It was a disappointing day in Manchester yesterday as the Red Devils and Citizens were held by foreign opposition. Today’s “Daily Ticker” takes a look back at those two draws, covers the rest of the day’s Premier League news, and discovers that the existence of the Champions League, as we know it, is in great jeopardy.
Benfica 1-1 Manchester United:
The Portuguese side took advantage of a lackluster Manchester United in the first half. Oscar Cardozo scored with 24 minutes gone for Benfica. As time progressed, the English champions slightly improved. Ryan Giggs equalized three minutes from the intermission.
In the second half, Manchester United turned it around. The midfield play from Carrick and Fletcher was much stronger and Patrice Evra’s runs from left back proved more effective. However, it was Anders Lindegaard who saved United the point. Lindegaard made two sensational saves to keep Benfica from going 2-1 up.
Antonio Valenica got valuable playing time in the match, but was replaced by Nani 21 minutes from time. The former Sporting Lisbon man was treated poorly by the hostile Benfica crowd. Upon taking a corner, Benfica supporters pelted the winger with objects. Javier Hernandez also came on in the double swap, replacing Fletcher, to give Rooney more support up front. Phil Jones made his Champions League debut replacing Fabio at right back.
Giggs played as a second-striker with, but mainly behind Rooney. The former Everton man set up a fantastic scoring opportunity for Giggs with a brilliant dummy that left the United legend one on one with the goalkeeper, but his shot was blocked by the keeper’s trailing leg.
The hot button question post-game was whether or not Lindegaard would replace Spanish keeper Daniel De Gea. This subject was quickly slammed by both Lindegaard and his boss. Sir Alex confirmed that De Gea will play Sunday. The United gaffer said, “I don’t know why you ask these questions, you’re just looking for stupid little answers. Anyway…it proves we have two terrific goalkeepers.”
Ferguson enjoyed his side’s play in the first 30 minutes of the second half and feels United should have finished the Portuguese side off then.
When Lindegaard was approached on the subject of taking De Gea’s spot he responded, “What answer to expect to that question? I’ve said a thousand times before I’m not here to pick my nose.”
Manchester City 1-1 Napoli:
Both sides started their first Champions League campaigns yesterday. The Citizens started out in a 4-2-3-1, which quickly switched into a 4-4-2, as Dzeko and Aguero pressed the three Napoli defenders. Manchester City were playing wonderful football in the opening 20 minutes, but they failed to connect on that final ball. Their best chance came when a corner was headed to the far post, but the Citizens failed to convert. Aguero & Co. found plenty of space behind Napoli’s defense and it was truly shocking that City could not score from open play, as they have done so well in their Premier League matches this season.
Manchester City would pay for their missed opportunities with 69 minutes gone. Napoli played a classic Italian match yesterday, defending well and scoring on the counter. In the first half, Napoli failed to get enough men forward to produce anything of note, but Edinson Cavani, the hardest working player on the pitch for the Italian side, headed a counter that opened up City’s defense completely. The striker easily slotted the ball between the legs of Joe Hart to put his side up 1-0.
City supporters were in absolute shock, but Napoli’s strategy had finally worked out for them. At this point in the match, Mancini got extremely anxious, as one would expect a man under so much pressure to be, forcing his side into a 4-2-4. There was obviously something to this, as Pablo Zabaleta, earned a free kick for City in a dangerous area. From here it was all about a brilliant strike from Aleksandar Kolarov. The left back, who bled throughout the contest, struck the ball with topspin and pace, getting the ball over the wall and past Morgan De Sanctis.
Carlos Tevez replaced Edin Dzeko nine minutes from time. The Argentine was certainly uninspired, especially in his lazy warm-up. One of the match commentators added that the striker was setting himself up for failure. For the most part, he did, losing possession of the ball three of the four times he touched it, before finally unleashing a shot after making a run with the ball from midfield.
After Kolarov’s goal, Gael Clichy and Adam Johnson were introduced by Mancini.
The match was end-to-end for the most part and Vincent Kompany did not take a liking to this saying the match was “more open” than he had hoped. The Belgian said, “We’ll just learn from this game and we have a good enough team to see this through.”
Roberto Mancini is beaming with confidence after the draw. The Italian credited Napoli’s dangerous counter attacks and said that his men took a few too many touches on the ball in the opening half, due to nerves. Mancini said, “We win in Munich the next game.” Group A is this year’s “Group of Death.”
Premier League News:
Kenny Dalglish had a “extremely informative and amicable” discussion with Mike Riley, the general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd. The Liverpool legend criticized the officials of his side’s first four games, feeling that key moments in the matches were not called in the Reds’ favor. Dalglish looks forward to having a more open dialogue between managers and referees, outside of berating them during matches and at press conferences.
Yossi Benayoun acknowledged that he knew that on September 1 he would be in different kit. The midfielder admitted, “There was a few talks with Liverpool,” but added, “As soon as I heard about Arsenal my mind was made up.”
Harry Redknapp has not been approached by the FA. Some reports claim that Fabio Capello is on his way out after England’s sorry performance against Wales, and add that the Tottenham boss will be the new man in charge. “Until I get offered the job I wouldn’t have a decision to make, but at the moment I haven’t spoken to anybody about being England manager,” said the Spurs boss, “I want to see England do well, I want Capello to get them to the Euros and I want them to win it. And if they win it under Capello, I definitely won’t get it.”
Venky’s are at it again. The Blackburn owners released a statement begging the fans to support them. “We understand that there is a sense of disappointment and anger amongst our fans at the recent performance of our team Blackburn Rovers,” the owners wrote, “We fully understand your feelings and share your disappointment. At times like this, when the team is going through a bad patch, they need all support and encouragement they can get from the fans to boost their morale.”
The UEFA Champions League may become the European League Championships in the near future due to discrepancies between the European Club Association, European Professional Football Leagues, and European football’s governing body. The ECA, made up of 201 outfits, is the same organization looking to readjust the international schedule. Both the clubs and leagues want to be on UEFA’s executive board which makes the most important decisions concerning football on the continent. ESPNsoccernet is reporting, “The real battleground is sure to be over the call for the leagues and the clubs to have a workable percentage of executive board members on both UEFA and FIFA.
Because UEFA owns the rights to all Champions League branding, if the ECA and EPFL split from UEFA on this issue, the tournament would have re-branded as the European League Championships. Some sources are reporting that the ECA and EPFL want 50% of the places on each executive board.