05 April 2010

The Completely-American Rejects

I present my edited and embellished notes from Saturday's Clash of the Mega Powers for the amusement of all AUCU readers. When my predictions ended up being correct, you will notice I label them as unedited. If they were wrong, they were probably deleted.

To begin: one of the best Fan Zone quips I can recall, regarding Chelsea: “11 of the most despicable human beings on the planet.” Hey, that's “11 of the most expensive despicable human beings on the planet.” Corrected.

Mustoe, Healey, and Lalas man the desk for ESPN2's coverage.

Lalas: “I don't think this is the end all and be all...” Lalas is alluding to the hidden-from-the-public game of mahjong that decides the Premier League, as opposed to something as trivial in the final standings as today's match.

(Really?)

Derek Rae is doing live coverage for ESPN in America. Rae's authority as an ESPN UK correspondent on the scene, while the match isn't even being covered in the UK by ESPN. Corporate synergy I can get behind.

Rooney out, seemingly alone in a club box. The room has been stripped of any object more dangerous than a meat pie. I bet Rooney throws a good meat pie, though. The meat pies have been cooled as a result of heightened security.

Berbatov's stage is set. I am a big fan of his creativity and awareness, but also because he winds up a ManUre supporter I know. Berbatov manipulates opponents with his magnetic presence and deceptive first step pace. He will continue to exist in a time plane exactly .7 seconds ahead of his teammates, while his admirers await his return to our temporal space.

The pregame package also highlights Malouda as an unappreciated talent, a status lessened by his quality on display today in Stretford.

Today's match marks just Vidic and Ferdinand's 8th game together all season, which by their place in the standings, has actually been a good thing. Ferdinand's command of his game is not what it used to be, and Vidic's mind consequently works harder than it's probably meant to. Their current European predicament lies at their respective feet.

LINEUPS

Utd: Van der Saar, Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs, Valencia, Park, Berbatov (faraway gaze)

Chelski: Cech, Ferreira, Alex, Terry, Zhirkov, Deco, Mikel, Lampard, J. Cole, Malouda, Anelka

Drogba on the bench? Well never have I ever been so disappointed in you, Carlo.

United! Chelsea! Berbatov! Anelka! Not the clash the world has been waiting for, and it will be nothing short of dreary up top.

Rooney can barely watch, and in retrospect, for good reason.

Peter Drury and Efan Ekoku with the call on the international feed.

1' “All to play for, champions decided today” Agreed. The oceanwide disparity between American and British commentary neatly summed up by Ekoku's dramatic statement here, versus Lalas' dimwitted nonsense.

2' Malouda will break Neville. Believe that. (That has remained unedited.)

4' Berbatov dances a tango for one, spinning towards the end line brilliantly, while his ball into the six yard box is not met for desire by anyone in red. This lack of desire is personified by the lonely troll in a club box, obsessively stroking a ticket to Johannesburg used for pacification by his handlers, on loan today from the local simian habitat.

5' Here I made a vile comment about Gary Neville, which was in poor taste, but really funny. Trust me.

6' Ji-Sun “Rosa” Park. You're welcome.

8' Tight defending from England's new captain erases a bad giveaway by Fletcher. A lucky bounce saves Fletcher from being turned into an actual goat by an idly dangerous Rooney.

9' Advantage well played by Mike Dean to United. Valencia powers off Zhirkov and whips a cross to Dimitar who fails.

10' Berbatov's direction of the play is wizard-like, but he cannot sync to his teammates. Yet. (Actually, ever.)

14' Very tactical matchup (kinda boring)

14' Evra with a low effort, dealt with quietly by Cech. Decent buildup courtesy of Scholes' vision and Gigg's soft feet. They get older, but the balls stay the same age.

18' Chelsea playing keepaway in United's half for the better part of a minute, before Utd's really Old Guard forces a break in the play.

20' JOE COLE for Chelsea! Fantastic run by Malouda eats up every yard of the final third, taking Ferdinand and shrugging off Fletcher on his way to the touchline, before an instinctual cross finds Cole, who adeptly backheels Chelsea to an oh-so-precious lead. Class personified in Blue, if only for this moment. Cole's beautiful finish perfectly contrasted by Malouda's gallivanting dribble.

21' Rooney alleged to be ranting about cookies.

23' Berbatov's holdup stuff not happening for the Reds, unable to rise for the long ball after being repeatedly grounded by Chelsea's center backs.

26' Lots of nailbiting from Gibson and Macheda. I put that down to a lack of pillows at that end of the United bench.

26' Park's penalty appeal denied by Dean, rightfully so. That was very sneaky, Rosa.

27' Second glance, Zhirkov did get a sizable chunk of the thigh. Deany loves to give them too, doesn't he? 16 all year, twice as many as the next official. Prescient info shared by the commentator.

28' Scholesy gets a warning when a yellow card is much more suited to a tackler of his lowly reputation. Scandalous favoritism.

First 30 minutes, rather tepid, lukewarm, bland, unseasoned...except for that cheeky Cole goal. Much better occasion than match.

30' Anelka's tumble routine through United's defence would do a gymnast proud. Awakens from coma to no foul, flabbergasted.

31' Berbatov, used to stripping, not being stripped.

33' Chelsea traveling faithful with a clearly audible “U-S-A!” chant. Thanks for the shoutout!

34' Malouda marauds through United's center again, before Anelka RUINS EVERYTHING. Thanks for nothing.

35' Scholes gets a yellow a minute or two after the fact, for what can only be described as a standing drop kick, in the manner of a sports entertainer rather than a footballer.

37' Ashley Cole and Michael Essien in attendance. They are loving it while clearly sizing up the cheap local Manc tail.

39' United hardly a threat from the corner. Why couldn't Liverpool have played this team a couple weeks back????

40' Ekoku claims Chelsea's play as “controlled, mature.” Scarily, he's right. What on earth is going on with this Blue Side?

43' Jeez I really wish there was more to talk about.

44' Okay now here we go. At first look, it appears Berbatov was hacked down in the box by Lampard On second look, Lampard got away with one. And immediately following, Neville kicks through the back of Malouda, earning himself a seemingly desired yellow card.

46' Terry's tackle on Berbatov is obvious and Giggs' proceeding free kick is left hanging in the breeze to be cleared by Chelsea.

HALF TIME

Tense, awkward, and hopefully the slow half of a slow burn.

Derek Rae at half time from the sideline is so much win! Again, kudos to ESPN for delivering the goods.

Sir Alex says about “80%” of United's fans appreciate the talents of Berbatov. That ratio is simply backwards, by my own informal polls.

SECOND HALF

Expect a much more dynamic United side after a good hiding from SAF.

47' Neville misplays Scholes pass, extinguishes attack for wrong side. Useless yesterday, useless today, and useless tomorrow. Gary Neville!

47' I wouldn't let Gary Neville dress up as Captain Crunch, let alone captain my team.

48' Drogba warming up, applauding the number of scumbags per capita in Manchester. Quite at home in Stretford. If you like seeing officials get yelled at, Chelsea's about to pass out the lollipops.

48' The ball rolls harmlessly over the goal line as Ferreira's pass would've been better as a shot. Guilt-edged chance for Chelsea to throttle this game.

50' Scholes' visionary, classy switches continually negated by Neville's weak crosses and neanderthalic mindset.

51' United applying marginally more pressure in this half, but nothing resembling a chance. Berbatov is the loneliest Bulgarian striker in the world right now.

56' As Park attempts to reclaim the center of the attack area, a free kick is awarded about 25 yards from goal. Berbatov comically loses his footing on an equally comical offsides run from the set piece. Provocatively poor play from Glazer's lads.

58' Park tries to deliver the end product from the best United move of the match, and curls it 15 yards wide of Cech's goal. He couldn't hit that so poorly again if he tried. Serves him right for trying, I say.

60' Mike Dean abets Ferdinand's abuse of Anelka, a partner in the criminally physical defending. There were about 20 fouls in that 5 second sequence that I counted. 20!!!

61' Berbatov's header is inches wide from Giggs' cross. United getting closer, and looking more likely to break their disadvantage.

63' Hearty timewasting effort here by Cech, adjusting each piece of kit before sending the ball out of play at midfield. Couldn't have handled that better in FIFA 10 if I tried.

64' “Thorough” tackle by John Terry. He'll take the ball, then he'll take...

66' Berbatov's header misses the target. (I'm just going to copy this sentence to paste where needed).

68' Drogba getting prepped!! This game was just not scumbaggy enough. No Drogba or Ballack from the start.

70' Twenty minutes of voracious Drogbacity is all we are entitled to. Scoreless against United in his career. I can see that breaking before we're done here. (Unedited).

72' Macheda on for Rosa Park, Scholes off in favor of Nani. Nani's first touch results in a warmup dive and a Giggs free kick from an angle on the skirts of the 18.

73' Fletcher taps his forearm like a junkie, appealing for hand ball. Embarrassing theatricality.

73' Kalou on for Joe Cole, who surely impressed Fabio Capello and his translator.

74' Nani's poor cross in contrast to Scholes splendid distribution. All possession today similarly wasted by United. Angels have been getting their wings for a good 75 minutes today.

75' Frustration building for United as Macheda waits too long to deliver the ball through. It was around this time last year when the budding Italian forward storybooked his place in Manchester lure with a wonder goal as a d├ębutante against Aston Villa, which in a year's time has become a mere footnote. I am really sorry about that too, Frederico. I am. Really.

76' Mikel playing make believe injury. Chelsea don't kick the ball out of play, so can't blame United for doing same.

78' Ballack disrobing on the bench. Another injection of bitterness and rage to the Chelsea side. BetPaddyLadsNow's scrolling odds on a Chelsea player screaming at the referee just taken down.

79' DROGBA!! Brings his class to the party, offsides but right on time for Chelsea's title hopes. The game sure is easier when that rule isn't enforced. A huge goal towards preserving Liverpool's stake in the title collection record. I predicted this broken duck.

81' Quickly answered by MACHEDA!!! A fortuitous deflection bounces off the chest before the guiding forearm. A goal Thierry Henry would proudly claim as his own.

82' Deco off for Ballack. It's about time Chelsea got a player on who can really get in to the referee's ear. And face. And throat. And windpipe.

82' Commentators astutely point out that this match is far from safe for the Blues. That goal was the will of the Red Devil himself, drawing the ball into his mouth full of hell fire. Justice done for Drogba's offsides, as well.

84' Lampard's directional accuracy slightly lacking. Wayne Rooney is alone for ten paces in every direction. I'd hate to be the flea or cockroach from Manchester to cross his sightline at this point.

85' No momentum capitalization by United from that freaky deaky goal.

86' One Darron off for a Darren as Gibson takes the field. Unlikely to make much of an impact.

88' The Chelsea faithful in full, audible voice with just a few minutes to go. If United are to find inspiration to complete a comeback, they'll have to do it without the help of the 75,000+ at Old Trafford, who are being shouted down by their oppositional minority.

90' I expect no more than three minutes of extra time. But this is OT, so probably 10. Rooney departs his suite, unable to watch as Berbatov subsequently squanders a clear chance at an equalizer.

91' Four more minutes called for. The United supporters can taste defeat. And it doesn't taste very good, now does it?

92' Goal kick from the generously awarded free kick for United. Giggs' delivery has been sad and sloppy all afternoon. He tries to direct traffic from the middle, to no practical reward.

93' United loaded with guns and a total lack of trigger pullers.

94' A free kick for United from just inside the half. Van der Saar joins the attack, as Cech claims the ball and perhaps the season's League trophy.

In the end, the match was a rather tedious affair, with few moments of class or imagination. Chelsea control their destiny, and for my meager money, should be tipped to preserve Liverpool's co-claim to the title record in England. By that standard, everyone goes home happy.

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