All entries for Monday 27 November 2006

November 27, 2006

Manchester United v Chelsea – Game of the Season Lives Up to Its Billing

With Manchester United and Chelsea separated by only three points going into yesterdays encounter at Old Trafford we had the prospect of one of the most hotly contested top of the table clashes in quite some time. Often big games fail to live up to their billing, however this game had everything – top goals, committed play, tactical genius – the lot. It was an excellent match with Jose Mourinho proving why he is such a highly rated coach. Anyone can buy a load of £20m+ players, but it takes a talented manager to know how to use them.

Ironically Mourinho was only able to prove himself in such style after picking an entirely illogical starting line-up. In the first half Chelsea were just too square in midfield. Ordinarily Mourinho’s side can simply overpower the opposition whoever they are playing and however they line-up tactically, however Man Utd use Giggs and Ronaldo to such devasting effect on the wings that for 45 minutes yesterday Chelsea barely got a kick. The Chelsea midfield was ripped apart with Lampard and Essien unsure whether to go wide or stay central. As a result Saha, Rooney, Giggs and Ronaldo just saw way to much of the ball.

Where other managers would have been more cautious and stck with their original game plan Mourinho saw his side were being out played and had the confidence to make changes. With Robben coming on for Geremi, Chelsea were immediately improved. Pushing Essien to right back was an inspired move and from halftime until they claimed the equaliser, Chelsea were sublime. Robben kept Gary Neville pegged back in his own half whilst Essien covered the whole right hand side leaving Ballack, who was nominally on the right wing free to roam.

Sir Alex had no response to what Chelsea had to offer and in the end United were lucky to hold on for the draw. And who would have believed that after the first half? Well done Jose. Overall though credit must go to both teams for playing at such a high pace, with such quality for such a long period of time. Only after Chelsea equalised did either side take their foot of the pedal. It really was top of the league stuff.

Ashes First Test – Brisbane

Australia 602-9 dec & 202-1 dec beat England 157 & 370 by 277 runs

I’m sure Olly will do a far more complete review at some point, but here are my thoughts of someone who has only been watching the highlights!

Day 1

What a first ball. Probably safe to say that Harmison was a little tense! Didn’t get any better after that. Flintoff was the pick for England bowling Langer and Hayden.

Man of the day: Ricky Ponting – for staying still being in at close of play

Moment of the day: That unbelievable first ball from Harmison

Day 2

Australia kept racking up the score, eventually declaring on 602-9 and putting the tiring England side in for some late batting. It worked – we lost three wickets.

Man of the day: Hussey – his catch to get Strauss for 12 was awesomely brave

Moment of the day: Hoggard bowling Ponting and Gilchrist on consecutive balls

Day 3

Glen McGrath skittled out the England lower order in time for Australia to rack up 181 runs before the close. Ponting’s decision not to enforce the follow-on seems to reflect their confidence (or should that be arrogance). At least Ian Bell put in a decent performance for a half century.

Man of the day: Glen McGrath

Moment of the day: Flintoff goes to Brett Lee for a duck.

Day 4

The day began with Australia declaring on 202-1. England came out looking for the draw. Strauss went early, but Cook, Pietersen and Collingwood did well. Flintoff again disappointed.

Man of the day: Paul Collingwood – almost reached a century

Moment of the day: Warne and Pietersen’s little moment of ‘friendly’ rivalry

Day 5

England drop to defeat with a bit of a whimper. Pietersen goes early leaving Jones to provide the highlight of a very short days play.

Overall then Australia were better in every area of their play and deservedly gave us a thrashing. Seemingly Brisbane was a batting wicket and this handed the initiative to the Aussies from the start with the England top order looking very weak without Tres or Vaughan. If England are going to get anything from the Ashes, Flintoff in particular will need to step forward. But who knows, four tests left and anything could happen. Well almost.

November 2006

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