Saturday, September 26, 2009

Man United Scores Twice against Stoke City

Manchester United went top of the Premier League with a 2-0 win against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.

The champions' victory, coupled with Chelsea's 3-1 defeat at Wigan, meant they overtook Carlo Ancelotti's side on goal difference.
Second-half goals from Dimitar Berbatov and John O'Shea secured the points, but it was the introduction from the bench of Ryan Giggs that proved decisive.
The veteran midfielder unlocked a previously solid Stoke defence, setting up both goals and proving his enduring ability.

Sir Alex Ferguson kept faith with under-fire keeper Ben Foster, but the England man could hardly have had an easier time against his former club.
Foster had such an easy afternoon, he could have sat in the United goalmouth with his pipe and slippers and still kept a clean sheet.
United are used to being patient; just four of their 17 Premier League goals this season have come in the first half.
The only clear-cut chance of the first half fell to winger Antonio Valencia, who has made a slow start to life with the Champions.
The Ecuadorean winger raced in from the right flank and bore down on goal, but clipped his shot just past Thomas Sorensen's left-hand post.
Elsewhere it was just half-chances for United; Wayne Rooney hooked an early volley over, Nani was equally wayward and Berbatov saw a shot blocked.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis is an arch-pragmatist, putting results ahead of romance. Their performance in the top flight since summer 2008 shows it is working, and the Potters were happy to defend in numbers in front of their home crowd.
Time and again, there would be 21 players inside the Stoke half but no breakthrough for the champions, who were expertly forced wide from where the delivery of Nani and Valencia lacked quality.
Dave Kitson provided Stoke's main threat, bothering Rio Ferdinand to distraction before a collision with Valencia saw him pick up a shin injury that put him off his game.
Stoke's disciplined display hardly made for great entertainment, but the 28,000 roaring fans inside the Britannia Stadium were clearly prepared to sacrifice that in exchange for a point against the champions.
However, on 54 minutes, Ferguson brought Giggs on for the disappointing Nani and the veteran soon showed what United had been missing.
Just after the hour mark, he received a Darren Fletcher pass in the left channel, then played a clever square ball across the six-yard line to present Berbatov with a tap-in.

It was just the sort of simple, intelligent play United will miss when the 35-year-old eventually ends his glittering career.
Having been geared to protect the stalemate, Stoke struggled to shift into a more attacking gear.
The visitors continued to dominate possession and chance were fleeting and few for Stoke.
James Beattie and Tuncay Sanli came off the bench, but Giggs continued to exert his magisterial influence.
Having claimed three assists in last weekend's derby, the Welshman made it two against Stoke with a pinpoint free-kick that O'Shea glanced inside the far corner.
Giggs might have added a goal of his own when Paul Scholes found him unmarked, but sent the shot high over with the outside of his left boot.

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