed quite wayward in the goal, was not in his form.

Whatever Carlo’s half time team-talk was about, it seemed to work. Chelsea brought in Bosingwa for Ivanovic (who never seemed to get going in the first half) at half time. And a Chelsea goal came in the 52nd minute. Foster was only able to punch a cross and lost his footing, the ball fell to Carvalho who played a diving header into the net. It was a great moment for the Portuguese international who was constantly rumored to leave to join Ex-Boss Mourinho at Inter. Minutes later Nani, who had a great game injured his left shoulder in a fall and had to be subbed out. He was replaced by “Not Ronaldo Replacement” Valencia. Chelsea brought in Michael Ballack to replace an off color Mikel. A Chelsea goal came in controversial circumstances as Evra went down but Chelsea continued with the play. Man Utd were two men down as Berbatov was receiving treatment at the touchline. Lampard hit the ball into the hands of Foster who could not stop it from entering the goal. Ferguson was fuming at the Referee’s gaffe. He unleashed the quartet of Giggs, Scholes, Fabio and Owen. Nothing seemed to happen. With all things indicating a Chelsea win, ‘Wazza’ slotted in a Giggs through ball in the stoppage time to take it to penalties.

The penalty shootout was not as dramatic as the Champions League final 08. Giggs couldn’t score as Cech’s legs kept out the shot and Evra’s bad tuck was no problem for the Czech goalkeeper. But for Chelsea Lampard, Ballack, Drogba and Kalou scored. I was happy that Terry didn’t have to step up. The match was not the kind of start for the season that Sir Alex would have hoped for, but it has kicked off the season nevertheless. Maybe Man Utd can do with a Penalty coach – Roberto Baggio perhaps!

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