Thursday, May 22, 2008
Champions League final: Sir Alex Ferguson sealed as Manchester United legend
Cristiano Ronaldo goal : 1-0
Chelsea's Joe Cole, left, and Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand challenged for a ball late in the game. The two started their careers together at West Ham United.
Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson hoisted the European Cup for the second time. He led Manchester United to the Champions League crown in 1999.
MOSCOW — A domestic rivalry splashed over international borders on Wednesday when England’s two best soccer clubs took their tenacious battle to the banks of the Moscow River to play for Europe’s most coveted athletic prize.
Amid thickening rain and an unbreakable 1-1 tie, the game came down to a penalty-kick shootout. After an unfortunate slip by the Chelsea captain John Terry sent his potential winning kick off the post, Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar blocked a shot by Nicolas Anelka, giving United the championship. A deafening chorus of English fans sent shudders through Luzhniki Stadium.
This first all-English final in Champions League history became an extension of a season-long battle in England’s Premier League, where United won the title on the season’s final day.
After a lethargic beginning to Wednesday’s game, the clubs seemed to find their footing on the newly installed turf. Cristiano Ronaldo, United’s dazzling Portuguese wing, struck first, rocketing a header past goalkeeper Peter Cech. After Chelsea’s Frank Lampard redirected a bumbling deflection for the tying goal shortly before halftime, the clubs battled through the second half, then two overtimes, pummeling each other’s goalkeepers, even as fatigue caused tempers to flare and injuries to mount.
Manchester United’s win, its third European title, dashed Chelsea’s hopes of a first, relegating it to a now customary position as runner-up.
“It’s very hard to lose in penalties,” Avram Grant, Chelsea’s coach, said with a scowl and his typical reticence. “We hit the posts, we hit the bar, yet we dominated the game.”
The loss ended a 21-game streak without a loss for the Blues, and could prove devastating amid persistent rumors that team stars like Didier Drogba, who spent much of the night in the periphery and became only the second player ejected from a final, may move elsewhere for next season.
Grant’s position may also be in jeopardy. The team’s billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, could seek a manager who will give him more of a return on his billion-dollar investment.
For United, the match was laced with emotion, coming during the year of the 50th anniversary of the 1958 Munich air crash that killed eight of the team’s players as they returned from a European Cup game.
The young players who survived the crash formed the core of the team that won the title a decade later for Coach Matt Busby.
“We won’t live the memory of the Busby Babes down,” said Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s coach. “I feel proud.”
This season’s game was the third Champions League final between clubs from the same country in less than a decade. Spain’s Real Madrid defeated Valencia in 2000, and A.C. Milan beat Juventus in an all-Italian final in 2003.
A multicultural mélange took the field Wednesday in the stadium where, last October, Russia defeated England, effectively evicting the visitors from Euro 2008 qualifying.
Russia won another victory last night, proving itself a worthy host for major international competitions and further allaying lingering doubts about its competence to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a Black Sea resort. There were fears that a perpetual diplomatic spat with England might spill from the political arena to the soccer stadium, overshadowing the championship contest.
The Kremlin, however, bit its tongue. Keen to raise their country’s athletic profile, Russian officials greased an often unwieldy bureaucracy to squeeze some 40,000 beer-loving English fans through a typically tight border, waiving visa requirements for ticket holders and providing a fleet of nearly 1,000 buses and shuttles to ferry fans between the stadium and Moscow’s three airports.
The hospitality seemed to pay dividends. Although there were some scattered reports of fighting among fans, prematch warnings about rioting and bloodshed proved hollow.
Instead, a bellowing chorus echoed from the subway’s depths to the gates of the stadium as fans clad in Chelsea blue and United red joined Russians in bursts of song and cheers.
“I’ve been a fan of Manchester for more than six years,” Anya Shetinina, a 19-year-old Muscovite, said as she photographed the singing Englishmen. “It’s great that this is happening in our city.”source: nytimes.com