Date:Wednesday April 8 2009
Well, the boost of the Villa game wasn't enough to overcome the jadedness of the squad it seems. Manchester United, the holders, are on the brink of going out of the Champions League after a sloppy and sluggish performance against Porto at Old Trafford.
It was never going to be our night, that much was clear after the first few minutes. Porto, playing an enterprising pressing football, took the game to us from the kickoff and United's flailing backline had no answer to their movement. A goal looked inevitable but still it required Jonny Evans' horrendous mistake to gift a golden opportunity to Christian Rodriguez, one he did not miss.
If we hoped it would be enough of a wake-up call, we were wrong. United looked weary, we were slow in movement and thinking as well. Still, Ronaldo almost equalised then a minute later, on 15, a horrible backpass was intercepted by Wayne Rooney and he elegantly lifted the ball over Helton.
There was relief all around Old Trafford for it was clear that the team would not create many clear-cut chances... We dominated possession but could not cope with Porto's quick breaks which were threatening throughout the first 45 minutes. We were fortunate to go in level at the break.
The second half was a different affair. Scholes was still invisible, O'Shea still pumped cross after cross into the nearest defender but United, in a weary sort of fashion, took the game to Porto and pressed and pressed, without invention or momentum. Still, we had half-chances and even some clear-cut ones but you had to be wondering where the next goal would be coming from.
Tevez came on with 20 minutes to go to replace Paul Scholes (finally) but he made little difference; in fact, he barely even touched the ball. Until the 85th minute, that is, when Gary Neville's throw-in was flicked on into his way by Rooney (our best performer by a country mile and some more) and he hammered it home from close range.
It looked like another late goal would bring another undeserved victory and we would take a lead to Porto which would have made the job a hundred times easier. However, the defending let United down again: Lisandro's (I think) cross found Mariano, totally unmarked at the far post, and even a bad first touch could not prevent him from sliding the ball into the net to give Porto a deserved draw.
Where was Gary Neville, O'Shea and Vidic we will never know - and we paid the price for their horror show. Porto are now the overwhelming favourites, considering United's form and the facts that we are no great shakes away from home in Europe and that no British team has ever won on their ground.
We need a miracle all right to stay alive.
Date:Wednesday April 8 2009
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