Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Football at its highest level

Hi Folks,
Mark here.
Last night we had the pleasure of watching two of the best teams in the world go head to head in an enthralling game of football, one of the best of the season so far. (View the goals here:

United started well, getting a lucky early goal from Ronaldo, via Dida's best Jerzy Dudek impression, but they were worth their lead afterwards - Fletcher strong in tackle, Carrick distributed excellently and Ronaldo causing all sorts of problems to Jankoulovski and Seedorf.
Kaka, however, took over the game in a masterclass of midfield play - his first goal a brilliantly timed burst of pace past Heinze with a cool finish past the static van der Sar. His second was more down to some comedy defending from Heinze and the leaping Evra, but it was coolly dispatched to the corner.
United were staring elimination in the face and Ronaldo wilted under the pressure, absolved only by Milan doubling and trebling up on him. Maldini went off at half time, depriving the back line of a wealth of experience. Ex-Parma man Bonera didn't impress as his replacement. Likewise, when Gattuso was forced off with an injury, it deprived the Milan midfield of his excellent running and tracking down - the sub, Broochi, was anonymous. Kaka had a couple of goods chances to score early in the second half before Rooney, previously having done little bar argue with the referee, scoring from close range after a wonderful move and delicately scooped chip from Scholes. Suddenly, the nervousness went from United's play, Giggs and Scholes came into the game more, without Gattuso, Milan were being streched all over the place. A number of good free kick positions were wasted by Giggs and Ronaldo as Milan lost all attacking threat. (The horrendous Gilardino deserves sacking for his performance last night.)

It looked to be heading for a draw, until, just after 90 mins, Giggs won the ball in his own half and 8 seconds later, Rooney took advantage of bad positioning by Dida to lash one in from 20 yards. United breathed a sigh of relief, and take a lead to Milan, confident in their ability to score (and concede) goals.

The second leg is next Wednesday, and it is clear what United need to do - attack.

Man of the match: Kaka
Special award - worst performace in the competition so far: Gilardino

Player ratings:
van der Sar: 6 - might have done better for the 1st goal
O'Shea: 7 - surprised everyone by winning a crisp tackle in the first half
Brown: 6 - unconfident but it wasn't hard to keep Gilardino quiet
Heinze: 5 - at fault for 2 goals, his mark increased by one for the vast improvement in the 2nd half
Evra: 5 - intelligent going forward but a moment of madness with Heinze let Kaka score. Needless yellow card sees him suspended.
Ronaldo: 7 - a threat in the first half, but went missing as the Milan defense learned how to contain him
Carrick: 7 - another solid performance, played deeper last night than he usually does in the league, but excellent on the ball
Fletcher: 7 - Fergie seems to have found a role for the former waster - all action midfielder! Unlucky not to score.
Giggs: 8 - wonderful break for the winning goal, and set up Ronaldo for the first. Occasional missed pass.
Scholes: 7 - Got a grip when Gattuso went off, his passing wayward beforehand. Wonderful setup of Rooney's 1st.
Rooney: 8 - Not really in the game but when it mattered he scored the vital goals with confidence.



JJ said...

What a game last night; I watched it with a bunch of Man U fans who went absolutely batshit crazy at Rooney’s second. I think the second leg will be just as good as United will certainly score in Milan and therein lies their current strength. They have an unbelievable certainty that they will score in every game.

It’s scary; it’s the reason I wasn’t at all surprised when John O’Bese scored in the dying seconds against Liverpool two months ago. United look ten times more threatening than at any stage during the last three or four years but let’s look at things objectively.

In Milan’s favour:
- Gattuso was a huge loss and will be back next week.
- Milan are well capable of beating Man U at home.
- Evra is out.
- Dida surely can’t be as bad next week, if he’s in goal at all.

In United’s favour:
- Milan once again died in the second half as in both legs against Bayern, they are a tired team.
- Maldini looks to be out.
- Rooney looks like he’s enjoying his football again at last.
- Milan’s insistence on doubling up on Ronaldo is giving Scholes and Carrick a huge amount of room in midfield.

Overall, it’s definitely looking like United. By no means is it a certainty but whatever happens I am looking forward to that game so very, very much.

Mark V said...

i'm confident United can score 1 or 2 away, Milan will have to press the game, meaning that United will undoubtedly concede, but the speed of the counter attack will surely bear fruit. Milan have tough decisions ahead, doubling up on Ronaldo, as you correctly pointed out, leaves space for others.
There is everything to play for next week, I fancy a draw though, United's strikers are far better than Milan's, though surely Inzaghi has to start

JJ said...

Gillardino is the greatest waste of space going. For the same money they could have picked up Carrick;o)Fools! Damn fools!

Mal said...

Great display from Utd in a great match. Milan are toothless bar kaka. If Gatusso and Maldini are out then Milan have no chance. Even with them I think Utd will score and do enough to go through. Is Vidic back next week? Henize was poor.

I don't expect tonights match to be as enthralling and I don't think anyone would be surprised with a 0-0.

Mark V said...

re tonights match: there's a part of me that would love to see an absolute hammering of either team. remember milan-barca final in 94, Milan stuffed them 4 nil. or indeed, united's recent demolition job vs roma. those matches are great for the car-crash on view and the wide reaching consequences. so here's hoping for another crouchigol hat-trick, and Bellamy to chip a few in (pun intended), and one in off terry's arse.

JJ said...

There will defnitely be goals tonight; both teams have moved on from where they were two years ago and I can't see this ending 0-0 (insert kiss of death here).

Benitez has shown a bravery in the last two away legs in this competition and I see him doing so again tonight.

Mark V said...

who knows what benitez is going to do? does he know himself? i reckon he gets that muddled between differing negative formations and tactics, and closing down x player that, about 5mins before the game he goes: "oh by the way,i forgot, try to score, gracias"

i'm just saying, all he needs is a red scarf, a forlorn look, and a heart condition and he could be....

JJ said...

Low blow marko, Rafa is many things but Houllier he's not. More goals scored now, better players, better points total, an actual ability to win a game when they go behind. No, I repeat, no African footballers of the year.

No turned corners either. Thank christ.

Mark V said...

point taken, trying to rile you and other pool fans.

but lets see what you say next year when you finish 3rd or 4th in the league...

he'd need to win this CL or next years to survive that...

JJ said...

Champo league or not, he at least has to have a side challenging for the league up until april next season to stay in the job. The new owners will give him a season.

He's not the immovable sir.

Mr C said...

A cracking game, good performances from Giggs and Scholes and Rooney give a second-half performance to hush the naysayers for some time. I suspect that Fergie may have to have another word with Ronaldo as there were half a dozen moments where he tried the sexy stuff and it backfired. 'No-look' back heels look dead flash but shouldn't be attempted five yards outside your penalty area with Kaka, Pirlo and Seedorf lurking nearby, especially when you get it wrong and loss the ball.

As I understand it, Gilardino isn't used to being played up front by himself but that‘s still no excuse; his disappearing act was so impressive that I‘m surprised he even got a score out of ten. Also rather surprised by his downfall of late. When he was at Parma he scored over 20 goals in Serie A in consecutive seasons, which is no mean feat, so to him to get to the point where he couldn't score in a brothel is slightly baffling. I also think the game gives justification for the inevitable splashing of cash by Milan this summer- Inzaghi is on his last legs, Oliviera is worse then Gilardino and their other striker, Borriello, is banned for being failing a drugs test and then claiming it was because he sampled some of his girlfriend’s ‘lady medicine’ or something around those ghastly lines. Expect big name signings methinks as two strikers of the highest order are required to wear the shirts that adorned such previous world class striking greats as Van Basten, Shevchenko, Weah and Mark Hately.

Mark V said...

nice crack about mark hately...