Manchester United (0) 0 - 1 (0) Arsenal|
Old Trafford, Sunday 17th September 2006
Eboue Toure Djourou Gallas
Hleb (Baptista 68) Cesc Gilberto Rosicky Ljungberg
Adebayor (Flamini 86)
yesterday, the lack of striking options might have been the key
to this superb win. With only Adebayor as an established forward,
we played a 4-5-1 and it was in midfield that we won the game.
Great passing all around for much of the match, and good pressure
when we lost the ball too. In particular from man of the match (by a mile) Cesc Fabregas, who just keeps getting better and better.
In the second minute, a through ball into our box seemed to
have put Fletcher clear through on goal, but William Gallas
recovered to get across and making a telling challenge. A minute
later Ronaldo made a bit of space on the wing but hit a poor
and very speculative shot short of Lehmann's near post.
After 4 minutes the keeper was very unlucky to receive a
yellow card. He'd come out to the right edge of his box to
gather a United ball forward, with Rooney making up ground
on him from behind. The ball was a foot or so outside the
box and Lehmann, standing just inside the box, rolled the ball
back towards himself with the sole of his foot and picked it up.
The ball was just on the line, but Graham Poll judged that
he'd handled outside the box. Given Poll's record, I guess we
should be grateful that only a yellow was shown (and only one).
Ronaldo blasted the free kick high.
Soon after, Toure got a
well-deserved yellow for clattering into someone in the centre
circle as United tried to spring forward after our first
promising moments up front (Adebayor battling well and Gallas
getting forward nicely).
In the 11th minute we got forward again, a nice quick move ending
with Hleb poking a low pass forward into the box for Adebayor,
he poked it past the keeper and was brought down for a cast-iron
penalty. Up steps Gilberto as on Wednesday in Germany, but this
time his standing foot slipped as he struck the ball and
gave the stand-in keeper Kuszczak a relatively easy save.
30 seconds later the keeper was forced into a sprawling low save
when Adebayor got his head to the corner, the ball hit the foot
of the post and rolled back along the line where Paul Scholes was
just able to hack it clear.
End to end stuff, with Arsenal edging it thanks to superb
passing when we had the ball and great pressing when we didn't.
United looked dangerous on the break though, naturally.
On 18 minutes Adebayor, on the edge of their box on the left, nodded
a long ball forward down and back for Rosicky who hit a first-time
low shot which swirled in towards the left post forcing a
good save from Kuzszczak. A couple of minutes later he tried again
from much further outy but didn't quite connect and it
trundled through easily for the keeper.
Then they broke after a decent run and cross from Freddie,
Ronaldo hit a quick pass forward up their left for Rooney
who looked to have a clear run on goal, but Toure got across
really well, helped force Rooney deeper than he might have
wanted and the shot went across goal and out beyond the far post.
Lehmann came out a long way to make a great catch from a
United corner, and threw the ball out to Rosicky who hit a
terrific pass forward for Adebayor who was unlucky to be denied by a
great stretching touch from Evra. Up the other end,
Ronaldo hit a poor free kick straight at the wall but when the
ball came back to him moments later he hit a powerful volley
forcing a good save from Lehmann.
On 36 minutes we conceded another corner which lead to a
worrying penalty box scramble which we were a bit lucky to
survive. And 3 minutes later Ronaldo brought the ball forward,
getting the better of Gilberto for once after Cesc had let
himself get distracted by claiming a handball, and hit a
drive which saw Lehmann scrambling across goal but it
flew just wide of his left hand post.
2 minutes later
Eboue made a bad mistake letting a long high cross, which he
plenty of time to judge while it was in the air,
get over him and find Ronaldo inside the
box on our right. Lehmann rushed out at him and caught the
powerful shot in his face. The keeper was then lucky to
have a free kick awarded against O'Shea from the resulting
corner when Jens pushed the Man Utd man then got a push
back. Jens then showed a bit of the old mad Jens when he
had a go at O'Shea before taking the free kick.
In injury time Eboue made a great overlapping run down the right
and squared for Adebayor who tried to turn in the box with 2 defenders
in attendance. The ball popped out to the left of the box
where Freddie was charging in but Neville did well to scream
over and clear it just in time.
A minute into the second half Evra was unlucky to concede a
free kick just outside the box on the right when Cesc's
attempted cross hit his hand. Cesc tried to take it quick
for Hleb who was sneaking in on the right but Poll made him
take it again - lucky really given that Hleb hadn't managed to
get hold of it. This time Cesc tried a far post chip, which
was just too high for Adebayor and his header drifted out.
Moments later Adebayor burst into the box superbly from
the left, beating one man but not the second and last one.
More end to end stuff, with United having much more of the
game than in the first half, partly through their own raised
tempo and partly through our passing not being so good as it
had been before the break.
Saha came close just before the
hour, heading a ball forward out to their right wing and then
getting his head to the resulting cross and just directing
it beyond the far post. Up the other end and Gallas fluffed a
half chance far post header - the ball ended up almost going goalwards
but only as a result of a ricochet off Neville's shoulder
which was just below Gallas's head.
Adebayor broke up the middle thanks to Eboue, but with Eboue making
a good supporting run to his right the Togalese striker ended
up poking a weak shot through to the keeper. A minute later
Hleb set up Cesc for a shot from the D, it might have just
bent inside the post if it hadn't hit Adebayor on the back
near the penalty spot.
Then Hleb set up Rosicky in similar fashion, only for
Tomas to skew his shot well wide.
On 68 minutes,
Baptista came on for Hleb. We got a free kick soon after,
way out. Cesc gave it to Toure who skipped past a red shirt
before unleashing a great effort which flew a foot wide of
the right post.
On 79, Baptista went on a great run from inside his own half,
cutting to his right to make room for a shot which fizzed past the
post. Terrific effort, but a defender had just done enough to
put him off.
Brilliant possession from Cesc just outside our
box after a United attack broke down - he skipped past 3
challenges then hit a low through ball which was just too strong
5 minutes from the end, the magical play of Cesc created he
goal for Adebayor. First he won the ball, skipped past a
challenge, got a bit of luck when a ricochet off a United
player allowed him to continue his run, and slipped the ball
forward into the box perfectly for Adebayor to run onto and
poke past the keeper.
Up the other end and Solskjaer, who'd come off the bench,
hit a superb shot from our left which forced Lehmann into a
breathtaking save, diving to his right and just getting enough
on it to turn the ball past the past.
Then with 2 minutes left,
the goalscorer came off to be replaced by Mathieu Flamini.
In injury time Carrick nearly got the ball into the box
for Solskjaer but Toure stretched improbably to intercept and
hook the ball clear, apparently hurting himself in the process.
Moments later Lehmann had to make a save from Wes Brown, but that
was the last scare.
Fantastic win, fantastic performance.
I never held with the view that the league would be over for
us if we'd lost, but it certainly wouldn't have helped. This
result helps a lot. Let's hope it gives us the confidence to
give Sheffield United a good spanking at home next weekend.