Lucky City Survive Second Half Battering
Oh god, I hoped it would not come to pass but now everything will be full of giddy and cocky City fans for a week after their victory tonight. However, it will be obvious to anyone who saw the game that United are clear favourites to progress.
Fergie fielded a very strong line-up, with Carrick, Fletcher and Anderson in a midfield three supporting an attacking trio of Valencia, Rooney and Giggs. And this worked quite well from the beginning: United were comfortable in possession and though we did not create much, we were the more positive team.
We were rewarded with a deserved goal with 20 minutes gone: Evra whipped over a diagonal ball to Valencia who crossed for Rooney. His close-range effort was saved by Given but Giggs was on hand to convert the rebound.
United fans outsang their home counterparts even before the goal but after it, the silence was almost deafening but for a corner of the stadium where the visiting fans were gleefully singing the best of their repertoire.
Inexplicably, United lost some of their composure on the ball after the goal and allowed City more time and space but the hosts' were very poor and could not create anything at all, even against a makeshift backline including Brown, Evans and Rafael.
However, the latter made a mistake in the closing stages of the first half which was compounded by Mike Dean's extreme error: Rafael clearly let go of Bellamy's shirt before the area but the referee awarded a penalty which the otherwise very ineffective Tevez converted and then proceeded to do some really childish celebrations. Spiteful petulant prat, he is.
The second half started in a scrappy fashion: City could have scored early on as our defence displayed their ridiculous inability to deal with any set-piece that came across while Rooney and Giggs both could and should have restored United's advantage but they spurned their opportunities.
And they soon regretted it after another corner caused mayhem in the United box, Anderson, Evans, Rafael, Brown and co. running around without a clue, allowing Tevez to head it in from close range and proceed to do some even more childish and petulant celebration.
But unlike many other occasions on which we fell behind, we had a response this time. Fergie sent on Michael Owen for Anderson and United proceeded to batter City for the last 20 minutes of the tie. Given produced three great saves from Rooney alone; Owen had a shot cleared off the line; substitute Diouf headed wide with the goal gaping; Valencia fired wide of an empty net from two yards out...
So, in the end, plucky little City held on to a famous win in their cup final - but there is little evidence to suggest that United won't take them apart at Old Trafford. If we play like we did tonight, especially in the last 20 minutes then it should be no problem. Foster won't be in goal this time so everything's there for us to reach a second consecutive Carling Cup final.
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