Congratulations to Sir Alex Ferguson. A fitting end to the old Scot's season, where he had made it his goal (look, Ma, a pun) to win the UEFA Cup in memory of the Busy Babes of the Munich tragedy of 1958.And so to last night.
Twinkletoes Ronaldo was in the thick of things again. A brilliant header to start things off, and then a ridiculous miss at the end of all things, when the match went to penalty shootout. Felt terrible for John Terry who slipped while taking his shot and missed the goal that would have won his side the Cup. Poor sod was inconsolable. Even Avram Grant's sweetly available shoulder couldn't alleviate the Chelsea champion's pain.
Since we are talking penalties and goalies, let's be honest and point out that Edwin van der Sar is a far, far superior goalie than the clumsy Cech. He is too. Only fitting that he turned out to be the hero at the end of the drama-filled night. I mean dripping with drama.Right from some very interesting spats between the players, to blood-spurting collisions, almost-but-not-quite on target shots, and the usual spills-and-thrills overacting that soccer brings, this was a match to remember.
The match started off very well, with ManU uncharacteristically trading in short, quick passes (lessons from Barca?) and dominating ball possession in the first half. It always looked like ManU would penetrate eventually and score first, which is exactly what happened in the 26th minute. Ronaldo sent home his 42nd goal of the season and the match got an added burst of life. The Chelsea Blues immediately raised their game and an equaliser was imminent. Chelsea had a few great shots on target which Luck alone deflected on to the woodwork, keeping ManU a nose ahead for a while. But Chelsea were always on the hunt. Enter Frank Lampard (who else?) as always, present in the box when time came to get things done. In a heart-wrenching moment, Lampard managed a skiddy nudge past van der Sar and Chelsea pulled out a fabulous equaliser from its hat.
The second half came and went in a goalless frenzy, ditto extra time, and then it was down to to what is every fotball player's/viewer's/fan's worst nightmare: Penalty shootout.
Gaaaaaah. (I am passing over stupid, arrogant Drogba's behaviour and sending off because everyone else in the world will write about it. New nick: 'Did-yer Have To?' Drogba)
As if the match itself didn't have enough drama, the penalty shootout was a notch higher. Ronaldo missed after doing a strange dance before taking his kick. It was alllllll over, but but but. Poor Terry slipped on his run up and MISSED. Ye gods! We were into suddent death.
ManU's sub Anderson stepped up to the mark and slipped his shot in. So did Chelsea's sub Kalou. Scores even at 5-5. (Scene at home: The Elder Haji sibling, second Haji sibling and youngest [fourth] but tallest Haji sibling, sitting in a row biting fingernails, followed by toenails).
ManU veteran Giggs stepped in.... and goal! Chelsea sent in their experienced striker, Nicolas Anelka, to do his thing. Monsiuer Anelka walked up looking nonchalant. Lazy kick (or so it seemed) and VAN DER SAR dove and what a save!!!!!!!! It was all over! ManU crowned UEFA champs!
Thank God it ended when it did, though. At one point I was all ready to take after Cousin Bob's example and develop ulcers. Sudden death was turning into slow, teasing death for everyone watching the match. I imagined the sudden death stalemate would go on till break of dawn at least, when Mama and Abba would walk into the TV room and discover three dead Haji sibling bodies with heart in mouths. (See the word play? Notice how I managed to intersperse 'sudden' with 'slow, teasing' and thus change the meaning of the phrase, almost as if by magic? Vaav.)
Anyway. Manchester United won in the end, and it doesn't matter how, they did win. Tough luck to Chelsea, good game throughout. My point is it was worth it. Even dragging Self to Orifice today and maintaining a semblance of professional normalcy. (Which really isn't saying much.)
1. Ronaldo may well be the young cutie-pie of the team, but Rrrrio Ferdinand. Vaav! Whatte.
2. Penalty shootouts are a lottery.
3. This is the only Red team I support.
Also, while reading through various websites, came across this article on the Sky Sports site which had nice comments from readers. Surprisingly no venom-spewing diatribes from miffed fans and no chest-beating gloating from the victors.