Date:Saturday April 19 2008
Oh god. What a game this football is. United looked set to make life very hard for themselves by travelling to the Bridge with only a two point advantage. However, the master of important goals saved us again.
Still, it was a richly deserved point: United bossed the game, even though neither Hargreaves nor Anderson made it, we had a hatful of chances only to be denied by Brad Friedel who is always excellent against us, and Rob Styles who is always crap.
To be fair, Styles' terrible calls weren't entirely one-sided. I still must see a convincing replay but it looked like that Kuszczak fouled Santa Cruz early on in the box and it should have been a penalty. Nelsen's foul on Rooney was obvious: he tripped the striker yet Styles waved play on and left Rooney swearing in vain.
Before that, Tevez already missed a glorious chance: Rooney brought down a pinpoint pass from Carrick, beat Nelsen then pulled the ball back to Carlitos who took a swipe at it and did not hit it... Terrible, he really should have scored. Not long after came Rooney's penalty shout and then a quite terrible foul from our Wayne: he hacked down Samba from behind, earning himself a yellow and we can be thankful it wasn't a red.
So Styles gave us an early taste of his incompetence but it was clear that United are in for a very difficult game. Blacburn's long balls and aerial prowess successfully neutralised the silk of the Scholes-Carrick midfield and though Vidic and Ferdinand dealt comfortably with almost everything, we still fell behind due to a most predictable goal.
A long throw into the area; breakdown of communication between Rio and Vida; a sickening piece of bad luck as the ball deflected off Rio's heel into the path of Santa Cruz who made no mistake from 10 yards. Immediately after the goal we could have equalised but for the linesman wrongly adjudging Tevez to be offside when clean through.
United were slow and ponderous in response. The fact that for the remainder of the first half Scholes went only for the safety passes and that Giggs was out of his depth made our attacking play very predictable. They just doubled up on Ronaldo and Rooney, as allowing Giggs space wasn't very dangerous, unfortunately.
All in all, I was glad to reach the end of the first half and prayed that SAF would introduce Nani in the place of Ryan. My prayers were answered as the returning Portuguese entered the pitch with the others at the start of the second half. For a while, though, United weren't very threatening. Only when Nani started to really find his rhytm we became a potent attacking force: with the youngster taking on defenders for fun, Ronaldo also had more space and freedom and began to exploit this.
We should have equalised soon as Reid headed a long ball into Ronaldo's path whose low shot was pushed to the inside of the post by Brad Friedel. Blackburn offered next to nothing in attack, they were too busy trying to preserve their lead. They did that quite well until the last twenty minutes when United finally approached their fluent best.
Chance came after chance: Rooney teed up Ronaldo inside the box, the Portugese was fouled from behind (another penalty that should have been given, Mr. Styles) but Tevez pounced on the ball, turned and shot but Friedel made an excellent stop and gathered it on the goalline. Then Nani dribbled inside and set up Rooney with a glorious pass but Friedel saved the shot using his right foot and the man started to frustrate me greatly.
And it only increased when after a corner he somehow made an unbelieveable stop, pushing away O'Shea's close range effort. Not long before that Nelsen handled the ball inside the area but he did get away with what Gallas didn't and Ryan Taylor also did. And I was already preparing for the agony of the knowledge that we can't afford to lose at Stamford Bridge, possibly the single most dangerous away ground in England.
How very wrong I was. With Nani forcing another corner we had another chance in the 88th minute. The Portuguese swung it in; it found Scholes who flicked it on and Tevez, who is rumoured to be drinking nothing but tea on nights out, headed home from close range. Sheer relief and jubilation washed over me and I was really going berserk: it could be the most important goal of our league campaign, one that makes our job infinitely more easier.
We could have even won the game as Nani dribbled his way inside the penalty area but did not pass it quickly enough and he was tackled, later, he had a shooting opportunity which went horribly wide. But all in all, I am content with a draw. It was always going to be a hellishly difficult fixture and though we haven't passed this test with flying colours, we haven't failed it either.
The negative side was Rooney's hip injury: he was kicked by Nelsen and astonishingly, Blackburn were awarded a free-kick for it - a typical piece of Styles incompetence. However, Fergie revealed that Hargo, Anderson, Rooney and Van der Sar who was also absent due to a groin injury should all be fit for Wednesday's game. That's marvellous and we could go there in a relaxed mood. Cheers.
Date:Saturday April 19 2008
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