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2008 Champions League final - Manchester United vs Chelsea

A recap of the 2008 Champions League final as Manchester United took on Chelsea.

2008 champions league final

Ronaldo scoring the first goal of the day for United

The 2008 Champions League final is remembered as one of the greatest nights for English Football in Europe as two of their best teams fought for the title of being the best in Europe. On the one hand there was Manchester United who was hungry to win after failing to come close after 1999. Chelsea was seeking its first ever Champions League trophy to mark its place as one of the best clubs in world football.

The match that took place on Wednesday, 21 May 2008 at 20:45 CEST at theLuzhniki Stadium, in Moscow, Russia. This was the first European Cup final staged in Russia, and hence the easternmost final in the tournament’s history.

The teams

After Paul Scholes missed out on the Champions League in 1999, Alex Ferguson guaranteed him a place in the first team. He was accompanied by Owen Hargreaves in the right wing and Cristiano Ronaldo in the left. Rooney and Tevez spearheaded the attack.

Avram Grant, the Chelsea chief started Florent Malouda on the left wing and put Micheal Essien at right back. The rest of the Chelsea team was formed by usual stars John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba who took up their usual respective positions in defence and offence. Ashley returned to left back position after recovering from injury in the nick of time.

The Game

After careful gameplay by both teams in the first quarter of the game, Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring for Reds in the 26th minute by heading a Wes Brown cross past Petr Cech. Chelsea almost equalized in the 33rd minute when Rio Ferdinand was forced to make a header onto United’s goal. But Van Der Sar came to the rescue and saved it.

In the dying minutes of the first half, Chelsea overcame the pressure and equalized. A long range shot by Micheal Essien was deflected by Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic  to the path of Lampard who finished it off easily.

The second half saw a revitalized Chelsea taking the attack to United. But the United back four stood firm as they managed to contain all of Chelsea’s attacks. Chelsea’s closest opportunity to take the lead came in the 77th minute when a Didier Drogba shot struck the post from 20 yards out. Ryan Giggs who came on for Paul Scholes was presented with a chance to win the game but opted to shoot with his right foot which allowed John Terry to make a game saving clearance. Normal time ended with both the teams at stalemate.

As the game moved to extra time , the thrilling pace of the game was maintained as both teams had chances to move in front. Lampard’s left footer hit the woodwork while Ryan Giggs drilled shot was headed away by John Terry. The dying minutes of extra time saw Drogba red carded for a slap on Nemanja Vidic.


The Penalty Shootout

Rio Ferdinand the United skipper won the toss and opted for United to go first.  Carlos Tevez stepped in and sent Cech the wrong way. Ballack, up next for Chelsea drilled a shot past Van der Sar as did Juliano Belleti. The first miss of the shootout surprisingly came from Cristiano Ronaldo whose kick was easily saved by Cech. Lampard put Chelsea ahead at 3-2. Hargreaves equalized. Ashley Cole and Nani, both scored to level things up, but Chelsea had the upper hand.

It was all upto Terry to win the cup for Chelsea. Even though Van der Sar jumped the wrong side, a wrong footed Terry’s kick hit the outside of the post and went wide much to the joy of United.

Sudden death saw Anderson and Salomon Kalou both scoring to level things up at 5-5. Giggs, up next was also successful.


Balack’s reaction as John Terry misses the Penalty kick

Carlos Tévez stepped up first and sent Čech the wrong way. Ballack was next up, shooting powerfully past Van der Sar. Carrick buried his spot-kick, as did Juliano Belletti with his first touch of the game. The first miss of the shoot-out came from Cristiano Ronaldo, who characteristically stuttered in his run-up in order to put Čech off, but the goalkeeper dived to his right to save. Lampard then put Chelsea 3–2 ahead. Owen Hargreaves levelled things up with a shot into the top corner. Ashley Cole was the next up, and Van der Sar got a strong hand to the ball but couldn’t keep the ball out.

Nani then knew that he had to score to keep United in it, and he did just that. Thus, it was all up to John Terry to win the cup for Chelsea. However, Terry lost his footing when planting his standing foot by the ball, and, even though Edwin van der Sar was sent the wrong way, Terry’s mis-hit effort hit the outside of the right post and went wide. Van der Sar then pulled off the crucial save for United by distracting Nicolas Anelka when he pointed to his left but correctly dived to his right to deny Anelka, securing United European football’s top prize for the third time in their history.

Another memorable day for the Red Devils as they painted Moscow red and brought home the Champions League trophy that gone from their hands after a memorable victory in 1999.  This was another feather in Alex Ferguson’s crown, making him undisputably the most successful manager in the Premier League history and in European football.

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