Sunday, December 09, 2007

United 4 - 1 Derby

Derby were lucky. Their experience at the Theatre of Dreams was a wet one. They might have come up against Manchester United on a dry day in August, or in an exhibition game in January in Saudi Arabia.

It is easy to understand why United go on such jaunts when you see the sort of weather they have to put up with at home, but though the conditions kept the score down, the home side's effort and application could not be faulted.

Sadly such last-ditch heroics were never likely to keep United out and after being penned back for several minutes Derby cracked when Bywater could not hold a Ronaldo shot. The winger showed determination and resourcefulness in picking up a loose ball from Patrice Evra and fashioning an opportunity for himself out of nothing, though it was Giggs who profited by being first to reach the rebound for his 100th league goal.

Giggs also sent Rooney away with a glorious crossfield pass two minutes later, one that the striker controlled skilfully and coolly flipped over Bywater's dive, only to see his shot rebound from an upright. No matter, there was still time for United to take a two-goal lead into the interval, when Derby failed to clear a free-kick and allowed Tevez two hacks at a ball bobbling near the penalty spot. The first was an air shot, the second sent Derby into the dressing room fearing they might be about to see a different type of deluge.

Bywater had just seen a Giggs volley whistle past his post after Wes Brown had supplied a sumptuous cross from the right and when Brown found Tevez in the area with a much shorter, simpler pass, Dean Leacock failed to close him down until it was too late and the ball had been lashed into the net.

Then the Derby fightback began. Too late for this game, of course, but when you have not scored for almost 13 hours your first away goal of the season has got to count as more than consolation. Van der Sar came sliding off his line but could not prevent Tyrone Mears's cross reaching Steve Howard in the centre, where a series of slips and ricochets saw Brown's attempted clearance rebound off the Derby player and cross the line with Nemanja Vidic.

Derby did not deserve to ship a fourth goal in stoppage time and Ronaldo did not deserve his penalty from Mears's challenge. Having won it he wasn't going to allow anyone else to take it.

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