When Nani opened the scoring against Chelsea yesterday, the reaction in the pub was of happiness but not the reaction we’d see in a game that really mattered. It was good to see Nani score, particularly given we will be relying on him to do well this season to help compensate for some of the goals we are now without because of Ronaldo’s departure. Whatever Nani says, he will always be compared to Ronaldo, so it was good to see him score a belter. It was even better because John Terry, our favourite player, jumped out of the way, politely allowing Nani to score.
United controlled the game in the first half and certainly looked sharper than our opponents. A successful pre-season in Asia and Germany seemed to be paying off.
But Chelsea got themselves back on level terms when Ricardo Carvalho, who has been desperate to leave Chelsea for Inter, scored with his head. Ben Foster, who hasn’t covered himself in glory over the past couple of months, tried to fist away a cross and collided with Didier Drogba. It was then easy for Carvalho to head the ball in to the net with Foster on the floor. He seems to have a knack for scoring against us!
Then the drama started. Michael Ballack, football’s biggest loser, got brushed against by Patrice Evra and fell to the floor holding his ribs. United were in a great position to the left of the box and the referee stopped play. It was an odd decision for the Everton fan, Chris Foy, to make, given that it wasn’t a head injury and there clearly was not a lot in it. Chelsea were given a drop ball and our advantage had been lost, with the ball being booted from a great attacking position to our half of the pitch.
When moments later Ballack raised his arm to Evra’s face off the ball, clearly not too happy to have been made to look a dick by our short Frenchman minutes earlier, it was simply a case of when and not if Foy should blow his whistle. This challenge was clearly a lot more dangerous than what Ballack had ‘suffered’ and Evra was holding his face. If Foy stopped play for the first then it makes no sense for him not to stop play for the second. Remarkably, the referee has since claimed he did see the incident and didn’t believe it warranted any action. Since when has a player raising their hand to another not worthy of punishment?
Chelsea then went on the attack with United two men down, with Bebatov off injured and more importantly, Evra, leaving us short in defence. Chelsea had three men against our two and Foster couldn’t get enough behind his save to stop it from bouncing over the line.
Ballack confessed that it was a foul and that he was lucky to get away with it. Given that this is a player who had the nerve to shout in a referee’s face and chase him for missing a crucial incident in Chelsea’s exit from the Champions League last season, it is hypocrisy at its worst.
United were on the back foot now and clearly angry at the double standards of the referee who had gifted Chelsea a winning position. Whilst United had been the better team in the first half, Chelsea were asserting their dominance in the second.
The manager responded straight away by sending Scholes, Giggs, Owen and Fabio on to lift our heads. As fans, claiming that we weren’t arsed by the result of this game at the start, we were certainly eager to see a goal now. Losing the Community Shield is not a big deal, just like winning it isn’t, but no fan wants to see a referee rob them of a result against their rivals.
With ten minutes to go Evra was then booked for winning the ball against Ballack, just to add insult to injury. That was it! We were desperate for a goal now!
Rooney saw a looping header go just over the bar whilst Owen couldn’t direct a header goalwards under pressure from Cech.
But then in injury time Giggs played through a brilliant ball to Rooney, who otherwise had failed to leave his mark on the game, which he slotted away excellently. His celebration was mirrored by fans everywhere, the goal which should have made it 2-1 to United. His late goal just took us to penalties though, which we disappointingly lost. If Giggsy’s penalty was poor, Evra’s was absolutely woeful. I can only assume he was thinking he would be able to send Cech the wrong way but there really was no excuse for that. I’m sure Berbatov was glad to see someone taking his crown!
With a sore head from a day long drinking session, it’s still annoying that we lost, particularly because of ridiculously one-sided refereeing, but the overriding thought is we beat them on penalties when it mattered. It is only the Community Shield and I’d take losing to them every year if it meant more results like the one in Moscow or at Old Trafford last season. Onwards and upwards. The season is finally here!