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Champions League Final–Halftime Thoughts

 • Interesting choice by Avram Grant to start Florent Malouda on the left wing instead of the more explosive Salomon Kalou, and by Sir Alex Ferguson to start Owen Hargreaves wide right ahead of Park Ji-Sung, who didn’t even make the bench tonight.

• Clarence Seedorf, who I am a big fan of, was very enjoyable to listen to, although Derek Rae is carrying the group once again. The Dutchman was able to provide insights as a player himself that the two commentators just can’t see.

• Testy, cautious first ten minutes, which everyone expected given the magnitude and significance of this game.

• Neither team looks like they have much energy at this point (20 minutes). Perhaps the extremely late local start time (which, by the way, is an injustice to the players) has had more of an impact than anyone would have thought.

• No way that should’ve been a yellow card for Makelele in the 22nd minute. Clarence Seedorf was spot-on; it was a complete accident, and to me, it even looked like Scholes was the one who went into that challenge more dangerously.

• Chelsea hasn’t done ANYTHING going forward in the first half-hour whatsoever.

• The best player in the world this season, Cristiano Ronaldo, rose above Michael Essien to make it 1-0 and as Derek Rae said, heading is a very underestimated facet of Ronaldo’s game. He has shut the critics who said he can’t score in a big game up. Oh yeah, and he’s halfway towards the goal tally I marked him down for today. Good left-footed cross by Wes Brown to allow Ronaldo to nod it past Petr Cech.

• There he is, the biggest embellisher in world soccer, Didier Drogba, on the ground again as a result of absolutely nothing in the 31st minute. Then he came back on one minute later and looked perfectly fine. Give me a break. There’s a reason soccer will never gain a major foothold in America, and it’s because of guys like Drogba who flop around needlessly, much like Ronaldo used to do.

• Great save by Edwin van der Sar on Ballack’s point-blank header. Chelsea’s best opportunity of the game by far went begging as Ballack should have done so much better.

• Two wonderful saves from Cech just moments later to deny Tevez and Carrick on the other end. This game is opening up nicely now as Chelsea has been forced to push the issue.

• Wayne Rooney has been invisible up to this point except for his ball to Cristiano Ronaldo to set up that two-shot flurry and his nice low cross to Tevez, who completely whiffed near the penalty spot. It hasn’t been too costly yet, but the Red Devils need Rooney to really step up if they want to win this game.

• I’m sorry, Ashley Cole’s antics after every call that doesn’t go his way are getting more and more tiresome and intolerable. You can’t continue to show up the referee by flapping and waving your arms and throwing a tantrum without getting punished, and I would hope referee Lubos Michel books him for unsporting behavior or dissent the next time Cole behaves like a petulant child.

• Ballack has been poor in the first 45, not only with that ugly free kick just outside the 18 before halftime but that missed header I wrote about earlier.

• Very important goal for Frank Lampard just on the stroke of halftime for Chelsea. Sure, it took an unlucky bounce from United’s point of view to spring Lampard, but he coolly put it home to give Chelsea new life and that’s something Ballack couldn’t do earlier. Big psychological boost for Avram Grant and his men.

• Chelsea was clearly outplayed in the first half, but the only thing that matters is it’s 1-1 (as I predicted it would be before United score twice more to win 3-1) and both teams will like their chances as the game goes on.

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  1. JLay

    May 21, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    In the end, Good triumphs over Evil, American ownership overcomes the Russian commie, and fair play trumps a load of rotten, diving, whining cheats!

    Glory, glory Man United – the Reds go marching on!

  2. T

    May 21, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Bull shit.

  3. Michael

    May 21, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Not my call on a live chat, I believe the Gaffer and the new blogger (can’t remember his name) put that on and I have no idea how to do it.

  4. JLay

    May 21, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    BTW, no live chat today?

  5. JLay

    May 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Err Maklele, not Malouda

  6. JLay

    May 21, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Interesting call – Malouda wrestles Hargreaves to the ground and elbows him in the nose – Chelsea get a free kick…

    Is the referee trying to make something up to Chelsea for the Liverpool call way back when?

  7. Michael

    May 21, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    JLay, I completely agree. Cole and Ballack are absolute jokes with the way they show up the referee, and yes, Lampard embellished that challenge from Ferdinand. It was a foul, but Lampard reacted like he got shot in the back.

  8. Michael

    May 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Again, my apologies, the replays showed it did come off Ferdinand’s head and not Ballack.

  9. JLay

    May 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    When are Cole, Makalele, and Ballack going to get carded for dissent? And how about Lampard’s dramatic dive when Rio cut in front of him to shield the ball? No way that warranted a free kick.

    I can’t stand that crap – FIFA and/or UEFA need to do something about that blatant whining and diving…

    As a United fan, just helps me to hate them even more…

  10. betsy's bolton bum baster

    May 21, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    you are such a closet manchester united fan and chelsea hater it is not even funny

  11. betsy's bolton bum baster

    May 21, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    are you even watching the game? ballack didn’t even get a head on the ball, ferdinand headed it and it was almost an own goal.

  12. Michael

    May 21, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Did I write Drogba scored? I hope not, my apologies if I did.

    We’ll see who the more proactive manager will be in terms of tactical adjustments in the second half. You’re spot-on with your comment there about Grant.

  13. damir

    May 21, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I agree… just not with that final comment that Man utd will win it…

    Drogba has yet to score.

    *** Depending on how soon or if Avram Grant makes substitutions we will know is Chelsea are going to play for extra time… just like the Liverpool game.

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