Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cristiano Ronaldo Goals 2006-2007

Kuszczak Save vs Charlton

Man Utd 2-0 Charlton

Wayne Rooney kept his nerve when it mattered to ease Manchester United to a unconvincing 2-0 win over Charlton.

After all the swagger of recent performances, the Red Devils were forced to grind out a result against Alan Pardew's brave battlers, who never let their heads drop even after Park Ji-Sung had nodded the hosts into a first-half lead.

Charlton came agonisingly close to breaching United's defences on two separate occasions, but eventually Rooney eased Sir Alex Ferguson's nerves, calmly chipping to the far post after Scott Carson had blocked his initial shot, setting up Darren Fletcher for the easiest of finishes.

Ferguson certainly could not claim his side were anywhere near their best, but it is on such triumphs championship wins are built and their advantage over Chelsea remains at six points - and now there are only 11 games to go.

Having conceded the prospect of living in a sunnier, warmer place than north-west England must hold some appeal for Cristiano Ronaldo, it was somewhat ironic Ferguson was denied the services of his brilliant young winger because of a heavy cold.

As Ronaldo warmed himself by the fire at home, his team-mates struggled, the opening period lacking any of the fluency that has characterised so many of their recent performances.

Certainly Charlton were not handicapped by any sense of inferiority. Pardew may have inherited an unenviable situation when he took over at the Valley, but it is clear the Addicks will not surrender their proud Premiership status without a fight.

The visitors should have gone ahead too but, after Dennis Rommedahl had already fired one decent opportunity into the side-netting, Tomasz Kuszczak plunged to his left to turn away a goalbound Darren Ambrose header.

It was an excellent save and one which belied the fact Kuszczak has spent almost all season sitting on the bench as understudy to Edwin van der Sar.

Kuszczak was to deny Ambrose once more before the first half was through, although by then United had managed to get their noses in front.

Given his hard-man reputation, Ben Thatcher will be disappointed at the way Park simply shrugged him aside as he rose to meet Patrice Evra's deflected cross. Once he had won the aerial duel, Park simply steered his header into the net.

The only other moment of note during an otherwise unremarkable opening period came when Rooney acrobatically controlled Ryan Giggs' long ball from almost head height, a manoeuvre that took both Thatcher and Souleymane Diawara out of the game.

Rooney needed just one more touch before letting fly with a fierce right-footed shot that skimmed the outside of a post with Carson totally beaten.

If Ferguson hoped the half-time break would help bring any more fluency to his team's efforts, he was mistaken.

United continued to labour and with Alexandre Song outstanding in Charlton's midfield, the visitors gained greater confidence and encouragement.

With a bit more calmness, Rommedahl might have done much better than blaze over from 25 yards after finding himself in plenty of space in a central position.

Having left Henrik Larsson on the bench for the first time since his arrival from Helsingborg, Ferguson introduced the veteran Swede for Giggs just after the hour mark. Even that move failed to inspire an immediate improvement in fortunes.

In fact, it was Charlton who continued to look the more likely scorers and Marcus Bent was only millimetres away from getting a vital touch to Rommedahl's inswinging free-kick, which actually flew just wide off Gary Neville's head.

The obvious problem for the visitors in those latter stages was the more they pressed, the more vulnerable they were on the counter-attack.

Rooney set up Louis Saha with a superb pass, which ended disappointingly with a shot straight at Scott Carson.

But the pattern had been established and when Carson blocked Rooney's shot with his legs shortly afterwards, the striker quickly seized on the loose ball and delivered a deft cross to the far post, which Fletcher could not fail to head home.

# Fergie sees road ahead

Sir Alex Ferguson has urged Manchester United to look forward rather than back in the final stages of the Premiership campaign.

The Red Devils struggled for long periods against Charlton at Old Trafford but eventually recorded a 2-0 win over the relegation-threatened Londoners to maintain a six-point cushion over Chelsea at the top of the table.

With only 11 games to go, it is a handy cushion to have, and United could inflict major damage if they gain maximum reward from the two matches they play - at Fulham and Liverpool - before Chelsea are in action again.

And Ferguson has made it clear his team should not start looking over the shoulders and fear the damage Chelsea may cause.

'We are playing well and with a lot of confidence,' he said.

'Sometimes in these situations, there is a tendency to look over your shoulder and concentrate on the team that is chasing.

'I prefer to look forward because we have some really promising games coming up. 'We have an FA Cup tie against Reading next week, which should be terrific and that is all we should be concentrating it on now.'

Ferguson admitted he was surprised by Charlton's enterprising approach, although he claimed his side should have taken full advantage of the pressure his team applied after Park Ji-Sung had nodded them into a first-half lead.

In the end, United had to survive a major scare when Gary Neville nodded Dennis Rommedahl's free-kick narrowly wide of his own goal before Wayne Rooney provided Darren Fletcher with the easiest of finishes to wrap up the win.

'It wasn't the greatest goal in the world but I would have taken it any time,' admitted Ferguson.

'Their free-kick was a worry because it just reminds you that at 1-0 up, the opposition can get a goal in a second.'

After stressing the value of giving all his squad some playing time recently, it was particularly pleasing for Ferguson that Park and Fletcher should get themselves on the scoresheet after standing in for injured duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Carrick.

'We need to give everyone some miles on the clock because you never know when you might need them,' he said.

Sheffield United's win against Tottenham means that, with the exception of Wigan, second-bottom Charlton are now 10 points adrift of anyone outside the relegation zone.

However, Addicks chief Alan Pardew is still in optimistic mood, not least because star duo Darren Bent and Luke Young came through training sessions this morning and should play a full part in the club's trip to Spain next week.

'They both came through training today, which is good news and the break should help in terms of both of them being fit for our next match,' he said.

The next match could hardly be more critical as it pits Charlton against West Ham in a match neither side can afford to lose.

'We have only picked up 20 points so far this season but now we are going to have to improve,' added Pardew.

'We need to go on a run similar to the one Portsmouth went on last season and get another 20 points from our remaining games. That has to be our goal.

'Maybe at the start of the season, we could have settled for a draw if we had got ourselves into a good position in an away game. Now, we have to go for it.'

Match summary:

Monday, February 5, 2007

Tottenham 0-4 Man Utd: Six-point lead restored, match summary video

Manchester United restored their six-point lead at the top of the Premiership but victory at Tottenham was tinged with controversy as Cristiano Ronaldo won, and scored, a disputed penalty.

Ronaldo scored the opener at White Hart Lane on the stroke of half time but it was hard to tell the extent of the contact as Steed Malbranque and Lee Young-Pyo tried to stop his run.

But the incident did not affect the Portugal winger who turned in another dazzling display on the flanks and set up Paul Scholes for United's third after Nemanja Vidic had doubled the lead.

Ryan Giggs ran through to add to Spurs' embarrassment late on and John O'Shea finished in goal as Edwin van der Sar broke his nose and United had used all their substitutes.

United had lost in the capital to Arsenal and West Ham this season but held their nerve after Chelsea's victory on Saturday had closed the gap, and their glut of goals either side of the break underlined their potential to seal a first title since 2003.

As for Spurs, they remain as far from the Champions League places as they are from the relegation zone. Despite controversy for the opener and a penalty claim of their own, they were swept aside and did not look like recording their first win over United since 2001 when Willem Korsten scored twice.

The closest they had come in that period was two years ago when referee Mark Clattenburg famously failed to spot Pedro Mendes' apparent 'goal'.

He was in charge again and in the thick of the action - by awarding Ronaldo his penalty - but initially to calm a frantic opening.

Scholes had already mis-timed a challenge on Aaron Lennon and Didier Zokora had tripped Gary Neville, but it was Vidic who picked up the first booking when he went through the back of Jermain Defoe after nine minutes.

The first real chance of the game fell to Ronaldo but the Portugal winger blazed over after collecting the rebound when Michael Carrick's header from a corner had been saved by Paul Robinson.

Predictably, Carrick was jeered by home supporters on his return to White Hart Lane following his departure from the club in the summer for £18.6million. Carrick had an early shot fly over and was typically effective protecting his back four, while Tom Huddlestone did the same for the hosts.

Huddlestone, billed as Carrick's natural heir, set up Spurs' first chance but Dimitar Berbatov, after taking a touch around Rio Ferdinand, saw his finish tipped around the post by Edwin van der Sar.

United already had a penalty appeal turned down in the 29th minute when Anthony Gardner appeared to trip Henrik Larsson in the area, but Clattenburg waved away the protests that lasted minutes after the incident.

But they were not denied a spot-kick on the stroke of half-time, with Ronaldo causing plenty of problems for the home defence.

The winger has not seemed affected by abuse since his role in Wayne Rooney's dismissal at the World Cup, and he blocked out the jeers again to slam his penalty past Robinson.

Spurs had their own penalty shout when Pascal Chimbonda appeared to be held by Neville, marking a busy first half for Clattenburg.

Rooney had been living on the edge and earned a yellow card for a challenge on Lee after he had lost the ball, and Chimbonda was also booked before the break.

Robinson tipped over from Vidic and Carrick after the break but was beaten in the 48th minute when Vidic met Carrick's corner with a thumping header.

The lead was extended in the 53rd minute when Ronaldo surged down the right and crossed for Scholes to bundle in. Spurs thought they should have had a penalty on the hour mark when Berbatov was challenged by Ferdinand, but Clattenburg waved play on.

Van der Sar had to tip over from Berbatov but United extended their lead with 14 minutes left when substitute Louis Saha played Giggs through to finish.

Berbatov could have pulled one back when he got behind the United defence but Van der Sar saved his effort. The Dutch goalkeeper could not finish the game after a clash with Robbie Keane, and John O'Shea played the remaining five minutes in goal.

Match summary: