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Monday, August 8, 2011

THE F.A COMMUNITY SHIELD 2011 – Match Report

                      NEW WEMBLEY STADIUM –SUNDAY, 7 AUGUST 2011.

The Community Shield has always been a fascinating showpiece event. It is usually a match-up between the immediate past winners of the English Premier League and defending champions of the F.A Cup. However if one team scoops both trophies in one season, (as was the case in the 09-10 season when Chelsea were domestic double winners) then the runners-up of the EPL automatically qualify to challenge for honours in the season opener.

On this occasion however, fans all over the world were treated to an explosive matchup between Manchester arch-enemies and neighbours, MAN UTD AND MAN CITY. As expected, Wembley was filled to capacity as all and sundry left their homes to watch the 150th instalment of the MANCHESTER rivalry, most call it derby though. The EL GRANDE CLASSICO (Barcelona v Real Madrid) might be the most watched derby in the world, but nothing can take away the fact that the Manchester duel is up there with the very best of games every season. It is in fact, one of the most anticipated matches in football.

Since Dennis Law, Manchester United’s second highest goal scorer ever (237 goals in 404 games), (behind Sir Bobby Charlton) scored a decisive goal for City over his former club Manchester United in 1976, a goal which relegated the ‘red army’ to the second tier of English Football –The rivalry has even become fiercer.

Today was no different, as Sir Alex and his charges were aiming to avenge the F.A Cup semi final loss suffered in the hands of their noisy neighbours just four months earlier. That day, it was the Ivorian, Yaya Toure who scored the all important match winner.

For the season curtain raiser, Manchester United lined up with new signing, David De Gea in goal, Ferdinand, Vidic(c), Evra , and Smalling in defence, Anderson, Carrick, in central midfield, another new boy, Ashley Young and Nani on the wings, Rooney and Welbeck in attack. (4-4-2).

Manchester City on the other hand started with a flexible 4-3-3 formation with England No 1 safe hands, Joe Hart between the sticks, Kompany(c), Lescott, Richards and Kolarov in defence. Yaya, De Jong, Milner in midfield and a trident attacking set-up of Balotelli, Silva and 27 million pound Bosnian giant, Edin Dzeko. There was no space for Sergio ‘el kun’ Aguero who cost Sheikh Mansour a cool 38 million pounds from the Vicente Calderon.

The match started with Manchester United dominating proceedings early and fashioning out opportunities, but couldn’t put any away. It however lived up to its pre-match billing when Mario Balotelli and Nemanja Vidic had a whirly old go at each other early on in the game. Of course, it drew a lot of attention because of Barwuah’s reputation. Anderson and Dzeko also got involved, but were not as lucky as Vidic and Balotelli, as they were cautioned. Micah Richards did a ‘De Jong’ tackle on Ashley Young which got Sir Alex raving in annoyance. This forced Phil (the referee) to brandish a yellow card at Micah.

Mancini was tired of the incessant pressure on his charges and decided to Switch Milner to right midfield. This paid off almost immediately as Evra fouled the Englishman in the 38th minute of the encounter and the resultant dead ball was taken by the impressive David Silva who placed it perfectly on Jolean Lescott’s head to give the blue half of Manchester the lead. It was a huge blow to the confidence of the united players who prior to falling behind, had bossed proceedings without finding the desired outcome. Fingers were pointed in defence as Jolean out jumped Rio, but pundits and spectators aplenty were of the opinion that the goal was largely the fault of United’s new goal tender, De Gea.

If the guilty party was debatable for the first goal, the second was very clear (to most people really). Edin Dzeko picked the ball 35 yards out and sent a pile driver to the keeper’s right and the result was City going two goals up in the space of 4 first half minutes. De Gea was blamed by the vast majority of people who watched the game. Now the matter which has dragged on all summer was resurrected ----------- CAN DE GEA FILL THE BOOTS OF EDWIN VAN DER SAR? I wasn’t among those who felt he couldn’t or can’t just because of errors (arguable) in 1 match. After all, he is only 20 and has just started keeping the goal safe. The first half ended with Man City leading their more accomplished rivals by 2 beautiful, un-replied goals.

Those who are seasoned soccer watchers and Manchester United followers, know that you only write Manchester United off at your own peril. As expected, Fergie made changes, haven said earlier that he views the Community shield as a preparatory game for the first official EPL game of the season. 21 year old (will be 22 in 5 days) Tom Cleverley came in for Michael Carrick who was a huge doubt for today’s game as a result of the knock he picked up in mid-week while starring in the Van der Sar testimonial. Evans and new boy, 19 year old Phil Jones took the places of experienced campaigners, Rio and Vidic. 

City came out unchanged for the second half. A few minutes into the second stanza, a lovely weighted Ashley Young free-kick was stylishly poked in by Chris Smalling to make it 2-1. City hadn’t recovered from that setback when United struck again. If the first goal was eye-catching, the second was even more exceptional. Rooney, Cleverley and Nani worked wonders and ran circles around the Kompany- marshalled defence  and Nani was there to chip the ball over the net from a somewhat tight angle. Game back in the balance!

United were on the ascendancy and City of course knew what might come after, so they tightened their defence line and started causing a few problems at the other end with Silva, Yaya and Dzeko combining to try and regain the lead. City rang the changes with Gareth Barry coming on for Balotelli and James Milner for the fleet footed, Adam Johnson. United also pulled off Evra for Rafael.  Rafa not only took the French man’s position, but also kept the arm band.  Johnson’s impact was almost immediate as he forced a magnificent, world class save from De Gea in the United goal. 

The game went from one end to the other after that, with the only real incident of note coming when Micah forced another very good save off De Gea, although he was adjudged to have illegally climbed Nani to get his head to the ball. Rooney wasted a glorious opportunity from a free kick, and Nani’s goal bound shot was blocked by the city rear guard. Late on in the game, the languid Bulgarian and United striker, Berbatov came on for Welbeck

We were all set for penalties until a Manchester City attack right at the death, led to Rooney playing a hopeful ball towards the City goal. Kompany made a hash of his clearance, allowing Nani to race through on goal, smartly rounding Hart, and coolly slotting the ball past the keeper and the Belgian who raced back to try and make up for his blunder. That was the game clincher and secured Manchester United a 4th shield success in the last 5 attempts.

At the end of proceedings, the red part of Manchester was victorious and Club Captain, Nemanja Vidic, deservedly held aloft the first title of the 2011-2012 Season. The red army also claimed the MOTM (man of the match award) --- with the recipient being Luis Nani.

That does it.


Ohireime Princeton Eboreime aka OHISKAKA

Follow me on Twitter @ohiskaka1990