Premier League – United spot on to lift Shield

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Gary Neville lifted Manchester United‘s 13th Community Shield after the Premier League champions beat Portsmouth 3-1 in a penalty shootout at Wembley.

FOOTBALL 2008 Community Shield Manchester United Gary Neville - 0

Spot kicks were needed after 90 minutes of normal time had failed to separate the two sides in the traditional curtain raiser to the new season.

Man-of-the-match Carlos Tevez, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick were on target for United as Lassana Diarra, Arnold Mvuemba and Glen Johnson all missed for Portsmouth. Jermain Defoe was the only Pompey player to find the back of the net.

United were deserved victors after having enjoyed much the better of play in normal time. Indeed, the European champions should have finished off Pompey without even having to go to the lottery of a shootout.

That they did not was down to a combination of profligacy in front of goal, some good goalkeeping from David James and one poor refereeing decision.

The major talking point of the game centred on the latter, after Peter Walton failed to point to the spot when Herman Hreidarsson pulled Carlos Tevez to the ground in the box with just 15 minutes remaining.

Walton – officiating in place of the suspended Mark Clattenburg – waved play on, sparking a petulant reaction from the Argentine who grabbed Hreidarsson by the throat in anger. He was lucky to stay on the pitch.

United should already have been a goal to the good after Darren Fletcher was presented with a glorious chance to open the scoring on 36 minutes.

Nani caught Glen Johnson in possession in the right-back position and delivered a cross that a true centre forward would have gratefully gobbled up. Midfielder Fletcher somehow conspired to fluff his lines from close range.

That glaring miss aside, Fletcher put in a solid display in the absence of several recognised starters and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet when a well-measured lob with the outside of his boot was tipped onto the bar by a back-peddling James just after the half-time break.

United boss Alex Ferguson was forced to field a weakened side due to a mixture of injuries, illness and international duty but was nonetheless able to recall Neville to make a first domestic appearance since March 2007.

Deprived of Cristiano Ronaldo, still recovering from an ankle operation, and virus-affected and unfit Wayne Rooney, United had to rely on Tevez to pose an attacking threat.

And it was the Argentine who first menaced the Pompey goal, heading wide from Fletcher’s cross with a diving effort after 17 minutes before forcing another good save from James with a snap shot from the edge of the area midway through the second half.

While James enjoyed a good work-out at one end, Edwin van der Sar at the other was a relatively peripheral figure. The Dutchman – hero of May’s Champions League final shootout in Moscow – was rarely brought into action as Pompey’s new-look strike force of Jermain Defoe and the £11 million Peter Crouch failed to fire.

Defoe had few opportunities to run at the United defence with the ball at his feet, making his way through just twice. On the first occasion he managed to get a sliced shot off at goal while on the second he was crowded out by Nemanja Vidic.

Crouch did not have as much joy and was well marshalled by Vidic and Rio Ferdinand throughout as United started the season exactly where they left the last – winning silverware.

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Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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