Champions League: Manchester United Finish the Job Against Chelsea, Winning 2-1
Manchester United pushed and heaved their way past a largely lackluster Chelsea side tonight, to book their position in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, thanks to goals from Javier Hernandez and Ji-Sung Park, and impressive performances from Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs.
Chelsea’s Carlo Ancelotti made the strange decision to start with Nicholas Anelka and Fernando Torres, leaving Didier Drogba on the bench. Neither player influenced the first half in the way Ancelotti would have hoped.
The two sides played a mostly uninspired first-half, until Ryan Giggs linked up with John O’Shea, and played a sumptuous ball across the box that Hernandez couldn’t help but direct into the goal. He had earlier been correctly ruled offside for a header that had flown into the net from a Wayne Rooney cross, so Chelsea had been warned of the movement and awareness of the little Mexican star.
In the second half, Didier Drogba replaced Fernando Torres and Saloman Kalou was bought on in place of Nicholas Anelka. The two Ivorian hitmen had an immediate effect, causing Van der Sar to make some saves – something barely required of him in the first.
A Ramires sending off looked to be the end of Chelsea’s night, the Brazilian sliding through the back of Nani to pick up a needless second yellow. But Drogba was put through by an expert ball from Michael Essien, his turn off the chest control was sumptuous, and his finish was driven into the corner, past a helpless Van der Sar. Finally Chelsea had a lifeline.
Unfortunately Chelsea’s defenders were distracted by their teams new found optimism, and allowed Manchester United’s Korean winger Ji-Sung Park to walk into the box unmarked. The ageless Giggs picked him out, and the aggregate score was brought back to 3-1.
While United fans will celebrate, realists amongst them will note with pessimism the ease with which Barcelona dispatched of Schalke, and Real Madrid’s 4-0 crushing off Tottenham Hotspurs. Even their likely next round opposition, Schalke, were able to beat last years winners 5-2 in the San Siro.
For more analysis of the game, please read below.
Goals truly are like buses. After a beautifully chipped pass from Michael Essien, Drogba took the ball on his chest and as he ran towards the goal, he smashed it past Van der Sar. Why did this man not start the game?!
Well, until Ji-Sung Park intervened. The goal came so quickly after Drogba's goal, I missed the build-up trying to write beautiful prose about the Michael Essien pass, but the South Korean superstar once again scores in the Champions League, slamming the ball into Cech's far post. The defence went to sleep, Giggs put him through. The rest is history. Can I breathe now?!
Manchester United fans, get your cigars and your Schalke tickets, your team are going through. Ramires recieved his second yellow card for what was a fairly stupid tackle on Nani. It was not a tackle he needed to make, plowing into the back of Evra's ankle, and the referee didn't take his time.
Chelsea are definitely an improved team with Drogba in the team, and the substitution to bring Kalou on was surely in response to Ferdinand's less-than-full fitness. It's all somewhat in vain, though.
Just moments earlier, a nice passage of play, including a powerful run and turn by Drogba, ended with a corner to Chelsea. The ball was whipped in and Alex had what was finally a half-decent chance for Chelsea. Unfortunately nothing came of it. Drogba then turned his defender and shot almost straight at Van der Sar. A goal might make the game interesting—it's unsure where it will come from.
Rooney is having fun down the wings, and a cross towards Giggs displayed the Welshman's not the best header of the ball. Still, it looks as though it won't matter.
Immediately justifying his inclusion, Drogba picks up the ball from some distance, and shoots low along the floor towards the corner of Van der Sar's goal. The Dutch keeper dived, but it was wide by several feet.
But the Chelsea fans will be pleased to see some positive play from the Ivorian striker. The free-kick he took was also fairly easy for Van der Sar to save, but the idea was there.
Saloman Kalou, another Ivorian striker, is joining his countryman in attack, at the expense of Anelka.
Evra has just been booked from a foul from behind. Pity it's about a week too late.
How must Torres be feeling? This game was surely one to boost his confidence, to show the manager believed in him. And now he's on the bench, again. Having not scored, again.
Not one of the most surprising managerial decisions that's ever been made, but Ancelotti has started the game with a team closer to the one he won the double with last season. Man-Mountain Didier Drogba has replaced Man-Molehill in Chelsea's attack, partnering up with journeyman Nicholas Anelka.
Can they score two against Manchester United? The one glimmer of hope for the Blues is Rio Ferdinand, who looks far less than 100 percent. In a sprint, you would fancy either of the Chelsea front men.
Before the Hernandez goal came in the 43rd minute, this half could have been described as 45 minutes of quarter chances. Both teams looked as though they were going to score, but the lack of cutting edge kept the score at 0-0 until more delicious play from Ryan Giggs opened up Chelsea’s defence, and Chicarito had an easy finish.
Hernandez has just been described as the "signing of the century" by Jamie Redknapp. I know it’s live TV, and they have to keep talking, but that is surely an exaggeration…what about Andy Carroll!
Now what for Chelsea? Well, they have to bring on Didier Drogba sooner rather than later. For me, he’s the best player in their squad, so for him to be on the bench in a must-win game is crazy.
Torres has received a lot of stick for his form prior to this game, and tonight he hasn’t done much wrong, but he’s not been his explosive best. He’s someone who could benefit from putting away some goals against a smaller team, say Blackpool. Manchester United at Old Trafford is unlikely to be the time and place where he finds his form again.
For what it’s worth, Ramires, Malouda and Terry were booked. Ramires will miss the next game, it looks unlikely that it will be against Schalke.
Chelsea just have to go for it now—they have nothing to lose. Two goals will put them through, and they have players who are more than capable of getting two goals. It probably won’t happen, but there is a chance. My 2-1 prediction is still looking pretty good.
Manchester have just made Chelsea's job very difficult, and Carlo Ancelloti's team talk very telling with an extremely well-timed goal for Manchester United in the 43rd minute.
The goal came after some excellent interplay between Giggs—who was picked out by Rooney—and O'Shea. As the Chelsea players ball-watched, Giggs snuck around the back of the defence and played a ball right across the goal. Hernandez, or Chicarito as it says on his shirt, was there to smash the ball into the roof of the net.
The goal was coming. Now what for Chelsea?
Oh, the game was nearly in Manchester United's hands, but a great header from Chicarito after a lowish cross from Rooney was deemed offside. He was offside, just.
It is reported pulse rates in West London and Russia raised just a little before the offside call was announced.
Elsewhere, the ball was crossed into the general vicinity of Torres, who brought the ball into his control and juggled it within the Manchester United defence, who eventually poked it away. Vidic headed the ball out of the box, and it fell to Nicholas Anelka, who half-vollied the ball—it curled just over the bar.
The chance symbolises Chelsea's growing comfort in the game, although Rooney and Chicarito look dangerous and lively every time the ball comes their way. It's a very interesting game, which will be massively defined by the first goal.
It shouldn't really come as much of a surprise, but the often-injured Rio Ferdinand has been hobbling around and Chris Smalling is beginning to warm up. It's not completely clear how he has injured himself, but he did have a minor clash with Ramires.
Elsewhere in the game, Park was played through by Rooney with an excellent pass, but his cross didn't come to anything. Torres had a headed chance, but it was just wide of the post. While Manchester United aren't exactly dominating their opponents into submission, it wouldn't be a massive surprise if they did score. Rooney's movement is crisp.
Anelka just shot wide after being teed up by Torres. Lampard was given the ball in an excellent position after a strong run from Malouda, but put it straight at Van der Sar.
There is going to be a goal in the next half an hour, I'm sure of it!
Judging purely from the first few minutes of play, it looks as though both teams are keen to assert control over their opposition early in the game, but it looks like they both also have the patience to stroke the ball around, knowing a goal in the first five or 10 minutes isn't essential for qualification.
Manchester United have gotten closer to Cech's goal than Chelsea have to Van der Sar's, but the Czech goalie hasn't had anything to concern him just yet. Ivanovic gave away a cheap free-kick on the edge of the box, clashing legs with Nani, but Cech comfortably collected the ball.
So kickoff at Old Trafford is in about half an hour, and already Manchester United and Chelsea must be feeling the pressure. The game is delicately poised thanks to a Wayne Rooney goal in Stamford Bridge, which means Chelsea must score in order to progress.
As BD Condell has quite rightly said in the comments section, the first goal is massively vital, far more so than any other game I can think of this season. If Manchester United were to score early, the game could become a bit easy, as it would mean Chelsea would need to score two to progress, and Manchester United have closed up the shop on so many games that the Manchester United fans should begin looking for hotels in Schalke (or Milan, but probably Schalke).
But if Chelsea scored first...we will have an amazing game on our hands.
My personal prediction is that Manchester United will win 2-1. This will probably be wrong, but Manchester United, having got an advantage in the first game away from home, would be really disappointed to exit the tournament. It would also go against the current form of both the sides.
Interesting lineups being used tonight, especially on Chelsea's part, who are starting Fernando Torres over Didier Drogba. Could this be an Ambramovich intervention? Will this be Ancelotti's last night managing Chelsea in Europe? Or will El Nino finally get off the mark for Chelsea?
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez.
Subs: Kuszczak, Brown, Berbatov, Smalling, Scholes, Valencia, Gibson.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Anelka, Torres, Malouda.
Subs: Turnbull, Benayoun, Drogba, Mikel, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Kalou.
Referee: Olegario Bartolo Benquerenca (Leiria)