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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fergie aims to beat Chelsea at Bridge

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is intent on beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next Saturday and effectively winning the title for a second successive season.

United are three points ahead of their rivals after Carlos Tevez's late equaliser against Blackburn.

However, such is their superior goal difference they can see the finishing line following a dramatic match at Ewood Park.

Ferguson said: 'We have got to think about winning at Chelsea.

'I know they haven't lost there for about 100 games, but it could be like that. Records are there to be broken.'

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes refused to be drawn on whether United had the upper hand on Chelsea.

Hughes, who played for both clubs, said: 'Chelsea need to beat United next week. That is the key game.

'United have to lose more points and they have dropped a couple today.

'Who is to say they won't drop points from this time on?

'Chelsea now have a chance to put pressure on United and we will have to wait and see what happens.'

Tevez sparked scenes of celebration on the bench when he headed home with two minutes to go to cancel out the opener from Roque Santa Cruz.

The Argentina striker ghosted in at the far post after Paul Scholes had flicked on a corner from Nani.

Ferguson said: 'Hopefully it will be a big, big point - Tevez was fantastic.

'That's five this season, if you include equalising goals and late goals that have got us points and it's another one today.

'We never gave in and deserved to win the game really.'

Ferguson was angered that Cristiano Ronaldo was not given more protection by referee Rob Styles.

'He's had some bad decisions against him in last few weeks and we just have to get on with it,' said the United boss.

'The important thing is that we don't let that effect us because if you do, you get a chip on the shoulder and you start worrying about it.

'The players are bigger than that. Hopefully we don't get any decisions like that against us at Chelsea next week, that would be important.'

While he was frustrated at his team conceding a late equaliser, Hughes praised his players.

'The referee has made a wrong call,' he said. 'It should have been a goal kick to us, not a corner to them.

'We switched off and United get the equaliser. Over the years they have got back into games in similar circumstances.

'You could see how much it meant to them as it was a really important result.

'It was disappointing for us but we were nice and solid. We excelled ourselves and proved we are a decent team.'

Santa Cruz made the breakthrough in the 21st minute with his 20th goal of the season.

Then Brad Friedel made a string of superb saves to keep United at bay before Tevez struck.

Hughes added: 'Roque has exceeded expectations. I knew I was getting a good player but he has weighed in with some crucial goals.

'I asked him to play a specific role on the right today and he responded to the challenge.'

Boss salutes Reds' spirit

Sir Alex Ferguson saluted his players' appetite and tenacity after the Reds rescued a vital point at Ewood Park to take them three points clear of Chelsea.

Carlos Tevez headed home in the 88th minute to send the 7,000-strong United fans at Ewood Park wild.

Sir Alex was relieved to see the Argentine pop up in the right place at the right time and hailed his squad's never-say-die attitude.

"The tenacity and passion we showed to win the game was fantastic. We played like champions and I'm very proud of the players," he told MUTV.

"We'd rather have had the three points and I think we deserved them, but we've rescued a point yet again with another late goal from Carlos Tevez. So that's very positive.

"I think we could have had three penalities, but we're getting breaks against us at the moment," added the United boss. "We can't go on about those decisions though or the fact that Brad Friedel had a fantastic game.

"We had enough chances to win it. We dominated the second half and were very unlucky not to win."

The Reds can clinch the title with victory at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, while a draw or defeat would still keep them top of the pile with two games left.

"The Chelsea game is massive one," insisted Sir Alex. "I'm sure it'll be a fantastic match and we're going there to win."

Wayne won't miss Wednesday

Sir Alex claims Wayne Rooney, Edwin van der Sar, Owen Hargreaves and Anderson will all be fit to face Barcelona at the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

Van der Sar, Hargreaves and Anderson were rested on Saturday at Ewood Park, while Rooney was forced off against Blackburn Rovers with a hip injury.

Rooney went down under a challenge from Stephen Warnock midway through the second half in United’s 1-1 draw on Saturday. After a period of restricted movement, the England international appeared to loosen up but was eventually replaced by Ji-sung Park in the 90th minute.

“Wayne got a knock on the hip but I’m sure it won’t keep him out of Wednesday night’s match,” Sir Alex told Setanta Sports.

“Sometimes when you get a kick on the bone it can be very sore at the time but I expect he’ll recover.”

Blackburn Rovers Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Blackburn Rovers [1 - 1] Manchester United
21' [1 - 0] R.S. Cruz
88' [1 - 1] C.A. Tevez


Blackburn Rovers Vs. Manchester United Result Report

Carlos Tevez again scored a vital late goal as United rescued a point at Ewood Park to remain in pole position in the championship race.

The Reds were far from fluent on a frustrating afternoon but just as he’s done against Tottenham and Lyon in recent months, United’s Argentinean striker popped up to find the net.

In the 88th minute, Tevez showed lightning reactions to turn in Paul Scholes’ flick-on from close range and cancel out Roque Santa Cruz’s first-half opener. But more than simply earn a point on an afternoon where it looked for long periods like United would return to Manchester empty-handed, Tevez’s goal dramatically strengthened the Reds’ title challenge with just three games to play.

Sir Alex’s men now travel to Stamford Bridge next Saturday with a three-point lead and a significantly better goal difference than rivals Chelsea. And so, while the performance at Ewood Park was hardly vintage United, it may yet turn out to be greatly significant.

The manager certainly knew the importance of this fixture and, despite a Champions League semi-final to look forward to on Wednesday, named a strong side. The only notable absence was Edwin van der Sar, who was left out due to a slight groin injury. The Dutchman is expected, however, to be fit to face Barcelona in mid-week.

Nemanja Vidic made his first appearance since injuring his knee in Rome 18 days ago, while Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney started together up front. That meant Gerard Pique and Ji-sung Park had to be content with places on the bench, while Ben Foster, Nani and John O’Shea joined the pair in the dug-out.

On a cold and windy afternoon at Ewood Park, the Reds took time to warm up. Indeed, the home side almost went in front on six minutes when Roque Santa Cruz’s shot fell into the path of Jason Roberts. Tomasz Kuszczak was quickly off his line, however, and dispossessed Roberts with his right foot amid penalty claims from the Rovers’ bench. United broke immediately through Patrice Evra, the move ending with Cristiano Ronaldo’s first shot on target.

The early scare seemed to spark the Reds into life and Sir Alex’s men perhaps should have taken the lead when Carlos Tevez sliced wide from six yards after clever work down the right by Wayne Rooney.

Blackburn were determined not to relinquish control easily, however, and fashioned one or two half chances themselves. And then, on 21 minutes, Tevez’s lapse was brought into sharper focus when Rovers took the lead.

A long throw from the Blackburn left looked harmless enough when Vidic met the ball first. But in a cruel twist of fate, the ball ricocheted off Rio Ferdinand’s heel and back across goal into Santa Cruz’s path.

The Paraguayan, who signed from Bayern Munich in the summer for a bargain £3.5million, calmly side-footed the ball into the corner to send Blackburn fans wild.
You can bet there were jubilant celebrations in west London as well, where Chelsea, free from fixtures this weekend, would surely have been watching.

Five minutes after Blackburn’s goal, Tevez looked to have been gifted an opportunity to atone for his earlier miss… until the referee’s assistant raised a late flag to signal offside. Replays confirmed the Argentinean was at least level with the last defender, a fact that heightened frustration levels among United fans.

Cristiano Ronaldo lined up a free kick just before the half-hour mark but Brad Friedel, so often in inspiring mood against the Reds, did well to hold onto his low, skidding shot.

A minute later it was Kuszczak’s turn to perform heroics as David Bentley unleashed a dipping, swerving shot from 30 yards. In blustery conditions, the Polish stopper did well to follow the flight of the ball and palm over for a corner.

The Reds kept chipping away in search of an equaliser and Rooney was incensed when referee Rob Styles failed to award a spot-kick after the England striker had gone to ground under a challenge from Steven Reid. Rooney’s frustration got the better of him 60 seconds later when he lunged at Christopher Samba from behind and earned the game’s first booking.

Cristiano Ronaldo, so often the architect of magical moments this term, almost drew United level before the break when he jumped highest to meet a Ryan Giggs corner. The header fizzed towards goal but Friedel produced a smart reflex save to beat the ball out and ensure Mark Hughes’ side carried their advantage into the interval.

Sir Alex made one switch at half-time, bringing on the fit-again Nani for Ryan Giggs on the left side of midfield. The change almost reaped dividends as early as the 50th minute when Nani drew a foul from Steven Reid in a dangerous area, 25 yards from goal. Ronaldo, however, could only slam his free-kick into the Blackburn wall.

Attacking the end containing United’s vocal travelling support, the Reds dominated possession in the early stages of the second half. But time and time again, a Blackburn interception or a misplaced final pass prevented the Reds from carving out clear-cut chances.

When the Reds did finally create an opening – Ronaldo crashed a shot against Friedel’s left-hand upright on 65 minutes – Lady Luck smiled upon the home side.

United’s fortunes, meanwhile, dipped further when Rooney took a blow to his back, which severely hampered the England star’s movement for a significant period.

Rooney did recover well enough to lay on a chance for Ronaldo with 11 minutes to go but the Portuguese winger was narrowly beaten to the ball by Johann Vogel. The crumbs fell to Carlos Tevez, who spun and fired goalwards from eight yards. Friedel thrust out an arm to take the pace off the ball, but even then it looked as if the ball may spin over the line. Such was United’s luck, however, the American stopper was able to recover in time to stop on the line.

The last 10 minutes saw the Reds lay siege to the Blackburn goal. Brett Emerton appeared to handle on the line from Michael Carrick’s header before Friedel again denied United when Rooney was one-on-one with five minutes remaining.

There was even better to come from the American, saving unbelievably from John O’Shea’s close-range shot.

But there was nothing he could do in the 88th minute when Tevez headed home what could well be his most important goal in a United shirt.

United: Kuszczak; Brown (O’Shea 81), Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs (Nani 46); Rooney (Park 90), Tevez
Subs not used: Foster, Pique

Blackburn Rovers: Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Reid, Bentley, Vogel (Mokoena 86), Pedersen; Roberts, Santa Cruz
Subs not used: Brown, Ooijer, McCarthy, Dunn

Booked: Rooney (United), Reid (Blackburn)