To the rich go the spoils

Got a bit lucky this weekend. I remembered the Man U-Chelsea collision this weekend Saturday evening, and thought I'd missed it already. A bit of checking, and I saw that it was going to be today. To quote a book my daughter likes, "'Hooray,' they yelled twice". (And you thought this was another tax policy rant. Hah! :)

And on the plus side, in checking, I got to see most of the US/Canada women's friendly. Although, as my wife pointed out, there was nothing really friendly about it. The Canadian defense, in particular, didn't seem to believe in playing the ball; they were just brutal (their captain did manage to pick up a card for jersey grabbing. Not only was it right in front of the ref, but holding on the side where the ref was, but she didn't even let go until well after the whistle blew). And it's a good thing (for them), because that was the only thing that kept the US from winning by a large margin.

The US just completely dominated possession, despite a disturbing number of passes behind their targets. Most of those were still completed, but it really disrupted their flow. And with the defense the Canadians were showing, they didn't have anyone who could penetrate (at least not in the first half; Heath, I think, was doing a very nice job in the second half). Damn, and now I'm showing the time between the game and now, as I remember feeling that Rapinoe wasn't doing well, but can't remember why. In any event, the game ended in a one-all draw, but it really shouldn't have.

To get back to the main point, Man U came out firing on all cylinders. They were strongly dominating the play through most of the first half, although they did allow Chelsea a couple of close calls with two or three atrocious passes around their back line. Chelsea also generated one really nice chance without help with a pass over U's back line to the side, followed by a full-volley pass across the goal-mouth to a striker on the other side who shot it on a full volley, but the goaltender got it.

In the eighth minute, though, just after I had made a comment to my wife about how close the defensive marking was on both sides, Manchester got a free kick and two players were uncovered off the kick. Unsurprisingly, the nearer (Smalling) buried the ball in the back of the net.

Nani made it two-nil half an hour or so later with a rocket into the upper corner from just outside the box. And Man U's scoring was closed out shortly before the half when a scrum developed in front of the right side of Chelsea's goal. The ball popped out on a deflection to Rooney, who was loitering right at the middle of the goal and buried it.

It looked like things would be a lot closer in the second half, when Anelka (who had just come on as a sub at the half) hit Torres behind the defense for a very nice goal thirty seconds in. But that would close out the scoring, amazingly.

I say amazlingly, because there were a number of phenomenal opportunities remaining, but they would all be flubbed one way or another. Rooney slipped and fell on a penalty shot, kicking the ball into his plant foot and deflecting it way high and off to the side. Torres managed to sneak behind the defense one more time, make a great fake on the goaltender, and then shoot the ball a few feet to the side of the completely open net. Rooney got behind the defense quite a long ways from the goal, and passed when the keeper came out to challenge him. The pass went to Berbatov, who weakly put it towards the (mostly open) net, but Ashley Cole caught up to the shot and pushed it outside. Yes, with a bit of luck, Rooney could have had a hat trick of hat tricks. That would have been something.

I will say this from watching the game: both of those clubs are phenomenal on the counter-attack. And it seemed like ManU was relying more on the long ball than when I've seen from them in the past (and Chicharito was not an effective target for those balls, today).

With this, Manchester City drawing (to Newcastle, maybe? I wasn't paying too much attention when the highlights were playing) and the Gunners losing, Man U is alone atop the table with an awe-inspiring goal differential. They really do seem to be in a league of their own, at the moment.

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