United v Pompey: Justice Prevailed In The Shootout
Many things are said about modern football. Critics often blast the nature of it, stating that greed is at the centre, the lust for money. They have a point but it's not the greatest danger.
Money can't kill the sheer beauty. Harry Redknapp's conception - increasingly popular around the world - can. No doubt.
The plan is simple: field strong, quick, aggressive players who have a rudimentary grasp of the basics of football and tell them to stick to the opposition's players, harass them, unsettle them, tackle them at every opportunity, run, run and run more.
Of course you need a great amount of luck as well as the superior opposition will eventually find a way through the muscle wall. Portsmouth has that luck and that's how they won the FA Cup, despite being outplayed by Preston, United, Ipswich, West Bromwich and Cardiff...
Redknapp's team once again failed to capture the imagination. The much-hyped strike partnership of Crouch and Defoe was lost between the man mountains that are Ferdinand and Vidic, their midfielders created nothing without Muntari - not that they did at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, with the Inter midfielder still in the side - and the defence looked suspect at times.
A depleted United side - Ronaldo, Rooney, Anderson, Hargreaves, Park and Saha were all absent, with Carrick only on the bench - controlled the game with ease from start to finish, despite the opposition's increasing aggressivity which was tolerated by an unfortunately lenient Peter Walton. The two main creative forces, Tevez and Scholes, got the majority of the kicks, knocks, blows, they were harassed and provoked but still had time to create chances.
Fletcher came closest in the first half after Nani won the ball back from Glen Johnson on the edge of the area, curled it in from the left and the lunging Fletcher miskicked it and it found its way eventually to the defenders.
The second half was increasingly one-sided and Pompey were prepared to stop us by any means. They were delivered the stroke of fortune that they should be used to by now: after James' mistake, Fletcher's brilliant lob from the edge of the area bounced back of the crossbar. Nani was also threatening throughout, his bursts through the defence regularly caused panic yet somehow Pompey always got away with their lapses of concentration.
Tevez came close with a brilliant shot but James's equally brilliant save kept the score level. Hreidarsson's inexplicable madness - he caught hold of Tevez's legs with his arms - should have brought a penalty for the Champions but Peter Walton's whistle remained silent. How he could not see it is one of the secrets that shall never be revealed.
It became a real possibility that just like in practically every single FA Cup game last season, Pompey would once again snatch a win despite being largely outplayed throughout the 90 minutes. But their attacking threat was non-existent and luck could only keep them alive until the penalties.
Fortunately, Diarra's penalty taking is no more sophisticated than his football - he just ran forward and blasted the ball as powerfully as he could and of course it took off and flew over the bar. It set the tone: Tevez, Giggs and Carrick all scored for United while only Defoe could respond as Mvuemba and Johnson both missed...
In the end, justice prevailed as it would have been a travesty had this Pompey side won the Community Shield. As for United, we have learnt nothing new. It's obvious that a striker is necessary and I'm still hopeful of landing Berbatov, the only likely target. Frazier Campbell looked promising again - indeed, he would have deserved a goal for the way he created the chance for himself ten minutes from time.
But despite the bad-tempered nature of the game - best part was Portsmouth players urging us to kick the ball out for a Diop (I think) to receive treatment for an injury he sustained when trying to break Scholes' leg with a clumsy sliding tackle... - and the poor finishing, it was an encouraging display and at least the season is finally underway!
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