Champions League – United triumph in Moscow shoot-out


Manchester United were crowned European champions for the third time in their history after a dramatic sudden-death penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea in Moscow.

FOOTBALL; Manchester United celebrate winning the Champions League, May 2008 - 0

With the sides level at 1-1 after extra-time, courtesy of first-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Frank Lampard, it was left to Edwin Van der Sar to make the decisive save in the shoot-out and hand Sir Alex Ferguson his second European crown.

In an unbearably tense conclusion, Ronaldo‘s penalty was saved by Petr Cech and John Terry had the chance to win the final. But the Chelsea captain slipped and his effort clipped the post and went wide.

Into sudden death it went, and after Ryan Giggs calmly side-footed home, Van der Sar parried substitute Nicolas Anelka‘s spot-kick to provide a fitting tribute to those who died in the Munich air disaster 50 years ago.

In an open and entertaining match, there was little to separate the two sides, who both excelled technically and conspired to provide a scintillating night of European football that will live long in the memory. The only stain on an otherwise gleaming advertisement for the Premier League was a late red card for Didier Drogba, after the striker raised his hands to Nemanja Vidic.

United lined up with Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney in a three-pronged attack, and appeared intent on taking the game to Chelsea from the outset.

With Ronaldo driving down the left flank at every opportunity, ably assisted by Patrice Evra, and the duo of Owen Hargreaves and Wes Brown patrolling the right, the Premier League champions looked the most likely for the majority of the first half.

Chelsea were slow to start, and struggled to get Joe Cole and Drogba into the game as a result of United’s tireless closing down. Tevez was at his feverish best, denying opponents time on the ball and easing the pressure.

The game’s first incident of note came on 21 minutes, when Claude Makelele caught Paul Scholes with a clumsy challenge. While the foul went unpunished, both players were cautioned as a result of the melee which ensued.

Soon after, United took a deserved lead. Brown cut in from the right and sent a clipped left-foot cross to the far post. Ronaldo was being marshalled by Michael Essien, but he pulled away to find space ten yards out and head his 42nd goal of a remarkable season.

To that point Chelsea had offered little in the way of attacking ambition, but on 35 minutes Michael Ballack came desperately close to bring the Blues level. The German midfielder timed his run expertly to meet Drogba’s far-post header across, but his effort was superbly saved by Van der Sar.

Suddenly the game was alive. United broke almost immediately downfield and Ronaldo’s low cross was met with flying header from Tevez. Cech saved brilliantly, and recovered to block Michael Carrick‘s follow-up from the penalty spot.

Two minutes before the interval Tevez came closer still to increasing his side’s lead. This time Rooney was the architect, bombing down the right to send over a low cross which evaded the Argentine’s desperate lunge by inches.

Somehow Chelsea survived and moments later they were level. Essien’s hopeful long-range shot was deflected of first Vidic, and then Ferdinand, to fall neatly into the stride of Lampard. The England midfielder finished with aplomb to send the teams into the break level.

As the second half got under way, Chelsea were visibly buoyed by the goal. Ballack began to assert himself in midfield, and Essien finally got a foothold in his battle with Ronaldo.

The complexion of the game was transformed, and United were now the side hanging on and surviving on scraps in attack. Just after the hour mark, Lampard saw his shot headed behind by Rio Ferdinand, and from his resulting corner Terry leapt highest to head just over the bar.

With a little over 10 minutes remaining, Drogba cut inside and crashed a swerving 20-yard shot against the post with Van der Sar beaten. Chelsea were getting closer, but United remained resolute in defence and refused to capitulate.

The closing minutes of normal time were predictably tense, but there would be no repeat of United’s dramatic last-gasp victory in 1999.

Extra-time it was, and within three minutes Chelsea found the woodwork for the second time. This time it was Lampard who was denied, after spinning neatly in the box and shooting left-footed from 10 yards. Van der Sar was once again helpless, but the underside of the bar came to his rescue.

But United soon began to reproduce their first-half form, and came close to scoring themselves. Evra broke down the left and cut back for Giggs, on as substitute to make his record-breaking 759th appearance for the club. The Welshman connected well, but Terry put his head in the way to deny him a fairytale winner.

With five minutes remaining, and penalties looming, a confrontation broke out between Drogba and Vidic. Players swarmed in, hands were raised, and when the dust settled the Ivorian was sent off for slapping Vidic across the face. It was a petty and ill-advised act from the striker, which was out of character for a match played for most part in a sportsmanlike manner.

With that, went the last meaningful action of the game, and the dreaded penalty shoot-out ensued.

Sadly for Chelsea, Terry spurned a glorious opportunity to hand the side their first European title after Ronaldo’s kick was saved, and it was left to Van der Sar to ensure the class of 2008 go down in history with United’s all-conquering sides of 1968 and 1999.

Will Tidey / Eurosport

Posted under:  All Articles, Football, Ligi kuu ya England, Man Utd