Sunday, December 17, 2006

Chelsea show their metal as United reveal their soft under belly

United and Chelsea both had difficult looking away fixtures on Sunday and twice Chelsea went behind at Goodison Park only to come back and score three second half goals to snatch all three points. In East London in the 4pm kick-off United failed to notch against Alan Curbishley's West Ham United as Nigel Reo-Coker tapped home a soft goal late on to earn his new manager and his club a much needed three points.

At Goodison Park, Arteta gave the home side the lead from the penalty-spot towards the end of the first half to give Everton a deserved lead. As ever Chelsea came out after the break with all guns blazing and it looked as if it would only be a matter of time before they equalised. The Chelsea goal eventually came from another free-kick, this time from outside the box, and it was Ballack who crashed his shot home off the post, though Tim Howard the Everton keeper had the last touch.

Chelsea were more or less in complete control for the first 15 minutes after the break and it was somewhat against the run of play when Yobo scored with a header from a corner to ease the pressure on the home side. Once again though the visitors responded and it was Frank Lampard who crashed home a stunning rocket of a shot from fully 30 yards to give Howard no chance, even then Chelsea weren't done though as they hit the woodwork twice before Drogba scored the goal of the game to seal a dramatic victory. The winning goal came after substitute Shevchenko flicked a ball onto the Ivory Coast striker who controlled the ball outside the box with his back to goal, the Everton defenders stood-off the big man and that allowed him to turn, the Chelsea talisman wasted no time and smashed his shot beyond Howard giving him no chance again. Quite simply it was a stunning goal worthy of winning any game.

Meanwhile later on in the day at Upton Park United failed to take advantage of the majority of possession they had and despite having the better of the stats in just about every department it was West Ham who created the most clear-cut chance of the first half as Bobby Zamora should have given the Hammers a first half lead after easily brushing off Rio Ferdinand, luckily for United Van der Sar saved the resulting shot and Rio's blushes.

United troubled Robert Green in the West Ham goal, but only from distance and so the West Ham back line who'd lost three times at home prior to today in the league never really looked to be in that much trouble as the visitors never got behind them. The stat count did indeed show that United had created the lion's share of the chances, but in truth United's efforts on goal were nearly all speculative efforts which Green dealt with comfortably apart from one effort by Ronaldo which required an excellent save.

United knew this fixture would be a difficult one, it always is, but too many players didn't rise to the occasion, Rooney, Saha, Giggs, Ferdinand and Neville and in particular Carrick were very poor, the latter gave the ball away cheaply time and time again during the opening 45 minutes.

The only goal of the game came late on in the second and it was United old boy Teddy Sheringham who did the damage by playing the ball through the legs of a United defender to Marlon Harewood who turned Ferdinand too easily to find Reo-Coker who wandered into the United box unmarked to slide the ball home as Gary Neville and Paul Scholes were left ball watching.

United will argue that they didn't deserve to lose, but they didn't deserve to win either. At least West Ham created two clear-cut chances inside the penalty area. United didn't create a lot apart from one good effort by Ronaldo. The harsh truth is when Chelsea needed their big-guns to save them, they did so twice. In contrast United were firing misfiring all afternoon at Upton Park and yet the United players had the luxury of a whole week without a midweek game to prepare for this game. Individually and collectively the performance was nowhere near good enough. On Sunday only one team played like champions, sadly it wasn't the boys in red.

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