Saturday, October 31, 2009
Manchester United moved back up to second place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford.
Dimitar Berbatov scored a sublime goal 10 minutes into the second half before Wayne Rooney struck late on to secure United a win that gives them 25 points, two behind leaders Chelsea and three ahead of Arsenal.
Berbatov's last goal in a United shirt was an excellent bicycle kick in the 2-2 draw with Sunderland, and he followed that acrobatic effort with one that arguably surpasses that strike.
Patrice Evra played the Bulgarian in with his back to goal, and with one touch teed up the ball before swivelling and firing a volley on the turn past Paul Robinson.
Despite having a relatively quiet game, Rooney doubled United's lead in the closing moments when he steered Anderson's near-post cross into the far corner for his eighth of the season.
Results elsewhere on Saturday mean Rovers stay in 17th, one place above the relegation zone, as their terrible away form continues. They have now lost all four of their away league matches this season, shipping 18 goals along the way.
United began the evening with Jonny Evans and Wes Brown at the heart of their defence, as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were both injured. However, their defence was not unduly tested as Rovers set out to frustrate United and silence the crowd, which they did to good effect for much of the opening period.
Following a rather low key opening half-hour, United finally gave the subdued Old Trafford crowd something to shout about when Berbatov had two chances within a minute.
First the striker received the ball with his back to goal on the penalty spot, but his shot on the turn was blocked by a well-timed tackle from the impressive Gael Givet. Moments later, the club record signing forced Paul Robinson to tip over the bar with a strong header.
Berbatov did have the ball in the back of the net five minutes before half time, only to see it disallowed. The Bulgarian stole in to tap home Wayne Rooney's cross from close range, only to wheel away in celebration and see the linesman's flag up for offside against Rooney.
United boss Alex Ferguson brought on Gabriel Obertan on the hour mark in place of Nani, who once more disappointed as he struggled to deal with the rough treatment dished out to him by Rovers' defenders.
The young Frenchman, who impressed on his debut at Barnsley in the Carling Cup in midweek, failed to mark his Premier League debut with a goal as he fired wide of the target from eight yards out. However, he did have a small part to play in Rooney's goal, as it was he who brought the ball down the left flank before leaving it for Anderson to cross.
Striker Nikola Kalinic replaced lone frontman Franco di Santo for Rovers, and the Croat had the ball in the back of the net in the first of four added minutes at the end of the 90, only to see the linesman's flag incorrectly raised for offside against him.
Michael Owen was another late attacking introduction for United, and his low shot that flashed inches wide of the far post was the last act of a match that United won without ever really impressing and Blackburn lost without ever looking poor.
Rest of games results:
Bolton 0-4 Chelsea
Burnley 2-0 Hull City
Everton 1-1 Aston Villa
Fulham 3-1 Liverpool
Portsmouth 4-0 Wigan Athletic
Stoke City 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Sunderland 2-2 West Ham United
Arsenal 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Danny Welbeck and Michael Owen gave Manchester United a 2-0 victory over Barnsley at Oakwell to go into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.
Welbeck, pictured, scored after six minutes with Owen scoring just before the hour mark on a night that saw Gary Neville sent off for the visitors.
Barnsley had plenty of chances to score but consistently failed to find the target as their cup run came crashing to an end.
It was the visitors who started the match in more aggressive fashion, pushing upfield at every chance with Welbeck on the left and debutant Gabriel Obertan on the right causing problems for the defence.
And it took just six minutes for United to open the scoring, with Anderson's perfectly-struck corner going straight to the completely unmarked Welbeck, who headed powerfully past Luke Steele.
United continued to dominate the early exchanges as they looked completely in control, with Obertan drawing a superb save from Steele on 19 minutes as he looked certain to score on his debut.
But from then on the Tykes seemed to get the measure of their visitors, hanging on to the ball well and beginning to make chances.
On 23 minutes a corner curled in by Adam Hammill found Malta international Daniel Bogdanovic, whose header clattered against the left upright.
And twice in the next 10 minutes Barnsley defender Stephen Foster had two good headers from corners, one that went wide to the right and then the second just over the bar.
The changed pattern of the match seemed to wake up United's dormant midfield, and they once again began to hang on to the ball better and played the half out safely.
Just three minutes after the break Owen had a chance to put the visitors out of sight, being played through by a terrific ball from Anderson and having just the keeper to beat from inside the box.
But fast-charging defender Foster came through in time to put on a bit of pressure, and Owen's atrociously feeble finish dribbled weakly off the pitch.
It was just the sort of finish that would make Fabio Capello's life easier by removing any prospect of Owen going to South Africa next year - but the diminutive striker made amends 10 minutes later with a great bit of control that gave him the second goal.
Anderson put the ball through to Owen from the left, but the goal was made by the striker's deft control and short burst of acceleration that took him past three Barnsley players, giving him the space to fire a perfectly-placed shot into the bottom right corner.
Barnsley refused to give in despite the second goal, and their hope was bolstered when Neville was dismissed three minutes later for keeping his studs up on the follow through of an otherwise well-won challenge against Hammill.
The decision seemed harsh on Neville, but Barnsley nonetheless used it as a springboard to launch a series of raids upfield in the last half-hour.
And the hosts managed to create a series of good openings, with Hammill and Bogdanovic each hitting a pair of great chances just wide of the uprights.
Substitute Jacob Butterfield did even better on 79 minutes with a stunning piece of football, controlling a tricky pass from the left and side-stepping to beat three United defenders, then rifling a brilliant shot back across goal towards the bottom right corner.
But Ben Foster showed the class that has earned him international honours, pulling out an outstanding diving save to his left that prevented a seemingly certain goal.
It was a cruel blow to a side who deserved at least a consolation goal, and with the players' legs fading and the crowd's singing dying down United closed the match out comfortably.
Though the holders were good value for their spot in the next round, Barnsley's players will be lamenting the lack of quality finishing that saw them blow all the chances they had to make a contest of it.
For United, there were two down sides: first, the poor defending at set pieces that should have seen them punished; and second, the injury to the superb Welbeck, which saw the player limp off with just over half an hour to go.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Torres broke the deadlock on 65 minutes before Ngog added a gloss to the scoreline deep into injury time with both teams down to 10 men as Liverpool's run of four straight defeats ended.
Nemanja Vidic was dismissed for a third straight game against the Merseyside club in the final minute while Javier Mascherano also received his marching orders in time added on.
Antonio Valencia had earlier hit the bar as United rallied but Liverpool held on to record a crucial victory that sees them move into fifth place, allowing manager Rafa Benitez to finally celebrate something on his 200th Premier League match in charge.
United stay in second, having lost top spot to Chelsea on Saturday.
Liverpool may have been missing inspirational skipper Steven Gerrard, who was forced to watch on from the stands through injury, but Benitez was boosted by the return of Torres. The Spaniard did not disappoint.
Having failed to have a sniff of goal during the opening 65 minutes, Torres proved his worth to his club when he was played through on goal by a fantastic Yossi Benayoun pass. He held off the challenge of Rio Ferdinand before lashing into the roof of the net, leaving Edwin van der Sar no chance.
As United pressed forward for a late equaliser, they were exposed at the back and Ngog took full advantage in the sixth minute of time added on, the substitute keeping his cool when played clean through on goal to fire home and seal victory.
Check out all the facts and stats ahead of Liverpool's Premier League clash with Manchester United at Anfield.This will be Rafa Benitez's 200th Premier League game in charge of Liverpool.If Liverpool lose this game then it will be the first time they have lost three successive league games under Rafa Benitez.
Liverpool have failed to score in their last two league games. They have not gone three in a row without scoring since March 2005.
Only one of Liverpool's last 21 league games has ended as a draw.
Manchester United have gone 14 Premier League away games without a draw.
The only Premier League home team to score more than once against Manchester United in 2009 are Fulham, back in March.
United have lost only one of their last seven Premier League trips to Anfield.
The last five league meetings between these sides in Liverpool have seen a total of just six goals, three of them in last season's match.
Manchester United have delivered the most crosses this season (232) but Liverpool have played the most successful crosses (55).
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
United controlled much of the match, but they left it late to take all three points, Antonio Valencia swooping to confirm their dominance with just four minutes remaining.
The result means Alex Ferguson's side are five points clear at the top of the table, after Wolfsburg had to settle for a goalless draw against Besiktas. United can now seal qualification from the group stage with a point against CSKA back at Old Trafford in a fortnight.
Pre-match talk centred on how the visitors would cope with the Luzhniki's infamous plastic pitch and as expected the ball bounced higher and held up more than usual.
The result was a cagey opening period during which chances were few and far between, but the synthetic turf did not appear to give either side a clear advantage.
United edged possession early on and Paul Scholes went closest to breaking the deadlock after 25 minutes, the veteran midfielder cleverly unleashing a shot from 30 yards out that bounced awkwardly just in front of Igor Akinfeev. The CSKA keeper had to be alert to make an effective, if ungainly, save.
Fabio Da Silva, playing at left-back in the absence of the injured Patrice Evra, impressed with his attacking play, and the Brazilian was keen to support Nani down the left hand side at every opportunity.
Nani, meanwhile, was also busy and United's only other real chance of the first half came from one of the many crosses he put into the CSKA penalty area. This one eventually fell to Gary Neville, who sent a measured side-footer just over the bar on 37 minutes.
At the other end, a Tomas Necid header preceded a cross-shot from the dangerous Milos Krasic and an Alan Dzagoyev free-kick that caused panic in the United box, but otherwise United's back line was not troubled, even though Nemanja Vidic looked uncertain on occasion.
After the break Vidic lost his central defensive partner Rio Ferdinand, who was taken off as a precautionary measure with one eye on Sunday's big clash against Liverpool.
But with United upping their game in the second half, much of the action took place at the other end and Wes Brown, Ferdinand's replacement, was comfortable for the remainder of the evening.
Just once did CSKA threaten to get on the scoresheet, when Sergei Ignashevich nearly prodded home a dangerous free-kick after 64 minutes.
But otherwise, United controlled the game during the second half and the only thing lacking from their play, until the later stages, was a final product, although they came close to finding one on several occasions.
Nani was denied a diving header on the hour mark by an excellent save from Akinfeev before the CSKA skipper raced off his line to smother at the Portuguese's feet seven minutes later.
Michael Owen was introduced with just under 20 minutes remaining in the hope the striker could make a breakthrough, although the striker failed to make a difference, swinging and missing at his best chance with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Valencia fared better and the Ecuadorian rattled the frame of the goal with a superb strike following a neat passing move from United, again involving Nani, on 82 minutes.
Four minutes later, United's pressure eventually told as Valecnia settled the match, lashing past Akinfeev from Dimitar Berbatov's flick on to give United their first victory over Russian opponents in UEFA competitions.
PFC CSKA Moskva coach Juande Ramos is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against Manchester United FC and Sir Alex Ferguson when the three-time UEFA Champions League winners travel to Russia for their third Group B game holding a three-point lead in the standings. Sir Alex has already experienced plenty of euphoria at the Luzhniki Stadium, venue for the 2008 final win against Chelsea FC, but despite the emotions stirred by a return to the Russian capital and the prospect of facing Liverpool FC at the weekend, the United manager is fully focused on the task in hand.
Juande Ramos, CSKA coach
What I like about Russia is that the players are very disciplined, ready to listen and take on new things so training is very positive. Some United players won't feature but I'm sure they will find replacements, just as we will replace the players we are missing. The game will be a kind of barometer for us, showing how close we are to clubs like United. We will be looking to win, to pick up three points and have the chance to do that at home. They have a big match against Liverpool this weekend but [Wednesday's] game, in terms of emotion and the challenge will be comparable to Liverpool. I don't think they will take it easy in any way. Of course, two big matches so close to each other will make their coach shift the workload somehow, but they want to win the group so they need to play for victory.
Sir Alex Ferguson, United manager
Obviously I have fantastic memories [of the Moscow final] but these are things of the past. It was wonderful and I won't forget it but we have a more important match tomorrow. We have analysed CSKA quite a lot in the last two weeks. It is an interesting combination: they have more experienced players in the back four and good young players in front in [Miloš] Krasić and [Alan] Dzagoev. They keep the ball down all the time and show good speed. The [Russian] league becomes stronger and can be compared to other good leagues like Germany and France. There are new teams like FC Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Rubin Kazan – it shows there is room for people with ambition. CSKA are now fifth and need to win all the games to qualify for Europe, so that shows the level of the league. It's not an easy league at all. Our advantage is that we have very good players.
Wayne Rooney is among five key Manchester United FC players ruled out of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League fixture at PFC CSKA Moskva.
Hope over duo
Rooney misses out with a calf strain and remained in England along with Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher as the rest of the United squad headed to Russia on Monday afternoon. Giggs and Evra picked up knocks in Saturday's 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers FC, while Park and Fletcher both sat out that match. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson is nonetheless hopeful that striker Dimitar Berbatov and defender Nemanja Vidić will recover from minor complaints as United aim to keep up their perfect record in Group B.
17/10/09 PFC Spartak Nalchik 1-1 CSKA
(Amisulashvili 26; Krasić 2)
• The draw with Spartak Nalchik ended CSKA's run of three successive away defeats in the Premier-Liga, but with leaders FC Rubin Kazan winning they are now seven points off the summit.
17/10/09 Manchester United 2-1 Bolton Wanderers FC
(Knight 5og, Valencia 33; Taylor 75)
• The win took United back to the top of the Premier League as Chelsea lost 2-1 at Aston Villa FC. United have scored 20 goals in their last seven league games.
• Antonio Valencia scored his first goal for United since his summer move from Wigan Athletic FC. It was his first Premier League goal since December 2008, though he has scored twice for Ecuador this season.
Out: Mark González (ankle), Guilherme (thigh)
Doubtful: Vasili Berezutski (cold)
Misses next match if booked: none
Out: Wayne Rooney (calf), Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Ji-Sung Park (knee), Darren Fletcher, Owen Hargreaves (knee),
Doubtful: Nemanja Vidić (ankle), Dimitar Berbatov
Misses next match if booked: Nemanja Vidić
• United are unbeaten in 13 away games in the UEFA Champions League but they are without a win in five matches against Russian clubs.
• Ramos faced United twice while manager of Tottenham Hotspur FC from October 2007 to October 2008, the first a 3-1 FA Cup fourth round defeat at Old Trafford in January 2008 and then a 1-1 league home draw the following month.
• United trio Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney were on the losing side at the Luzhniki Stadium with England in a UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier against Russia on 17 October 2007. CSKA's Aleksei Berezutski, Vasili Berezutski and Sergei Ignashevich were in the Russia team that earned a 2-1 victory, despite Rooney hitting the opening goal.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Manchester United received more last-gasp salvation at Old Trafford - this time from Edwin van der Sar as they scrambled back to the Barclays Premier League summit.
Late goals against Manchester City and Sunderland have kept United afloat at Old Trafford this season. This time the drama was all at the other end.
Two goals up and cruising against Bolton Wanderers thanks to an early Zat Knight own goal and Antonio Valencia's first since a £17m summer move from Wigan Athletic, United looked destined to ease home.
Instead, the whole match changed following a series of superb saves from Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Matt Taylor pulled one back 15 minutes from time. And with almost the final touch, Gary Cahill went agonisingly close to snatching a point with a point-blank header which the returning veteran Van der Sar somehow managed to keep out.
United could have been ahead before Patrice Evra charged forward on the overlap and drove a cross to Michael Owen at the near-post.
With Wayne Rooney missing due to a groin injury, Owen could have done with getting his own name on the scoresheet.
Instead, his off-target header fell to Knight, who misjudged an intended clearance and instead trundled the ball into his own net.
More should have soon followed. Jonny Evans gave Jussi Jaaskelainen the opportunity to make a fine block when really his far-post header should have been guided in from a Ryan Giggs cross that came at the end of some excellent approach play.
Dimitar Berbatov, celebrating the birth of his first child - Dea - on Thursday, blazed a decent opportunity wide, while Jaaskelainen stood tall in the face of Valencia's long-range effort.
It meant Ferguson's side had to wait until the 33rd minute to double their lead, before which Kevin Davies had wasted a golden chance to equalise.
Valencia has made a promising start in his new surroundings, with the exception of his efforts in front of goal.
The Ecuador star has rarely given the impression of being prolific and there have been many better chances than the one he belted past Jaaskelainen.
However, after collecting Michael Owen's square ball, he raced forward before prodding a pass to Gary Neville, whose return was delivered with precision, inviting what followed.
Had Jaaskelainen not managed to beat away an acrobatic Berbatov volley, the Bulgarian would have had a fitting way to celebrate such a momentous week in his life.
The Finn also denied Valencia, whose rasping angled drive was heading for the far corner and the worth of Jaaskelainen's immense contribution was proved 15 minutes from time when Bolton dragged themselves back into the contest.
United failed to heed the warning offered by a disallowed Ivan Klasnic effort, and when Kevin Davies launched a far post cross towards Taylor, the midfielder steered his header into the left corner.
The move highlighted Evra's weakness in the air, which Bolton desperately tried to exploit.
Ivan Klasnic, whose introduction had thrown United's defence into a panic, fired narrowly wide, then Knight was off target before Cahill was presented with his glorious chance.
Ferguson had already placed his trust in Van der Sar to make his first appearance of the season after breaking his fingers in the summer, and the 38-year-old did not let him down.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Manchester United scored another dramatic late goal but still had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Sunderland at Old Trafford.
Patrice Evra's 93rd-minute shot deflected in off the luckless Anton Ferdinand to earn United a point they hardly deserved.
Sunderland were the better side and led twice. First, through a brilliant seventh-minute goal by Darren Bent, then through a header just before the hour from his strike partner Kenwyne Jones.
But a sensational overhead kick from Dimitar Berbatov and Ferdinand's own-goal gave the champions a share of the spoils in a thrilling climax, two weeks after Michael Owen's 96th-minute winner in the derby against Manchester City.
United old-boy Kieran Richardson was sent off for a second bookable offence after kicking the ball away, and 10-man Sunderland failed to hold out.
The point takes Steve Bruce's side to the dizzy heights of sixth in the Premier League, while Chelsea can knock United off top spot with a win at home to Liverpool on Sunday.
Sunderland deserve credit for an organised, combative display built on a central midfield fulcrum of Lee Cattermole and Lorik Cana. Yet United were poor throughout, especially in midfield where Ryan Giggs was sorely missed.
Giggs made a match-winning contribution from the substitutes' bench against Stoke City last weekend, but was mysitfyingly left out of the 18-man squad here.
With his flicks, tricks and tendency to run down cul-de-sacs, Nani is an easy target for critics. But it becomes even simpler to point out his deficiencies when he completes none of his first six crosses and continually makes bad decisions in important situations.
Wayne Rooney left his foot in on Andy Reid in a moment of frustration at his side's dismal performance. A stricter referee might have sent the England striker off, but Alan Wiley chose to give Rooney no more than a talking-to.
Bent's goal was a gem. He received a slick pass from Cattermole, turned sharply and hit an early shot low past Ben Foster into the left corner.
Foster was recalled after being dropped for United's Champions League match against Wolfsburg. It cannot have been part of the goalkeeper's plans to concede within seven minutes.
Berbatov admitted this week that he has been a disappointment since his £30 million arrival from Tottenham Hotspur, but he did plenty to win over his doubters with a magnificent equaliser.
John O'Shea crossed from the right and the Bulgarian met the ball acrobatically, directing it past Gordon into the right corner with a perfect bicycle kick.
Old Trafford fully expected United to do what they have done so many times and go on to win the game, yet they contrived to surrender the initiative again.
Seven minutes later Sunderland were back in front when Andy Reid clipped a hanging cross into the United box and Foster, Jones and the ball all converged at the same time.
A stronger goalkeeper would have have taken out man and ball with authority; Foster allowed Jones to muscle in front and bundle the ball home. Edwin van der Sar's return cannot come soon enough.
Yet United roused themselves for another piece of stoppage time magic. Nemanja Vidic headed across goal and Sunderland cleared to what they thought was safety, but Evra returned the ball with interest and a wicked touch off Ferdinand took the ball into the corner.