Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea (Chelsea win 4-1 on penalties)
After a summer on the transfer merry go round where the names of Valencia, Benzema, Kaka, van Persie, Adebayor, Villa, Silva, Obertan, Huntelaar, Eto’o, Ibrahimovic, Ribery and Aguero (to name just a few) were enough to make you go dizzy wondering who would be the replacements for Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, to say it was something of a relief to see anything resembling a competitive ball being kicked in anger would be an understatement.
In the end no new big money striker actually arrived to play in the Community Shield, as Manchester United lined up against Chelsea with last season’s forward line of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, leaving Michael Owen on the bench. Chelsea, too, started with a familiar line up, under their new manager Carlo Ancelotti.
The theme of same old, same old reared its head later on in the proceedings as referee Chris Foy gave a shambolic performance.
Before that, however, the spotlight was well and truly on Nani. The young Portuguese winger may have been playing on the left, furthering his development as the role as a natural replacement for Ryan Giggs continues but inevitably all the talk before and during the game was how he would cope “stepping into Ronaldo’s shoes”. But Nani was the games standout player in the opening half even if it was United’s fluent synergy that was the lasting impression – though Chelsea almost opened the scoring, when a corner that was headed on by Ivanovic was headed on the right side of the underside of the bar by Patrice Evra and away to safety.
This was by no means Evra’s last contribution to the game and in the 10th minute he passed to Nani who cut inside from the left and fired home a shot from the edge of the area to give the Premier League Champions the lead. United dominated until the break as the encouraging interchange play between Rooney and Berbatov was complemented by the industry and movement of the midfielders Carrick, Fletcher, Nani and Park – the South Korean is normally deployed in such games to track adventurous full backs but there was no sign of that as Chelsea struggled to come to terms with the dymanic play.
However, Ancelotti’s words at the interval clearly had an effect on the experienced Chelsea team as they were instantly more formidable after the break. They proceeded to grab an equaliser, though there was an element of calamity about it from United’s point of view. Ben Foster had struggled all afternoon, perhaps suffering under the daunting prospect of standing in for van der Sar as first team keeper for two months, and when he came out loser in a challenge for a crossed ball, Ricardo Carvalho was there to head easily into the unguarded goal.
At a point where the game was beginning to take shape as a real contest Chris Foy decided to interject and ensure his would be the name in the headlines. Having already shown staggering intolerance and inadequacy in earlier decisions (booking Berbatov for a harmless swing at a ball when he wasn’t exactly 10 yards from a free kick, while allowing Chelsea encroaching on a later free kick) his involvement began to take an unsettling twist.
First of all he waved play on after a tackle from behind on Nani by John Terry. Terry clearly took Nani out before getting a faint touch to the ball, too, and the consequences were more severe for Nani when he had to be substituted with what worringly looked like a dislocated shoulder.
Foy wasn’t content with ignoring a rule that was implemented for players safety however, and his decisions went from confusing to farcical – Ballack swung at Evra and went down feigning injury, Foy blew his whistle, stopping a promising United play for a drop ball. Less than 2 minutes after this the same two players came up against each other again, Evra attempted to run past Ballack who purposely rose his elbow to block the Frenchman.
Evra went to ground, Foy inexplicably waved play on, and Chelsea promptly raced up the other end and through a Lampard shot that barely crossed the line, took the lead.
The cherry on this particular cake was well and truly placed when Evra, justifiably pumped up, went full blooded into a perfectly fair challenge against Ballack, 100% winning the ball. Foy clearly didn’t care for Evra’s competitive spirit and booked him.
It seemed as if Foy had turned in a matchwinning performance for Chelsea who had looked quite capable of doing it on their own, but United’s spirit was rewarded as in spite of Foy, substitute Giggs’ excellent work led to Wayne Rooney coolly lifting over Petr Cech deep into stoppage time to earn a 2-2 draw. Rooney was marginally offside (this time, missed by the assistant rather than Foy) but there was some justification in the goal.
Chelsea went to win 4-1 on penalties following misses by Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra though this was academic – after the game Sir Alex Ferguson voiced his discontent at Foy’s display, but when focussing on his own team, will be able to contentedly reflect on an assured performance that maybe deserved a little better than it was rewarded with.
Ratings : Foster 5, O’Shea 6 (Fabio), Ferdinand 7, Evans 7, Evra 7, Park 6 (Giggs), Carrick 7, Fletcher 7 (Scholes), *Nani 8 (Valencia 6), Berbatov 6 (Owen), Rooney 8.