2008 Champions League Final

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Moscow: Wednesday May 21, 2008; Champions League Final.

Chelsea v. Manchester United

Chelsea: P.Cech, M.Essien, J.Terry, R.Carvalho, A Cole, C.Makelele (J.Belletti 119), M.Ballack, F.Lampard, F.Malouda (S.Kalou 92), J.Cole (N.Anelka 98) Drogba.

Man Utd: E.Van der Sar, W.Brown (Anderson 119), R.Ferdinand, N.Vidic, P.Evra, M.Carrick, O.Hargreaves, P.Scholes (R.Giggs 86) W.Rooney (Nani 101), C.Tevez.

Match Report: The 2008 Champions League final, the first one ever to be contested by two English clubs, got off to a promisingly open start with both sides looking to get forward in the opening minutes on a slippery pitch that looked as though it might pose problems for defenders.

Florent Malouda got over a good early centre for Chelsea that was well defended by Nemanja Vidic before Manchester United began to pose a threat of their own.

United had started with Ronaldo wide on the left and Owen Hargreaves hugging the right hand side and it was, surprisingly, Hargreaves who offered their early promise.

Hargreaves linked well with Wayne Rooney only to see his centre deflected straight to Petr Cech but then forced John Terry into some stout defending with his next cross. It was not long before the same player picked out an even better centre which fell invitingly at the feet of Ronaldo, inside the box at the far post, but United's superstar allowed the ball to escape under his foot.

Although the game then settled down and became slightly more cagey the expectation that something was about to happen remained distinctly in the air. United were certainly looking the more coherent side in the early stages, however, and now began probing down the other flank.

Ronaldo was having all sorts of joy against makeshift right back Michael Essien and left his marker for dead before centering marginally too high for Hargreaves at the far post and then linked superbly with Patrice Evra for another cross that was strongly defended by Terry.

The first unsavoury incident came when Paul Scholes barged into Claude Makelele and both players ended up receiving yellow cards after the mandatory pushing and shoving match between both sets of players had finally calmed down.

Scholes was left needing treatment for significant damage to his nose but it was hard to see how this had been sustained. Makelele, for his part, appeared unsettled out of all proportion by the incident and spent the rest of the first half walking a fine line as he got involved in other incidents and chirped away at the referee on numerous occasions.

While down to ten men Carlos Tevez played his side into trouble and it took a fine clearance from Vidic to deny Chelsea from Frank Lampard's cross.

With the return of Scholes came a return of United dominance, however, and on twenty six minutes they took a deserved lead. Wes Brown trotted forward to take a throw in deep in Chelsea territory, took it short to Scholes and then enchanged quick, short passes to work himself space for a left footed centre.

This may not have seemed an obvious source of danger but Brown clipped a sweet inswinging cross to the far post where Ronaldo left Essien completely flat footed as he rose to plant a perfect header into the corner of the Chelsea net.

Chelsea looked to catch United cold from the restart but when Michael Ballack latched onto a half clearance his shot was way off target from the edge of the box.

In general all Chelsea could bring to the party at this stage was a massive propensity to moan. A strong challenge by Brown on Malouda led to another mass protest but there had been nothing amiss in the tackle and the referee rightly let the game continue.

Brown had the bit between his teeth and came forward for another tellimg centre which Ronaldo met well at the far post to head back across goal but a Chelsea boot was there first to clear the danger.

United were clearly growing in confidence with Scholes and Michael Carrick calling the tune in midfield, both full backs getting forward to support the attack and Ronaldo in his element.

Up front neither Tevez or Rooney looked to be at their best, however, which was just as well for Chelsea.

The first really dangerous moment for Edwin Van der Sar came when Lampard was allowed time to pick out Drogba at the back post and he headed back across the face of the United goal.

Rio Ferdinand looked unsure how to defend the situation with Ballack charging in and ended up heading towards his own goal from close range. Van der Sar slapped the ball away and Scholes was able to boot the loose ball behind for a corner.

As Chelsea tried to turn the tide United countered with an inspired spell that should have seen them move further ahead.

Firstly Rooney came right back towards his own corner flag to rob Ricardo Carvalho and lead a magnificent counter attack. Having made thirty yards of ground Rooney sent a perfect crossfield ball forward for Ronaldo to chase, drawing two defenders into a futile attempt to cover, and when he whipped in a centre to the near post Tevez dived full length for a header that was brilliantly saved by Cech.

The stretched Chelsea defence could only clear to the edge of the area, however, where Carrick was following up for a first time shot that drew another fine save out of the Chelsea keeper.

Chelsea had Cech to thank in this instance but United only had themselves to blame in their next attack. Hargreaves did well to win possession before sending Rooney away along the right wing and his drilled low centre evaded Cech's attempt to intercept offering Tevez an open goal but the striker could only get his studs to the ball and the chance was lost.

Tevez was at full stretch but this was a chance that was begging to be taken.

It is not wise to miss too many clear chances in games like this and Chelsea ended the half with their best spell of possession inside the United half.

Ferdinand found himself in the book after blocking Lampard's run on the edge of the box but Ballack was over from the resulting free kick.

Then, with half time looming, Chelsea were suddenly level from nowhere with possibly the scabbiest goal ever scored. Essien was given too much room in which to come forward but his shot from thirty yards did not seem to present obvious danger until ricochets off both United centre halves saw the ball rebounding nicely for Lampard and when Van der Sar then proceeded to slip there was little prospect of the Chelsea midfielder missing.

He didn't.

Encouraged Chelsea quickly came forward again and Ballack was not far away from the angle of the area with a curling effort before Carvalho became another entry into the referees' notebook after a nasty challenge on Ronaldo.

Carvalho is a highly respected defender but he is also a sly, unscrupulous player who puts in his share of naughty tackles but generally gets away with it.

Even with a yellow card to his name he looked to have got away with this one too.

Half Time: Chelsea 1 Manchester United 1

There was a cagey start to the second half which was ended when Ronaldo produced a piece of magic to send Evra racing away and his centre looked inviting for Hargreaves at the far post but ended up clearing the United man as he inexplicably failed to react.

Any thoughts that this might signal United resuming their dominance of the first half quickly evaporated as Chelsea gradually began to take control of the midfield. This shift in control continued unabated until Chelsea had taken a real grip on proceedings and United were left hanging on.

Malouda did well to lead a swift attack in which he was joined by Essien who held off Ronaldo before clipping a left footed shot just over the bar.

It was lucky for United that this shot was too high as Van der Sar had slipped again and would have been powerless to intervene had the effort been on target.

Pretty soon it was Chelsea at their best as they forced United back and put their defence under real pressure with a series of centres for the likes of Drogba and Ballack to attack.

Vidic, who would be a rock for United, headed behind from an Ashley Cole centre and then Drogba headed over from Lampard's corner.

Ballack was allowed the freedom of Moscow to line up a shot from thirty yards but his fierce drive was always flying wide of the post as Chelsea tightened their grip on the game.

Although United had lost control of the game there was much to admire in their defending, albeit much of it produced at full stretch.

Vidic dived in bravely to produce a magnificent clearance from a Lampard corner before Carrick stretched out a long leg to avert danger from Malouda's wickedly inswinging free kick. Then it was Vidic again putting his head in the way of a Lampard cross shot to concede a corner that Terry met but could not keep down.

At this stage there appeared to be only one winner but Alex Ferguson was prepared to leave his side as it was and hope that they could weather the storm.

The pressure was obviously beginning to tell, however. Ferdinand was called upon to clear balls into the United box three times in the space of a minute and was left writhing on the floor suffering the effects of cramp.

This set a trend with most of the players on view going down with the complaint at some stage before the game was done.

An error by Essien during a rare United attack put his side in trouble allowing Rooney and Hargreaves to combine and present Carrick with a shooting chance but his effort was deflected behind for a corner which came to nothing.

Carrick then found Ronaldo in a promising position inside the area but the winger seemed to lose all conviction after working himself an opening and fired tamely into the side netting.

The force was still with Chelsea, however, and they came within inches of taking the lead after an incredible incident. Drogba wandered crossfield from right to left before falling over in attempting to move the ball out to the wing.

United could not clear, however, and when the ball was poked back towards Drogba he was up in a flash to send a searing drive against the face of the far post.

Rooney put his side in trouble with an errant pass that was seized upon by Malouda and when Ferdinand then slipped there was real danger for United. Malouda crossed low to the near post but Drogba could not convert under severe pressure from the dogged Vidic.

Drogba was then crowded out at the other post by Evra after being found with a cute free kick from the right wing.

Chelsea were getting increasingly frustrated at not being awarded corner kicks after these incidents and they were fuming again when Drogba could not convert a lovely ball into the near post by Joe Cole and again did not even get the consolation of a corner.

The ninety minutes ended with Ryan Giggs coming on for the tiring Scholes and United escaped another dangerous situation when a reckless attempted intercetion by Ferdinand ended with Joe Cole in a good position deep inside the United box only for him to freeze at the vital moment.

For all United's dominance of the first half Chelsea had been equally on top during the second.

Full Time: Chelsea 1 Manchester United 1

Both sides looked keen to try and win the game without the need of penalties as extra time began in open fashion. United, doubtless to their relief, now appeared to be back on terms with Chelsea after their second half mauling.

Some slick passing through the centre by United threatened to open Chelsea up but a kind deflection carried the ball to Cech as Giggs attempted to break clear on the edge of the box.

There was even better short passing from Chelsea as they then retaliated with a swift attack of their own. Ashley Cole was prominent before Ballack's clever ball found Lampard inside the box and he was desperately unlucky to see his chipped shot on the turn cannon back from the bar with Van der Sar beaten.

The rebound dropped to Joe Cole but he was unable to get over the bouncing ball and his effort lobbed harmlessly over the bar.

Let off number two for United.

Ronaldo was not getting the same level of service as earlier but remained capable of going past Essien almost at will and beat his man yet again before crossing marginally too high for Tevez in the middle.

Then came the chance of the night. Rooney fired a long ball deep into the Chelsea box and when Essien was unable to get real distance on his headed clearance Evra came charging through from full back to take command.

The defender stormed straight to the by-line before cutting back a perfect ball for Giggs. With the Chelsea defende spreadeagled the stage was set for Giggs to cap his record breaking appearance for Manchester United in real style but instead he sent in an ugly, poked effort that John Terry did brilliantly to head behind for a corner.

Quality defending from Terry but this was a cast iron sitter that Giggs should have buried.

Nicolas Anelka had just replaced Joe Cole for Chelsea but it was more surprising to see United then withdraw Wayne Rooney and send on Nani.

Rooney had been nowhere near his best but he is as strong as an ox and was surely relishing extra time more than most. He has also taken good penalties in previous shootouts and it seemed a strange decision.

Ronaldo found Tevez at the corner of the penalty area and the Argentinian did well to work himself some space but then shot straight at Cech with colleagues better placed in the last action of the first period of extra time.

With both sets of players looking exhausted and only fifteen minutes seperating them from penalty kicks the game retreated into its' shell for the first time all night and the second period of extra time was relatively without incident.

Drogba fired wide with a free kick from a promising position before becoming embroiled in a pointless altercation and earning himself a red card for a petty slap on Vidic.

The trouble had started when Tevez put the ball out for a Chelsea throw in after one of their players had received treatment but then signalled his teammates forward to contest the throw rather than allow Chelsea unchallenged possession.

Tevez was of the opinion, somewhat justified, that Chelsea had not previously been as sporting in how they put the ball out for United after treatment to their players but the situation quickly escalated with Chelsea players rushing from all corners to remonstrate and United players happy to join the melee.

In the midst of the posing and posturing Drogba raised an ill advised hand to the face of Vidic and when the referee finally restored order he had no hesitation in producing a red card.

It all seemed completely unnecessary but with only a few minutes remaining it looked unlikely to effect anything other than, perhaps, the looming penalty shootout.

United managed to send a couple of hopeful crosses into the Chelsea box which came to nought and both sides opted to make late changes with penalties in mind.

And to penalties we were inexorably headed.

Full Time (aet): Chelsea 1 Manchester United 1

It was Manchester United to go first and Carlos Tevez confidently beat Cech with the first kick.
First up for Chelsea was Michael Ballack and I suppose nobody was more confidently expected to make his kick count than the captain of Germany. He didn't disappoint.
Michael Carrick scored calmly for United before Juliano Belletti showed why Chelsea had brought him on at the end with a no nonsense spot kick.
Two each and up stepped Cristiano Ronaldo. Trusting to his normal technique Ronaldo took a couple of steps forward and then checked his run looking for a hint of movement from Cech. The Chelsea keeper stood his ground, however, and when Ronaldo then came forward for an unconvincing shot the keeper flung himself to his right and kept the ball out with his face.
Frank Lampard made it advantage Chelsea with the next kick before Owen Hargreaves kept United in it with a fine penalty, high beyond Cech.
Chelsea were two kicks from victory and Ashley Cole just about kept their noses in front with a low kick to Van der Sar's left which the keeper got hands on but could not keep out.
Nani had to score to keep his side in it and succeeded leaving the stage set for the last Chelsea taker to become a hero.
The man accepting the task was captain John Terry and he seemed confident enough of accomplishing his mission. Fate was to decree otherwise, however. Terry stepped forward and tried to sidefoot the ball into Van der Sar's left hand corner. He would probably have done so but for the fact that his standing foot went from under him just as he was striking the ball and his shot clipped the outside of the post on its' way wide.
This penalty was an uncanny replica of David Beckham's in the 2004 European Championships against Portugal and was certainly more bad luck than bad play or technique.
It was game on though and Anderson duly stepped forward to belt his penalty past Cech's dive and give United the advantage again.
Saloman Kalou kept his nerve to bring Chelsea level but United were in front again when Ryan Giggs calmly slipped his kick low into the bottom corner and once again the pressure was on Chelsea to stay in contention.
Nicolas Anelka now finally stepped up and you had to think that he didn't fancy it having not come forward earlier as you might have expected from a centre forward. Such suspicions were confirmed as Anelka struck an indeterminate shot at perfect saving height to Van der Sar's right and the Dutchman dived the correct way to punch the ball to safety and hand United the trophy.

Dramatic undoubtedly but a meaningless way to decide any competition. Had the best side won? No, because really neither side had won.

Everybody now seems to accept penalties as an established part of football but we are in danger of seeing the majority of cup competitions settled in this way.

Maybe there is no alternative but the fact that John Terry slipped as he was about to take a penalty should not really decide who is crowned champions of Europe.

Has that proved that Manchester United deserve the trophy? Would it have proved that Chelsea deserved to be champions had Terry's footing held and his shot flown inside the post instead?

Not really.

Full Time (aet): Chelsea 1 Manchester United 1
United win 6-5 on penalties.

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Man Utd v Chelsea - fair game! Not rated yet
It's been a hard time for the two sides, though the game started well but ended up in favour of one side. In a game like football there must be a winner …

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