The traditional curtain raiser to the season was nothing to write home about, with Chelsea and Manchester United playing out a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes at Wembley, the supposed climax of a penalty shootout doing nothing to alleviate the feeling that the curtains were hanging rather limp. In the end it was Sir Alex Ferguson’s side that emerged victorious, Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar saving all three of Chelsea’s penalties.
Chelsea entered the game with an array of injury worries, captain John Terry, midfield enforcer Claudé Makelélé, and Ivorian forwards Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou all ruled out of the clash. Big money signing from the season previous, Andriy Shevchenko, was also unable to take part. As a result, José Mourinho included both reserve goalkeepers Cudicini and Hilario on the bench, as well as reserve team centre back Harry Worley. Tal Ben-Haim made his competitive debut alongside Ricardo Carvalho with Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole filling the fullback roles. Jon Obi Mikel started with Essien and stand in captain Lampard in the midfield, whilst Joe Cole played in the centre of the front three, flanked by Wright-Phillips and the other starting competitive debutant, Florent Malouda.
Both teams were cautious early on, a sense of déjà vu being felt by those who had also watched the 2007 FA Cup Final between these two teams. 20 minutes in saw the first proper goalmouth action of the 2007 FA Community Shield, a Ronaldo box flying across to the right hand side of the penalty area, where Ryan Giggs emerged at the back post to shoot for goal, only for the gigantic figure of Petr Čech to make a point blank save. Soon after, Michael Carrick lined a shot up from outside the penalty area, only for it to swerve away from Čech’s goal and out for a goal kick.
Chelsea’s first look in at the United end came on the 26 minute mark when Malouda swung in a delicious free kick that was headed on by Essien at the near post. Mikel sniffed out the opportunity at the far post and despite a despairing dive he could only make minimal contact as the ball landed inches wide. Finally, the game was starting to become more of a contest.
Ronaldo was the next to threaten, when his low cross from the right was missed by Silvestre at the back post, déjà vu again, with the move remarkable in it’s similarity to the Giggs disallowed goal from the Cup Final.
Manchester United took the lead soon after, with good work by Ronaldo and Evra proving the catalyst to the deadlock being broken. Ronaldo’s touch worked Evra into space and with Wright-Phillips and Johnson trailing, Evra picked out United captain Giggs who tucked the ball into the top right corner from 12 yards out. Maybe not a deserved lead, but it was the incentive for Chelsea to start playing some football.
Play football they did, Ashley Cole gaining an assist for a wonderful through ball to Florent Malouda. Cole’s ball with the outside of his left boot found the French left winger, whose chest control took him beyond Rio Ferdinand. As the United defender tried to out muscle him, Malouda shrugged him off before also using the outside of his boot to nudge an inch perfect finish past van der Sar to equalise. However, Malouda was injured by the boot of the Dutch goalkeeper as he came racing out, and would hobble off seven minutes into the second half.
His replacement was the Peruvian forward Claudio Pizarro, signed from Bayern Munich in the summer. Joe Cole was then moved to play out on the left wing. It was Pizarro who first properly threatened in the second half, the new signing unleashing a fearsome 25 yard drive that bent just wide of van der Sar’s far post with the Dutch keeper struggling to get to the shot.
Čech made another fabulous save from Ronaldo, after the Portuguese winger left to Chelsea defenders in his wake as he turned onto his left foot to strike. Čech thwarted the same player once more as he broke towards goal, Ben-Haim doing his best to force him wide, before the Chelsea ‘keeper saved at his feet. Scott Sinclair was amongst the second half introductions as the game slowly fizzled out to a 1-1 draw after 90 minutes. Penalties would be an undeserved “climax” to an otherwise slow paced encounter.
Chelsea were first up, with new boy Pizarro taking on the responsibility, however his shot to the left was too close to van der Sar who flung himself sideways to make the save. First for United was Rio Ferdinand, captain after the substitution of Giggs, up against Petr Čech, sans headgear and although having never saved a penalty for Chelsea in a shootout situation, the worlds best goalkeeper. Despite guessing the right way, Čech was unable to save Ferdinand’s penalty, which was tucked away well into the bottom left hand corner.
Lampard was next for Chelsea and in true Lampard fashion he belted the ball towards goal, but again the penalty was too close to van der Sar, who didn’t have to move too far to his right to save. None from two for the Blues, giving Carrick the opportunity to just about put the game to bed. He made no mistake, his kick going left, Čech to the right and United taking a two goal lead. Wright-Phillips had to score to give Chelsea even the most slim of chances, but his powerful strike was also too close to van der Sar, the ‘keeper pulling off a third save in succession. Rooney, now wearing United’s number 10 jersey, stepped up and calmly slotted in his penalty to win the shootout 3-0 for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, Chelsea for the second season in a row defeated in the Community Shield.
Now, the real fun starts. We’ve got a Premiership to win back!