Monday, April 22, 2024

Manchester United win League Cup final

LONDON : Ben Foster kept Manchester United’s bid for an unprecedented five trophies on track with a man-of-the-match performance in a penalty shoot-out win over Tottenham in the League Cup final here on Sunday.
The England goalkeeper produced two crucial saves to deny Tottenham victory in open play, where the teams finished locked at 0-0, before pulling off a superb stop to keep out Jamie O’Hara’s opening penalty for the visitors.
That handed United the edge and, after David Bentley had sent Spurs’ third spot-kick wide, Brazilian midfielder Anderson coolly converted to ensure United won the shoot-out 4-1 and lifted the trophy for only the third time in the club’s history.
Having already bagged the World Club Championship in December, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side now have a chance to emulate the great Celtic side of 1967 by completing a domestic treble as well as bringing home the European Cup.
“They took their penalties very comfortably. Ben Foster’s fantastic first save has given us a big lift there,” said Ferguson.
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp said: “I thought we were terrific. It was a great performance and it comes down to a lottery in the end with penalties.
“We weren’t that confident with our penalty takers, really. That’s how it goes but overall they couldn’t beat us, not in 90 minutes plus extra time. I thought we didn’t deserve to lose, I thought we were fantastic.”
It was a triumph that United probably just about deserved after coming agonisingly close to sealing victory in the third minute of injury time at the end of the first 90 minutes.
Collecting Darron Gibson’s pass on the right of the box, Cristiano Ronaldo cut inside and beat Heurelho Gomes at his near post with a shot that clattered off the inside of the upright at such pace that Nani was unable to direct the rebound on target.
That capped a frustrating 90 minutes for the Portugal winger, who had earlier been booked for diving when he might easily have won his side a penalty.
Tottenham, too, might have dispensed with the need for extra-time if Aaron Lennon had been able to beat Foster from ten yards out midway through the second half.
Such an outcome would have been an unfair reflection of a contest in which United mostly held the upper hand, although United had reason to be grateful to Foster once more he thwarted Darren Bent with his legs, five minutes before the end of the second period of the time.
The lure of making history did not prevent Ferguson from keeping faith with the homegrown talents — Jonny Evans, Gibson and Danny Welbeck — who had formed the spine of his side on the road to Wembley.
The same principle was applied to the likes of Nani and Carlos Tevez, for whom the competition has offered respite from the frustration of bit-part roles on bigger stages.
Having lost Jonathan Woodgate to an Achilles problem on the morning of the match, Tottenham named their strongest available side.
That was not sufficient however to prevent United from dominating the opening period courtesy of their sharper cutting edge, although neither side could boast any clear cut chances.
Perhaps the best of United’s opportunities fell to Welbeck, who was let down by a poor first touch after being sent beyond Tottenham’s centre-backs by Paul Scholes’ exquisitely-judged delivery.
Gibson showed greater composure when a blocked Tevez shot rebounded into his path. A purely struck shot from all of 35 yards whizzed only inches above the angle of post and crossbar.
Rio Ferdinand then found the roof of the net with a dipping volley before Tottenham belatedly began to apply some pressure of their own in the run-up to the interval.
Luka Modric’s inventive prompting and the penetration of Lennon down the right offered encouragement but Ferdinand and Evans repeatedly thwarted any attempt to translate promising build-up into genuine openings.
Welbeck made way for Anderson as the hour mark approached, allowing Ronaldo and Nani to join Tevez in an attacking trident.
Shortly afterwards, Tevez found the side netting as he tried to backheel a miscued shot from Evans back towards goal and United were left with justifiable cause for complaint when Ronaldo was booked for diving in the 67th minute.
Television replays suggested he had beaten Ledley King to the ball and that referee Chris Foy could have awarded a penalty.
Four minutes later, Tottenham had their first real chance. A cute dummy by Modric ensured a trundling cross from the left found its way to Lennon, who had to take a touch and set himself before unleash a drive from ten yards.
Foster did well to make the save falling to his right, but Lennon will know the goalkeeper should not have been afforded the chance to impress.
– AFP /ls

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