Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rooney gets a hat-trick & Manchester wins 4-1

A Wayne Rooney hat-trick helped Manchester United to a 4-1 win against Portsmouth in an eventful encounter at soggy Fratton Park.

The England striker converted two disputed penalties and finished off a superb counter-attack, before Ryan Giggs netted his 100th Premier League goal with a late free-kick.
Kevin-Prince Boateng found the net for the home side - also with a controversial spot-kick.
So Avram Grant's career picked up where it left off; losing on penalties to United in the rain.
Eighteen months ago, the Israeli was sacked as Chelsea boss after an epic Champions League final shoot-out defeat in Moscow.
In his first game in charge of the Premier League's bottom side, United again prevailed but needed some questionable decisions from referee Mike Dean to help them.
Tomasz Kuszczak was surprisingly picked in goal for United, with England's Ben Foster on the bench and Edwin van der Sar absent entirely - still suffering the after-effects of a knock to the knee last weekend.
After a nervous start, the Pole excelled himself, making a superb close-range save from Aruna Dindane and an even better one to tip Jamie O'Hara's volley over.
But Dean proved the central figure. First he pointed to the spot when Rooney stumbled past Michael Brown and made the most of minimal contact on 25 minutes.
While not an outright dive, it was a soft penalty and the England man stepped up to place the kick into the right corner past Asmir Begovic, standing in for the injured David James.
If Pompey felt aggrieved, the sentiment did not last long. Just after the half-hour mark, Kuszczak leapt to punch clear a high ball into the net and Dean mystifyingly awarded a spot-kick.
Neither side had any idea what the supposed infringement was, but a forensic examination of replays shows Nemanja Vidic and Frederic Piquionne were indulging in some mild mutual shirt-tugging.
It was still a baffling decision, since Piquionne was just as guilty as Vidic, but Boateng duly converted from 12 yards.

Sir Alex Ferguson watched the game from the stands serving the first match of a touchline ban, for which the fourth official's eardrums must be very grateful.
Both sides poured forward. First Paul Scholes dragged one of many long-range efforts just wide, then Dindane headed wide at the culmination of a rapier-like Portsmouth counter-attack.
The first half ended with a scuffle, as Darren Fletcher and Boateng grappled on the turf after the Scot tackled overzealously.
Within three minutes of the restart, United were back in front after a counter-attack that showed them at their incisive best.
Darren Fletcher lofted a pass down the right channel for Giggs, who squared for Rooney and the striker finished low past Begovic.
Then, on 54 minutes, Rooney grabbed his third. Piquionne half-tripped, half-barged Giggs over just inside the box in an innocuous position. While hardly a stone-waller, it was the clearest of the three penalties. Rooney again found the right corner with minimal fuss.
Grant's Portsmouth put on a spirited display and showed signs they may yet beat the drop.
Boateng was especially lively, and tested Kuszczak again from the edge of the box following a Nemanja Vidic slip, while John Utaka hit the bar with a late volley.
Three minutes from time, Giggs capped an accomplished display with a clever goal, curling a low free-kick around the outside of the wall and into the left corner past the unsighted Begovic.
United rode their luck, but these fixtures are often an exercise in banana skin avoidance, and - without performing at their best - they nimbly dodged a costly slip-up.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Besiktas ends Man united 23 matches unbeaten record

Besiktas JK may have already been eliminated from this season's UEFA Champions League but they at least made their mark on the tournament after becoming the first away team to win at Old Trafford in the competition since 2005 thanks to Rodrigo Tello's solitary strike.

Famous scalp
Manchester United had gone 23 matches unbeaten here in Europe but after rescuing a two-goal deficit late in their preceding outing against PFC CSKA Moskva, their proud record finally fell as the Turkish champions claimed their first UEFA Champions League away victory in six years. In truth, the hosts were already assured of reaching the last 16, hence Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to make eight changes from his side's last Premier League game, but that is unlikely to dampen the celebrations of those Besiktas fans who had endured an 8-0 thrashing at Liverpool FC on their previous trip to England.

Bottom-placed Beşiktaş knew only a win would keep alive their faint hopes of taking third place in the section, following PFC CSKA Moskva's early-evening victory. Though penned inside their half for much of the opening phase – when Nemanja Vidić was off target with a header – they gave their noisy supporters something to sing about as Tello fired them in front on 20 minutes. When a United attack broke down outside the Beşiktaş box, Matteo Ferrari sent İsmail Köybaşı away down the left. After passing the halfway line he delivered a crossfield ball to Tello yet there still seemed minimal danger as the Chilean cut infield some 35 metres out. However, with Rafael stepping back, Tello let fly and his shot glanced off the full-back and arced past Ben Foster into the far corner.

Defiant keeper
United responded with Daniel Welbeck and Federico Macheda – the teenage strikers spearheading a much-changed team – combining cleverly to get the latter behind the visiting back line but he failed to get his low cross past Rüştü Recber. The veteran goalkeeper had conceded six on his last visit here with Fenerbahçe SK in 2004 and would have been grateful for Sir Alex Ferguson resting Wayne Rooney. Though United dominated possession they struggled to create chances, with Rustu equal to the best of them, saving Gabriel Obertan's near-post effort after Welbeck had played in the winger.

The hard-working Fabian Ernst was catching the eye in the Beşiktaş midfield and his fellow German Michael Fink nearly doubled the lead four minutes before half-time. The visitors opened up the United rearguard as Tello slipped a ball infield to Bobo and his touch let in Fink, whose side-footed shot went behind off the post. United had fought back in their two preceding home matches and as the second half unfolded, they began to apply pressure, Obertan drawing a fingertip save with a low drive, then nodding on to the roof of the net.

Late scares
On came Michael Owen, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra but it took until added time for United to seriously threaten an equaliser, Rüştü making a flying stop to tip over Macheda's header, then turning away Wes Brown's header from the resulting corner. United must now wait for their trip to VfL Wolfsburg next month to settle who finishes top of Group B.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Manchester United 3-0 Everton

With Chelsea winning so convincingly earlier in the day, it was imperative Sir Alex Ferguson's side answered the call. And they did that in style, as goals from Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia capped an impressive performance.
United's victory kept them five points behind Chelsea and the manner of the win as much as the result will have pleased Ferguson, as his players shrugged aside an Everton team who came with the intention of defending for their lives.
Everton deployed Louis Saha in a lone attacking role and the 4-5-1 formation simply invited United on.
And at Old Trafford, or any other ground for that matter, the champions do not need a second invitation to attack and for the first 15 minutes the game resembled a siege.
But a shot that fizzed wide from Wayne Rooney was United's only noteworthy effort as Everton defended with spirit and in numbers.
Everton were rarely seen as an attacking force, although Saha showed his prowess in the penalty area when swivelling and shooting on target from Leighton Baines's cross.
Fletcher has grown in stature over the past 18 months and is an integral player for United. He dominated the midfield in the opening half and it came as no surprise that he fired his side ahead on 35 minutes.

The impressive Patrice Evra delivered a long cross from the left that was nodded to Fletcher on the edge of the box. With the ball bouncing high, Fletcher got his leg over the ball and made sweet contact, sending his shot arrowing into the top corner.
David Moyes threw on Yakubu for Dan Gosling at the interval to provide his side with some added punch and it had an impact.
Sylvain Distin found himself in an advanced position and shrugged off Rafael before teeing-up Saha, but his shot drifted wide, while John Heitinga fired straight at Edwin van der Sar.
Everton opened up United shortly before the hour and Marouane Fellaini tucked the ball home, but he had strayed fractionally offside.
Shortly afterwards Van der Sar had to be alert to race off his line and gather with Tim Cahill closing in as Everton threatened an upset.
Yakubu was the man who played the ball in for Cahill and his impact was impressive. The big Nigerian's presence was an unsettling one for United and he shrugged aside Wes Brown before shooting narrowly wide.
United have the ability to take the wind from opponents' sails and they did that on 67 minutes.
The second goal had a touch of fortune to it as Rooney's shot from a corner was so poor that it went all the way back to Ryan Giggs who had taken the corner. The Welshman looked up and picked out Carrick and he slotted the ball into the corner to nip the Everton resurgence in the bud.
Paul Scholes turned 35 this week and the legs may not have the zip of old, but the mind remains sharp and he fashioned the third for Valencia on 76 minutes with a short burst and neat pass.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

United were excellent at Stamford Bridge, and Sir Alex Ferguson’s near-perfect game-plan only went unrewarded after the Reds conceded a goal from a highly dubious second-half free-kick which led to Chelsea skipper John Terry’s winner.

The Reds had bossed possession for large periods of the game and had looked the stronger, more confident side – with Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney both outstanding. United at least deserved a draw, but the residing feeling is one of injustice, made worse that the Reds slip to third and Chelsea now boast a five-point lead at the top of the league.

Chelsea are formidable at Stamford Bridge, boasting a 100 per cent home record under Carlo Ancelotti this season and having conceded only once. United also haven’t won in West London since April 2002, a record Sir Alex was keen to arrest. Not only that, Arsenal’s 4-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday had seen them leapfrog United into second place on goal difference, while leaders Chelsea’s two-point cushion at the top would be far more imposing were it extended to five.

However, the opportunity was also there for United to return to the league’s summit, and though most outsiders predicted the Reds would have no joy at Stamford Bridge, Sir Alex has his men fired up to prove any doubters wrong.

He would have to achieve it without either of his first-choice central defenders, however, as a troublesome calf problems meant Rio Ferdinand was absent and Nemanja Vidic had to settle for a place on the bench. That meant a centre-half pairing of Wes Brown and Jonny Evans up against the pace and power of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

It was a positive and pacy start from both teams and the Reds looked full of confidence and belief. Chelsea got in behind United’s defence on the right in the first five minutes, with Ivanovic eventually forcing a save from Edwin van der Sar, but other than that the Reds dominated possession and dictated play early on.

The match became far more open than is usual for United-Chelsea games of recent times – and all the more entertaining for it. One example of the game’s openness, and perhaps United’s best chance of the half, came after 29 minutes when Fletcher’s arced pass scythed open the home side’s defence and Giggs. The Welshman struck his shot first-time on the volley, looping the ball just a little too high over Petr Cech, and subsequently the crossbar.

Chelsea finished the first half with a flurry of attacks as United’s passing became a little sloppy. But all in all it was a positive first 45 minutes for the Reds, with Sir Alex’s tactics of pressing Chelsea’s midfield working very well overall.

United began the second half equally as positively as the first, with Rooney stepping it up a gear. Fletcher flashed a shot over after good work from the United front man, then a well-worked move across the area involving Rooney ended with Giggs crossing just too high for Anderson at the far post. Fletcher was denied with another attempt on the hour mark, as Ricardo Carvalho brilliantly raced out to block the Scotsman’s 20-yard effort.

With Fletcher and Carrick pulling the strings in midfield, and Rooney providing the spark up front, this was fast turning into one of United’s finest displays of the season so far.

The Reds’ best effort came in the 67th minute. A quick free-kick from Anderson allowed Rooney to press menacingly on into the final third. He played a clever one-two with Antonio Valencia and then drilled his shot inches wide. A minute later, the outstanding Rooney curled a shot from 25 yards which had Cech scrambling desperately across goal to tip the ball wide for a corner.

But all United’s good work was undone by a shoddy refereeing decision after 76 minutes when Fletcher clearly won the ball in a challenge on Ashley Cole. But Martin Atkinson thought differently. United were angered by the decision, and that soon turned to indignation when John Terry glanced his header home from Frank Lampard’s free-kick delivery on the left. Even then, the goal came under dubious circumstances as Drogba – in an offside position – flicked his foot at the ball and should technically have been adjudged to have interfered with play. To rub salt in the wounds, Rooney was booked for protesting the initial decision.

In the 84th minute Valencia flashed a shot just wide from a good position inside the area, and that was followed by a double substitution for the Reds – Giggs and Anderson being replaced by Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen as Sir Alex rolled the dice.

It made for a frantic finish and with five minutes of injury time – largely due to, you guessed it, Didier Drogba spending time injured on the floor – the Reds gave it a big push. But there wasn’t enough in the tank to break the home side’s stubborn resistance, and if you were to be critical of this performance, then United's inability to score has to be at the crux of it. It’s far from a title decider, but even at this stage it is advantage Chelsea.

will Manchester United beat the odds

Check out all the facts and stats ahead of Chelsea's Premier League clash with Manchester United from Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are unbeaten at home to Manchester United in the last seven Premier League seasons.
United have scored a total of just two goals in their last six league trips to Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea average 1.29 goals per game at home to Manchester United in the Premier League.
United average 1.29 points per game against Chelsea in Premier League history, fewer than against any other side.
United have failed to win 13 times at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League era, only at Arsenal have they been as consistently unsuccessful.
Sir Alex Ferguson has won only one and lost three of his four meetings with Carlo Ancelotti.
Paul Scholes is the top scorer in this fixture in the Premier League era with six goals.
Five of Dimitar Berbatov's last six Premier League goals for Manchester United have come between the 51st and 62nd minute.
United have failed to score in the first half of seven of their 11 league games this season.
Didier Drogba has unleashed 55 shots this season, more than any other player in the division.
Drogba has scored nine goals in his last nine appearances (in all competitions).
Chelsea have conceded just three second half goals all season.
Chelsea have come from behind to win nine points this season, more than any other side.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Manchester United 3-3 Cska Moscow

Manchester United had to come from two goals down to grab a point in a 3-3 draw with CSKA Moscow in the Champions League at Old Trafford.

Antonio Valencia's injury-time leveller was enough to seal United's qualification from Group B after Paul Scholes had pulled a goal back on 84 minutes.
Michael Owen cancelled out Alan Dzagoev's opener but goals by Milos Krasic and Vasily Berezutsky had put the Russian club on course for a famous upset.
United rallied in the closing stages and in the end their never-say-die attitude prevailed, although it was another far from convincing performance from last year's finalists.
Wayne Rooney started on the bench after having become a father earlier in the week, while United were also missing central their first choice defensive partnership Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic through injury.
Wes Brown and Jonny Evans started in their place, with Fabio deputising for Patrice Evra, who started on the bench, at left-back.
CSKA sounded their intent early in an open and entertaining start to the game, with Deividas Semberas firing just wide of the post in the third minute.
But United soon asserted themselves and nearly hit back six minutes later when Valencia made inroads down the right hand side. His cross into the middle found Owen but he could not connect cleanly and a good opportunity to break the deadlock went begging.
Owen was guilty of profligacy in front of goal for a second time on 17 minutes, the summer signing poking a weak shot straight at Igor Akinfeev after having done the hard part by breaking through the visitors' backline.
In between those efforts, Darren Fletcher, returning from injury, saw a fierce drive drift inches wide of the post before Federico Macheda, making his European debut, fizzed a shot inches the wrong side of the upright.
United were on top, as they had been in the game in Moscow a fortnight ago, so it was a shock to their system when Dzagoev opened the scoring with a terrific strike on 25 minutes.
The 19-year-old Russia international lost his marker Wes Brown all too easily before running onto Tomas Necid's chested ball through. He appeared to take it a little too wide, but his shot was angled into the roof of the net and powerful enough leave Edwin Van der Sar rooted to the spot and wondering how he had allowed the ball had beaten him.

Just four minutes later it was third time lucky for Owen as he demonstrated he still has the finishing instinct that once made his name as one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. Valencia's cross was back-heeled by Nani - disappointing again - into Owen's path, via a deflection, and the former Liverpool and Real Madrid man did the rest.
But parity was to last just two minutes as Krasic was allowed to run onto Necid's layoff on the edge of the penalty area, round Van der Sar and slot into an empty net.
United rallied as the half drew to a close, Macheda and Paul Scholes both bringing Akinfeev into further action, but the hosts went in at the break trailing 2-1.
That soon became 3-1 as another bit of lapse defending from the hosts allowed Berezutsky to head home a deep free-kick at the far post on 47 minutes. This time Macheda was the guilty party, the young Italian losing his man as the ball was whipped over.
United should have been given a chance to level for a second time just three minutes later, but referee Olegario Benquerenca waved away strong appeals for a penalty as Fletcher was tripped in the box. Replays showed there to have been contact, but the Portuguese official opted to caution the Scot instead of pointing to the spot.
Alex Ferguson brought on Rooney and Evra just before the hour mark and the introduction of the pair gave United an immediate lift.
Rooney glanced a header wide on 63 minutes before he was denied by Akinfeev, who had just saved another effort from Owen.
United continued to press and Macheda nearly pulled one back with a header than thumped the base of the post before Scholes signalled his own personal intent with a rasping drive that stung Akinfeev's fingers.
The midfielder was not to be denied and he found the back of the net from the resulting corner, heading home from close range amid some shockingly lackadaisical CSKA marking.
Buoyed by the goal and lifted by the now vocal crowd, United pushed in search of a late equaliser and it arrived in the second minute of injury time, as Akinfeev was foxed by a hefty deflection on Valencia's shot from the edge of the penalty area.