Chelsea eventually overcame Manchester United in the Community Shield at Wembley today. Following a 2-2 draw in normal time the Blues comfortably and somewhat surprisingly won the ensuing penalty shoot-out 4-1, helping to banish memories of Moscow, if only temporarily. An early Nani thunderbolt had given United a deserved half time lead, before Chelsea hit back after the break, with goals from Ricardo Carvalho and, controversially, Frank Lampard, putting the Blues in front. It took a cool finish in injury time from Wayne Rooney to send the game to penalties for a third consecutive year where Chelsea finally laid to rest the ghost of last May.The English season’s so-called ‘curtain raiser’ began, as is almost always the case, in glorious sunshine, symbolic of the fact that the football season was once again upon us. Chelsea lined up in their new 4-Diamond-2 formation, with only the omission of Jose Bosingwa at the hands of Branislav Ivanovic a surprising selection in Carlo Ancelotti’s first competitive fixture at the helm. Otherwise it was very much a full strength Chelsea team. United left summer signings Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen on the bench which meant that neither team fielded a new signing, surely a first for this particular fixture.
The game started brightly and Chelsea might have been ahead inside 5 minutes, when an excellent Lampard corner was diverted goalwards at the far post by Ivanovic before being flicked up and onto the underside of the bar by Patrice Evra. Ivanovic was being kept busy at the other end as well; after two mistimed sliding challenges referee Chris Foy was left with little choice but to book the Serbian and a moment later Nani, enjoying a decent performance, cut inside to fire the ball home from the edge of the box through a crowd of players. It appeared that whilst Petr Cech was unsighted John Terry opted against clearing the ball thinking that Cech would comfortably save it. In the end it went under the big keeper’s dive to give United the lead.
They might have doubled that lead a couple of minutes later when Rooney nodded back Dimitar Berbatov’s cross to the onrushing Ji-Sung Park, but his header was expertly clawed away by Cech. The Czech keeper was called into action immediately afterwards when a delightful one-two between Berbatov and Park gave the Bulgarian a sight of goal but again Cech saved the Blues with a fantastic one handed save. Chelsea responded slowly and struggled, notably in midfield where Lampard was struggling to have any impact on the ball whilst Essien looked somewhat caught in two minds, unsure whether he should be bossing the centre of midfield or helping Ivanovic cope with Evra and Nani. They still created chances though; Malouda volleyed wide when well placed, Essien headed over after some excellent interplay between Malouda and Cole while Anelka saw a couple of shots flash narrowly wide before half time.
Ancelotti used the interval to replace the struggling Ivanovic with Bosingwa, and the change reaped its rewards almost immediately. After a stunning block from Ashley Cole denied Rooney, Chelsea went up the other end and restored parity. Lampard flicked the ball up to Malouda on the corner of the 18 yard box, and the Frenchman chested it down before lobbing it towards goal. The unorthodox cross wreaked havoc as Ben Foster, under heavy pressure from Didier Drogba, could only push the ball onto the grateful head of the marauding Carvalho, who stooped to head into the unguarded net. The goal seemed to galvanize Chelsea who proceeded to really dominate proceedings, and a quarter of an hour later the Blues led, in contentious circumstances. Substitute Michael Ballack clearly body checked Evra off the ball but United retained possession, with the referee appearing to play the advantage. Evra stayed down ‘injured’, United then lost the ball, Chelsea broke with Drogba, ably supported by Anelka and Lampard, and the Ivorian squared to an unmarked Lampard (standing in United’s left-back position) who took a touch before firing past Foster. United’s stand-in keeper got both hands on the ball but was powerless to prevent it hitting the inside of the post and crawling over the line. The goal evoked memories of Lamps’ winner in the Cup Final two months ago – while the Chelsea fans celebrated the United players, including a revitalized Evra, surrounded Foy expressing their dismay at the referee’s decision not to stop play, as he had earlier after Nani (who dislocated his shoulder) and Ballack (who had been trod on) lay prone, or at the very least award a free-kick. Either way, the goal stood and Chelsea led for the first time in the game.
United instantly brought on a quartet of substitutes including Michael Owen, before Drogba nearly added a third, excellently repelled by the previously shaky Foster. Chelsea appeared to be playing time out comfortably with little action down their end in the final few minutes. However disaster struck as the game entered 3 minutes of injury time as United leveled. Substitute Ryan Giggs put Rooney through on goal, and the England striker had a yard advantage over the Blues back four owing to the clear offside position he was in. The linesman didn’t flag and Rooney raced away before delightfully clipping the ball over Cech. The United fans celebrated as though this was the game’s winning goal, when in fact this only meant one thing: penalties. United had won the 2 previous Community Shields on penalties beating us in 2007 and Portsmouth in 2008. They also won in Moscow (lest we forget) and beat Spurs in the Carling Cup Final last season. However their most recent shootout ended in defeat at the hands of Everton in the Cup Semi in April. We hadn’t won the football version of the lottery since a League Cup game at Portman Road against Ipswich Town all the way back in January 1998.
Chelsea won the toss to go first but had to take the kicks in front of the United fans. All eyes were on John Terry and whether he would dare to take another penalty; in the end we will probably never know. Lampard got things up and running before Cech saved from Giggs; Ballack, Carrick and Drogba all scored comfortably before Evra, facing a cacophony of whistling for his part in Chelsea’ second goal, tamely passed the ball into Cech’s grateful arms. Initially Deco stepped up to win it for us, before he passed the mantle to party animal and substitute Salomon Kalou. Just as in Moscow 15 months earlier, he curled the ball calmly into the top right hand corner of the goal. Redemption at last, and a trophy to boot.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic (Bosingwa 45′), Terry (c), Carvalho, Cole; Mikel (Ballack 64′), Essien, Malouda (Deco 77′), Lampard; Drogba, Anelka (Kalou 83′)
Unused subs: Hilario, Alex, Belletti
Manchester United: Foster; O’Shea (Fabio Da Silva 75′), Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Park (Giggs 74′), Fletcher (Scholes 74′), Carrick, Nani (Valencia 62′), Rooney, Berbatov (Owen 74′).
Unused Subs: Kuszczak, Gibson
Man of the Match: Florent Malouda