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Man Utd 1-1 Chelsea (6-5 to Man Utd on penalties)

United never make it easy for the fans and inevitably always do things the hard way but for me personally, last night exceeded every game that I’ve ever seen United play in terms of a rollercoaster ride and the number of emotions felt.

The game started fairly subdued and for the first ten minutes both sides were cautious but as United started to grow in confidence and the pressure started to mount, I started to sense that a goal was in the making.

26 minutes gone and Ronaldo, who had been giving Essien a torrid time at right back, climbed high at the back post to head United in front. A fantastic start for United but with so much of the game still to play it was always going to be crucial as to who grabbed the next goal and I was concerned that we may sit back and try and defend the one goal lead.

But my concerns proved unfounded as United countered as well as they have done all season. From a Chelsea corner, Rooney skipped past Carvalho and launched a superb ball upto Ronaldo who produced an inviting cross for Tevez but Cech must have breathed a sigh of relief that the header was within arms reach and that Carrick’s follow up was central or the game may have been over.

Later in the half, Rooney found space on the right and squared across the box but a sliding Tevez was unable to make the contact needed.

United were playing with confidence but with the game still at 1-0, the game was still in the balance and I was desperate for a second goal to ease my nerves as we headed towards halftime.

However, against the run of play, a long shot from Essien, hit Vidic, bounced off the back of Ferdinand and fell nicely into the path of an on rushing Lampard to slot home.

1-1 at halftime. I couldn’t understand how we weren’t winning and how the players must have been equally frustrated at not being infront after creating some fantastic chances and by far being the best side. Chelsea would no doubt come out in the second half all guns firing, knowing that they were fortunate to still be in the game but with the quality they have were always going to be a threat in this second half.

My concerns were justified as Chelsea came out and imposed themselves on the game and did to us what we’d done to them in the first half. They challenged and chased everything and created the better chances throughout the second half but United stood firm as they did during the semi final in the Nou Camp and only a Drogba thunderbolt, which struck the post really troubled Van Der Sar.

Extra time beckoned and neither side looked happy to settle for penalties. Giggs should have done better when Cech was stranded but Terry did well to clear off the line whilst at the other end, Lampard was unfortunate to see his effort canon back off the crossbar.

With a few minutes to go, tempers flaired up and Drogba was shown a red card for a childish slap on Nemanja Vidic which may have proved to have been the decisive factor later in the night.

Nothing could separate the two English giants after 120 minutes of action, both sides had dominated for large periods of the game so I felt that a draw was probably the fair result. However, it would be penalties that would decide who were the Champions of Europe and who would be able to hold their nerve.

As the penalties started to go in, it looked as though things were going to be extremely close and when Ronaldo’s penalty was saved, it seemed as though it may have cost United the Champions League. Penalty after penalty hit the back of the net despite Van Der Sar getting his hand on two of them which left the score at 4-4 and with one penalty left to be taken.

Had Didier Drogba not been sent off then he would have surely taken one of the first five but the responsibility was handed to captain John Terry to seal Chelsea’s first ever Champions League. As he walked up, I was sure he’d score and was just waiting for the ball to hit the back of the net but praying for a miss.

Whether it was fate or just bad luck, I don’t know and at the time didn’t really care but as the kick was taken and the ball cannoned back off the post, I was filled with joy and relief.

As each of the next few penalties went in for United, I cheered only to be met with disappointment as Chelsea’s penalty equalled the scoring and the thought of us having to score yet another spot kick.

As Ryan Giggs stepped up to take a spot kick, I held my head in my hands hoping for his sake on such a special day for him (breaking Bobby Charlton’s appearance record) that he’d slot the ball home. I needn’t have been worried as he confidently sent Petr Cech the wrong way and yet again turned my emotions to the hope that the next Chelsea player would miss.

As Nicolas Anelka approached, I felt it would be quite fitting if an ex-Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal player were to hand us the Champions League but at that moment would have been happy for Van der Sar to save from any Chelsea player.

And the big Dutchman didn’t disappoint as he dived to his right to turn away Anelka’s spot key. United were once again Champions of Europe but instead of cheering at the victory, I simply sat with a smile… more at the relief and the inability to do anything else after such a rollercoaster of a final.

The nerves and excitement before kickoff, the joy at the opening goal, the confidence during our attacking spells and the frustration at not being able to convert a chance. The worry that the game was still at 1-0 and the anger that Chelsea were able to be 1-1 at halftime thanks to a bit of fortune. The fear throughout the second half that the trophy was starting to slip away and the sickness at the thought of our players not going up to collect the trophy.

And these were all emotions before the penalty shoot out.

The sadness for Ronaldo as he missed his penalty and the hope as each United and Chelsea player walked upto the spot. The disappointment as each Chelsea penalty went in and the sheer relief as Terry slipped and hit the post.

More hope and worry with the next few penalties and then once again relief and happiness as Nicolas Anelka handed us the Champions League trophy.

What a night!

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1 Comment

  1. soonho :: July 24th, 2008 7:14 am

    I really like Manchester united

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