Wednesday, September 13, 2006

United scrape past Celtic...

United went into their Champions League home game against Celtic with many pundits stating that it could be a walk-over for the reds. IT didn't happen. United won the game 3-2, but to the surprise of many, Celtic took the lead early in the first half through Jan Venegoor of Heselink, following a schoolboy error by Rio Ferdinand. The England centre back should have won his header, instead he allowed the big Dutch striker to somehow collect the ball and he easily beat the United keeper with a low drive into the corner.

Ferdinand wasn't the only one who made mistakes in this game. The referee had a stinker, wrongly booking Silvestre, for what was clearly a good tackle early in the game. Then a few minutes later the referee wrongly awarded United a penalty, when the Celtic keeper brought down Ryan Giggs inside the area. Replays showed the referee wasn't in the best position to make a decision, it was never a penalty. Saha converted the spot-kick to score his first Champions League goal of his career.

United then took the lead after Paul Scholes played the ball of the night to Saha who scored his second goal of the night.

Celtic hit back at United when Brown gave away a free-kick on the edge of United's penalty area, Nakamura scored a lovely goal with a lofted chip over the wall, to make it 2-2.

Jan Venegoor of Heselink then let United off the hook when he beat United's off-side trap, with Gary Neville, his marker, left stood appealling to the referee with his arm raised in the air, a la Tony Adams style. Luckily for United, the Dutch striker missed what was the easiest chance of the night.

Straight after the half-time break, United scored what turned out to be the winning goal of the game, once again it came from more mistakes - this time from both sides. First, Wes Brown gave the ball away, Graveson picked it up for the visitors, but he promptly gave it back to United and Saha received the ball on the edge of the area, his first effort was blocked, the ball came back to the French striker and his second effort on goal fell rather fortunately to Ole Solksjaer who'd replaced Ryan Giggs who'd go on off in the first half with a hamstring injury. Solksjaer had the simplest of tasks to tap home the winner.

United did have further chances to score, most notably through Wayne Rooney and Saha. However, United weren't convincing against a hard working Celtic side.

United took the points, but this was something of a moral victory for Celtic. For the second game in a row, United's defence looked decidedly dodgy. With Park out for three months and Giggs out for three weeks, United's squad is already looking stretched even at this early stage of the season.

Verdict: Yes, it was exciting, but the game wasn't of a high quality. United's shambolic defending will cost them dearly if they don't tighten up and quickly. Must do better.

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