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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mixed emotions for Park

Ji-sung Park scored United's goal at Stamford Bridge but he and his team-mates were disappointed to leave the gound with only one point.

The South Korean international put the Reds in front on 18 minutes but a late Salomon Kalou header levelled the scores.

“It was disappointing,” Park told Sky Sports. “We were 1-0 up and to lose a goal from a free-kick with 10 minutes to play…

“We were looking forward to winning this game at Stamford Bridge but we only managed a point. So yes, it’s a little disappointing.”

Park reacted first when Petr Cech spilled Dimitar Berbatov’s shot on 18 minutes and was left with a simple tap-in to put United in front. The goal, Park admitted, went some way to making up for the heartache he endured when left out of Sir Alex’s squad for the Champions League final.

“A little bit, but not fully,” he said. “It was very disappointing to miss the Champions League final. But I was pleased to score today.”

The Reds had seven players booked by referee Mike Riley, yet Park (one of those not shown the yellow card) insists that statistic doesn’t reflect what happened on the pitch.

“It wasn’t a dirty game,” he said. “I think that’s a little unfair and some Chelsea tackles seemed to go punished. But that’s the referee’s decision.”

Rooney champing at the bit

Wayne Rooney was pleased with the “a point gained” at Stamford Bridge and believes that, with one of United’s toughest spells of the season behind them, the Reds must now build up a significant run of form.

“It’s definitely a point gained,” Rooney told MUTV. “Chelsea’s record at Stamford Bridge is really good and, although we were leading for most of the game and it was disappointing to lose the goal, it’s still a good point. We had the better of the game in the first half but Chelsea were better in the second half. A draw was probably a fair result.”

Losing to Liverpool does not gain favour with Rooney at the best of times, but the manner of last week's 2-1 defeat cut deep. “We were all disappointed,” he said. “It was a terrible display, but against Villarreal I thought we deserved to win, and against Chelsea we showed at times what a good football team we can be.

“We knew it was going to be a tough start to the season – we had three of our toughest away games in the first four matches. Liverpool, Chelsea and Portsmouth away are all tough. But we’ve got them out of the way now and hopefully we can go on a good run, get some wins under our belts and some points on the table.”

The return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who played more than half an hour at Chelsea, and the bedding in of Dimitar Berbatov also bode well. “It’s a huge boost for us to have Cristiano back,” said Rooney. “He’s a great player and hopefully he can get a few games in the next few weeks. That will give him fitness and he’ll start to produce what we know he is capable of.

"With Dimitar, he’s a new player and we had some good touches together. I’m sure the partnership will get better the more we play together and, of course, with Carlos Tevez to come in as well.”

Boss pleased with point

United and Chelsea deserved to share the points on Sunday, according to Reds boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

“In football terms, I think we certainly deserved a point,” he told MUTV. “That said, I think in some ways it was a point gained – we didn’t know what was going to happen on that pitch with so many free-kicks being awarded around the edge of the box. I was starting to worry.”

It’s no wonder the manager was fretting. Referee Mike Riley was particularly whistle-happy at the Bridge, awarding 35 free kicks (19 against the Reds, 16 against Chelsea) and handing out eight yellow cards (seven to United).

“I don’t want to get into that,” Sir Alex said. “All I’ll say is that the match went out around the world and I think some people will be wondering what was going on.

“I didn’t think there was one bad tackle in the game.”

After a feeble performance at Anfield last weekend, Sir Alex was pleased in midweek with United’s performance against Spanish side Villarreal. At Chelsea, too, the boss found there was much to take heart from.

“I think we played with great tempo to our game, particularly in the first 20 minutes. We played some excellent football.

“If there is a criticism of us today, then we didn’t go for the jugular when we were 1-0 up and in complete control. We eased off and allowed Chelsea to regroup at half-time.”

Injuries forced Sir Alex to hand Jonny Evans a Premier League debut and pick Gary Neville for his first league start since March 2007. Ji-sung Park and Owen Hargreaves were also included from kick-off after impressing in their first starts of the season in midweek.

“I’m very happy with how Gary Neville and Jonny Evans played,” the boss confirmed. “I think they’ve all done well. There were a couple of moments where Joe Cole got free – once in the first half and once in the second half – but I think we defended quite well.

“We maybe lost a little energy towards the end of the game because we’ve still got a few players, like Berbatov, Hargreaves, Park, Ronaldo and Neville who haven’t played all that much football recently.

“They started to tire a little and that allowed Chelsea to break on a few occasions when we should have kept possession of the ball. But everyone worked hard on a hot day.”

Edwin's injury not serious

Edwin van der Sar should be fit to face Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, despite needing to be substituted at Stamford Bridge in the first half.

The Dutchman, who was injured in a collision with Chelsea forward Florent Malouda in Sunday’s 1-1 draw, played on briefly before signalling to the bench that he could no longer continue.

“He got some studs in the kneecap and there was a bit of swelling there,” Sir Alex told MUTV after the final whistle. “Hopefully he’ll be okay for next week.”

Van der Sar isn’t the only Reds goalkeeper who’ll be visiting the treatment room at Carrington this week.

Ben Foster fell awkwardly on his ankle playing for United’s Reserves last Thursday and is expected to be out of action for up to two months.

“Ben’s not had any luck,” Sir Alex told media last Friday. “He’s been blighted by injuries so far in his career.

“He’s a top goalkeeper and I just hope he gets a little break now.”

Tomasz Kuszczak, who replaced van der Sar at Chelsea, will almost certainly don United’s goalkeeper jersey on Tuesday night when Middlesbrough arrive at Old Trafford in the Carling Cup.

Chelsea Vs. Manchester United Match Report

United held on tight to clinch a valuable point at Stamford Bridge but, having taken the lead through Ji-Sung Park, could have snatched all three points were it not for slack marking from a Chelsea free-kick, which allowed Salomon Kalou to grab a late equaliser.

The match followed a similar script to United’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in that the Reds took the lead before the home side became the game's dominant force, but this was an infinitely better performance than the one at Anfield last week.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side clearly have not reached top form. But with players gradually returning from injury and suspension, United must look at this as a point gained and kick on from here.

The Reds boss chose not to use Cristiano Ronaldo from the start, despite having made his return from ankle surgery against Villarreal in midweek. Instead he had to settle for a place on the bench, as did Carlos Tevez, who stepped aside for Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney to occupy United’s forward roles.

Owen Hargreaves and Ji-sung Park started out wide, while Darren Fletcher and Paul Scholes took on central midfield duties. There was also a huge gesture of faith in the burgeoning ability of Jonny Evans, who deputised for the suspended Nemanja Vidic at centre-half alongside Rio Ferdinand.

It’s been a smooth-running start to the season for Chelsea, but Luiz Felipe Scolari had the disruption of injury to Deco during the warm-up. Michael Ballack, who scored twice against United at Stamford Bridge back in April, was promoted from the bench.

The Reds immediately took the game by the scruff of the neck. Goals have not been forthcoming so far this season, but United’s top scorer, Darren Fletcher, has made a habit of making perfectly-timed runs into the box. And on six minutes such a run saw him volley narrowly wide from Hargreaves’ cross.

Rooney went close two minutes later. After Cech’s failed clearance and Berbatov’s wayward attempted lob, Rooney tried to hook the ball in but it too went just wide. But then it was Chelsea’s turn to threaten. Joe Cole got away with what appeared to be handball before hitting the side-netting with his shot from 20 yards.

United were full of attacking intent during a high-tempo start to the game. Ferdinand hit the woodwork on 16 minutes when Rooney put him through on the right of the penalty area. Cech got a crucial touch to tip the defender’s shot onto the bar and over.

Two minutes later, however, the breakthrough United thoroughly deserved arrived. A great passing interchange between Berbatov, Rooney and Patrice Evra set the Frenchman free down the left. His cut-back enabled Berbatov to force a save out of Cech, but the Chelsea keeper spilled the ball, allowing Park to poke his shot home.

As it was eight days against Liverpool, the 1-0 scoreline was completely just. But, as at Anfield, the tide turned in the home side’s favour. Chelsea’s possession and goalscoring chances increased on the half hour mark. United also lost Edwin van der Sar to injury after a clash with Florent Malouda in a 50-50 one-on-one. The Dutchman was replaced by Tomasz Kuszczak, who was tested a few times as Chelsea pressed forward. But United held firm in a first-half full of action and incident.

Chelsea started the second half where they had finished the first 45 minutes and Sir Alex was quick to make a change, introducing Cristiano Ronaldo into the fray. Hargreaves switched to a defensive midfield role, while Ronaldo offered an outlet on from the right.

The home side continued to threaten more frequently than United, but there were surprisingly few chances in the second half. Nicolas Anelka should have levelled on 73 minutes when Joe Cole’s cross zipped across the face of goal, but the Frenchman failed to get any significant contact on the ball and Neville was able to clear.

The outstanding Rooney had a good chance on 77 minutes to put United 2-0 up and almost certainly secure all three points, but his shot from the right hit the side-netting.

Just as it seemed as though Sir Alex’s men could see the match out, Chelsea’s prolonged pressure finally told. Poor marking from a Chelsea free-kick allowed substitute Salomon Kalou to head in the equaliser on 79 minutes.

It led to a frantic last ten minutes with Chelsea in the ascendancy and United on the back foot. The Reds stood firm however and this was a performance of determination and an indication perhaps that United’s season can now finally click into gear.

Sir Alex doesn’t countenance two consecutive league defeats – the last time it happened was in April 2005, to Norwich and Everton – and the United boss will Booked: Scholes, Ferdinand, Neville, Berbatov, Rooney, Evra, Ronaldo.

Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Terry, Carvalho (Alex 13), A.Cole; J.Cole, Ballack (Kalou 74), Mikel, Lampard, Malouda (Drogba 46); Anelka.
Subs not used: Cudicini, Belletti, Bridge, Ferreira.
Booked: Mikel

Chelsea Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Chelsea [0 - 1] Manchester United (Premiere League)
18' [0 - 1] J. Park
80' [1 - 1] S. Kalou