Thursday, 22 May, 2008

United: Kings of Europe! ~

Edwin van der Sar was the hero as United were crowned champions of Europe for the third time after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

Forty years after first winning the European Cup at Wembley in 1968, and 50 years since the Munich tragedy, fate played a big part as a dramatic Champions League final went to penalties.

After Cristiano Ronaldo had missed his kick for United, John Terry had the chance to win the cup for Chelsea, but the Blues skipper slipped on the run up and his penalty hit the post. After Anderson and Giggs, plus Kalou for Chelsea, then converted, Nicolas Anelka's sudden death shot was finally saved by van der Sar, sparking jubilant scenes among United’s rain-soaked travelling contingent.

Cristiano Ronaldo had given United a 26th minute lead with a header from Wes Brown’s cross in a first half which the Reds dominated. Carlos Tevez had two clear chances to put United 2-0 ahead, but his efforts were well saved by Chelsea keeper Petr Cech, who also denied Michael Carrick.

Chelsea gained a foothold in the game in the final few minutes of the first half, and equalised with almost the last kick of the half, when a deflected Michael Essien shot fell kindly for Frank Lampard, who beat Rio Ferdinand and Van der Sar.

The Londoners dominated the second half and Didier Drogba struck the post, before Frank Lampard did likewise in extra time. Ryan Giggs, making a club-record breaking 759th appearance for the Reds, spurned United’s best chance.

In the second period of extra time, Drogba was red carded for a slap on Nemanja Vidic, but despite the one man advantage, the Reds couldn’t make the breakthrough on a heavy pitch, and so the final went to that heart-stopping penalty shoot-out.

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