Monday, September 21, 2009

Manchester Derby Day

My throat is still a little heavy and sore this morning. I sound like when I was an adolescent going through puberty with that suddenly deep voice breaking through my voicebox. Thanks to Michael Owen's unbelievable stoppage time winner, this condition might last all day.

It was the return of Carlos Tevez which was one of the main talking points in the lead-up to the match.

He was roundly booed every time he touched the ball which I thought was just a little harsh given the work rate and effort he put into his two years with the red half of Manchester. The Old Trafford crowd were particularly happy when he was cautioned midway through the first half.

And it all started so brightly for Man. Utd with Wayne Rooney ghosting into the box, and in an act which I can only decribe as the parting of the blue sea, Man. City's defenders crumbled around him as he slotted the ball under Given for a rapid start.

Ben Foster made a blunder for Man. City's equaliser, allowing Tevez to chase down a lost cause, nab the ball from his grasp and square for Gareth barry to slot home from 12 yards. It was a day full of mistakes from both sides, but Foster's gaffe was an absolute gift.

United came out of the blocks quickly in the second half, the majestic Giggs crossing perfectly for Fletcher to head home four minutes after the interval. But within minutes, Man. City had levelled again when United's defence simply allowed Bellamy all the time in the world to cut inside and fire an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

Man Utd were dominating the second period though and if it wasn't for Shay Given they would have been out of sight. With ten minutes remaining Giggs sent over a wonderful ball which Fletcher met again for a carbon copy of his earlier goal, to surely give United the three points.

But awfully for Ferdinand, he gifted the ball to Bellamy in the 90th minute as he tried to scoop it over his head, failing miserably. Bellamy ran the length of the United half and calmly tucked it past Foster from an acute angle. How I laid in to Rio after that. I really thought his lazy error had cost us the game.

With four minutes added-on time, United pushed to find a winner. When Rooney stood over a free-kick near the half-way line, the clock had already spilled over to it's sixth minute. When that free-kick was headed away by the first defender, I expected to hear the referee's whistle and two points lost, but it didn't come. Amazingly, the game continued. Perhaps Richards and Wright-Philipps were expecting the same, because they completely switched off in what happened next. Rooney lofted the ball skywards and when Giggs collected the loose ball, he threaded a perfect pass through the gap to the on-rushing Owen. I don't remember him touching the ball once since he came on, but this first touch was elegant and his second touch was even better, slotting the ball over Given's despairing hand and into the bottom corner of the net.

Old Trafford erupted, my apartment erupted, it was the most complete and utter joyous disbelief!

Mark Hughes will be livid about the amount of stoppage time added on, but Alex Feguson was ecstatic at putting Man. City back in their place with a 4-3 win and all bragging rights safely with the red half of Manchester as it should be. Michael Owen proved what a world-class, quality finisher he is with this two-touch cameo to bring the points to Old Trafford. What a fantastic match and a most dramatic ending!


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