Tonight Manchester United were the visitors to Stamford Bridge in the Semi Final first leg of the Carling Cup. After our 3-1 victory over Scunthorpe on Saturday in the FA Cup Jose Mourinho made seven changes to the team. On the same day, Man Utd were held 0-0 by non-league Exeter. United had fielded mostly reserve players that day and were embarrassed so much that Alex Ferguson had to apologise to the Utd fans due to not being able to beat the non-league outfit. After United’s last match in the Carling Cup against Arsenal Ferguson had said that he would continue with his policy of playing reserve team players in the competition, well, if I were to tell you that the moon was made of cheese, you’d know I was lying. So indeed was Ferguson in saying he’d play his reserve team players this evening.
We also started with a strong team, however, when don’t we? All our squad are quality players and Mourinho had played the majority of those players throughout the Carling Cup campaign. There were four players that kept their place from the weekend match, Carlo Cudicini, Joe Cole, Tiago and Eidur Gudjohnsen. The players to come in were Paulo Ferreira, JT, William Gallas, Wayne Bridge, Frank Lampard, Damien Duff and Claude Makelele. Neither Chelsea nor Utd had conceded many goals recently so a tight game was on the cards before kick off and that’s how the game shaped up. In the first half both Chelsea and United had limited chances, United had a penalty appeal turned down within ten minutes gone as Saha went down after possibly being sandwiched in the area by Tiago and Ferreira, however the referee with a good view, waved play on. Shortly after that Ronaldo looked like he had ice skates on as he also appealed for a penalty, which was also rightly turned down. Just before the penalty appeals a mistake by Mikael Silvestre after his header let in Joe Cole for a volley, but he miss-hit the ball and didn’t trouble Tim Howard at all. Damien Duff also hit a magnificent shot that went just whistling past the post. On the half hour we had a great chance to go ahead, a ball played in from the right by Tiago found Frank Lampard who’s deft header just went past Tim Howard’s right hand post. A couple of minutes after, the ball was in the Man Utd net but it was ruled offside. A volley by Damien Duff across the area found Eidur Gudjohnsen but he was offside as he knocked the ball past Howard. Just before half time United had their best chance of the half, a cross by Darren Fletcher from the right found Wayne Rooney his header hit the post with Carlo beaten.
The second half started with Didier Drogba replacing Eidur Gudjohnsen. Chelsea started with great momentum and we were going for the early goal. In the 48th minute Argentinean Gabriel Heinze cleared off the line from a Frank Lampard shot, Lamps had cut inside Mikael Silvestre; his shot beat Howard only for Heinze to clear. This wasn’t to be the only goal line clearance of the second half as later in the half Jiri Jarosik had a shot that was cleared by a combination of Howard and Phil Neville after a Damien Duff corner. We continued to press after Lamps effort and in the 53rd minute Quinton Fortune ran his studs down Didier Drogba’s shin and foot, referee Barry gave the free kick. Lamps took the free kick, cut the ball back to Drogba who’s low shot was held by Howard as three blue shirts came racing in for the follow up if Howard spilt the ball. Four minutes later another free kick taken by Wayne Bridge found Drogba who headed the ball down to Lampard who’s shot went wide of the post.
With both teams trying to get the goal to gain the advantage for the second leg Ferguson took off Djemba-Djemba and bought on Paul Scholes. In return, Mateja Kezman replaced Tiago a few minutes later. Neither player could influence the outcome of the game as at full time the game finished 0-0. So, it’s up to Old Trafford in a couple of weeks for the return. A single goal could win the tie; with both defences in fine form Chelsea won’t be perturbed by the visit to Manchester and yet another famous victory and a trip to Cardiff for our first trophy since 2000, this was none other than Manchester United and the Charity Shield.
Chelsea: Cudicini, Ferreira, Terry, Gallas, Bridge, Makelele, Lampard, Tiago (Kezman 66), Duff, Cole (Jarosik 75), Gudjohnsen (Drogba 45) Subs Not Used: Cech, Johnson.
Manchester United: Howard, Phil Neville, Silvestre, O’Shea, Heinze, Ronaldo (Smith 90), Fletcher, Djemba-Djemba (Scholes 61), Fortune, Saha, Rooney Subs Not Used: Carroll, Miller, Spector.
Referee: Neal Barry