Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up. Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United featured so many highlights during and after the match that at times it was quite breathtaking. If the Premier League needed a jab in the arm to restore the faith of fans after awful performances by English sides in Europe, this was it. A match between two massive clubs during the biggest week of the season for the top English teams.
Here are my random thoughts about the match:
- After watching the video of the Carrick handball incident, it’s clear that the referee made the correct decision.
- Overall, Chelsea deserved to win this match. They were absolutely superb in the first half and equal to Man United for most of the second half. United came back towards the end with two chances that were cleared off the goal lines by Cole and Shevchenko, but overall during this match United created few chances.
- Wayne Rooney’s goal was absolutely perfect and an excellent example of how clinical he can be in front of goal. The video highlight of Rooney’s goal is required viewing for soccer non-believers.
- Chelsea’s tribute to Frank Lampard’s mother was top class. Having that shirt tucked away must have given the Chelsea players huge motivation to score against United and win this for their team and Lampard.
- Today’s match commentary was a perfect example of how to do it properly. During moments of the first half, the commentary team of Jon Champion and Robbie Earle sat back and let the sights and sounds do the talking rather than feeling the need to continue jabbering on as commentators often do from other countries. Champion and Earle let the sounds of the crowd from Stamford Bridge filter in through the TV set and paced themselves and the audience for what was to be a classic match (for Chelsea fans, at least).
- Chelsea seems to be hitting their stride at exactly the right time of the season. Manchester United, who has been so dominant all season, now find themselves hitting a bumpy patch of form at exactly the worst time. It’s conceivable that they could be knocked out of the Champions League and have their Premier League title chances dashed within the next week or so.
- Buoyed by victory, Chelsea now finds itself in the enviable position of playing Liverpool in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final on Wednesday. If the Blues can play like they did today, it’s hard to see them not winning against the Reds.
- If Chelsea is able to knock Liverpool out of the tournament and Man United beats Barcelona, we’ll see a rematch of Saturday’s game in the Champions League Final. How about that for sweet revenge for United fans, or Chelsea enacting more pain?
- The first half performance by Manchester United was one of their worst in recent memory. While they managed to squeeze a point against Blackburn with a last gasp equalizer and hold Barcelona to a nil-nil draw at Camp Nou, Man United fans must be worried that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side are beginning to lose their killer instinct that was so prevalent earlier in the season.
- Nani’s performance for Manchester United today was a disgrace. His judgement was completely awful. When he had a chance to put Ronaldo clean through, he decided to keep the ball and then lost it. His passes were pitiful. His tackling was awful.
- Michael Ballack today showed us several glimpses of why Chelsea bought him in the first place. His header was unstoppable. When taking the penalty, he was calm and composed and rifled it into the corner of the net.
- Didier Drogba, meanwhile, is a loose cannon and a liability to Chelsea. His temper tantrums were embarrassing. First the accidental hit in the face from Darren Fletcher, and how the Chelsea player childishly responded to the incident. Second, and most crucially of all, Drogba was acting in poor form when he was incensed that Michael Ballack tried to take a free kick. Drogba then proceeded to complain vociferously to Chelsea’s assistant first team coach Steve Clarke, and had to be calmed down.
- Lastly, congratulations to Avram Grant. It’s not too often that Grant gets praised by the media, but I thought his team selection was spot on as well as his substitutions. Playing more of an attacking lineup was a gamble, but it paid off.
Thankfully, this was one of those Premier League matches that actually lived up to its billing. Full of drama and wonderful skill played at a high-speed tempo. And, for the neutral fan, the result means that the Premier League title race is now wide open. How about this for one of the most exciting finishes in recent Premiership history?