Diaby Strike Gives Champions 3-Points

29 08 2009

Manchester United took all three points in the first ‘Top Four’ clash of the season after a hard-fought win against Arsenal at Old Trafford. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, with Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo all on the bench, the first half was a tight, tense affair with both sides playing at pace but unable to create many clear-cut chances.

After a solid start by the visitors it was the home side who had the first promising chance of the game.

Wayne Rooney flighted a delightful chip into Darren Fletcher in the box who chested the ball down before turning and volleying over Manuel Almunia’s bar.

Rooney then almost caught a glimpse of goal himself but Thomas Vermaelen did well to ensure he couldn’t get on the end of Patrice Evra’s cross.

Yet the Gunners’ slick passing and movement was becoming more incisive than the home side’s and mid-way through the first half they were presented with a good opportunity.

Robin van Persie twisting and turning looked odds on to score after making space for himself in the area, but his shot was blocked by Evra.

Minutes later and a corner to the visitors was only flapped at by Ben Foster and fell straight into Andrey Arshavin’s path.

The Russian opened his body and aimed for the top corner but, much to the relief of the home crowd, the ball flew fractionally wide.

Yet with five minutes to go before the break, Arshavin was to provide the breakthrough as Arsenal took the lead.

After being flattened by Darren Fletcher moments earlier in the box, the Russian dusted himself down, picked up possession and advanced on goal before hitting a sublime effort past Foster to silence Old Trafford.

The Red Devils attempted to respond but were looking toothless in attack and within two minutes of the restart they had their goalkeeper to thank for preventing them from going two goals down.

Arshavin again was the creator, tormenting John O’Shea down the left before crossing for van Persie.

The Dutchman got in front of Wes Brown and looked set to tap home but was denied brilliantly by Foster’s feet.

Indeed the Gunners were looking by far the better side at the start of the second half but were rocked on the hour mark when United snatched an equaliser.

Giggs slid a pass through to Rooney and he took a touch to take the ball past Almunia who brought the England international down leaving referee Mike Dean to point straight to the spot.

Up stepped Rooney who calmly sent the Spanish stopper the wrong way to continue his fine goalscoring start to the season.

Suddenly, a tepid game caught fire with the challenges flying in and the tempo raised several notches.

van Persie smashed a free kick against the United bar and seconds later the home side took the lead after a Giggs free kick was headed past his own goalkeeper by Abou Diaby.

The hosts were jubilant yet Diaby almost made instant amends, surging into the box leaving three United defenders in his wake, before scuffing a cross-shot fractionally wide.

In search of an equaliser Wenger sent on strikers Bendtner and Eduardo but the Gunners simply couldn’t restore their earlier attacking impetus despite five minutes of added time.

Indeed the best chance of the closing stages were wasted by Dimitar Berbatov and Nani on the break although van Persie did have the ball in the net late on but the flag had already gone up for offside.

A chaotic ending to the game saw Wenger sent to the stands but ultimately United held on for an important win to disrupt the Gunners’ superb start to the season.

Teams

United: Foster; O’Shea, Brown, Vidic, Evra; Valencia (Park 62′), Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs (Berbatov 85′), Nani; Rooney

Arsenal: Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Eboue, Song, Diaby, Denilson (Eduardo 78′), Arshavin (Ramsay 80′); van Pesie

Player Ratings

Ben Foster – 6.5 – Hit and miss. Could possibly have done better with the goal and flapped at several crosses. However, made amends by saving brilliantly from Van Persie with his feet to keep United in the game.

John O’Shea – 5.5 – Struggled against Arshavin defensively and rarely ventured forwards to support Valencia.

Wes Brown – 6.5 – Beaten by Van Persie at the start of the second half but pulled off a great challenge later on to deny the Dutchman.

Nemanja Vidic – 6.5 – Perhaps ought to have closed Arshavin down earlier for the goal but otherwise did little wrong.

Patrice Evra – 7.5 – Another strong showing by the full-back. Important block on Van Persie in the first half and his pace caused problems offensively. Decent shot in the second half that forced Almunia into a good save.

Antonio Valencia – 5 – Disappointing display from the new signing. Couldn’t make any impact against Clichy, didn’t make the most of his chances and was far too hesitant.

Darren Fletcher – 8 – Was just about everywhere, fortunate to escape a penalty after flooring Arshavin in the box, fired an early chance over and didn’t stop chasing.

Michael Carrick – 6.5 – Neat and tidy in possession and had a decent shot from a corner that was blocked.

Nani – 7 Enjoyed a good tussle with Sagna. Great ball to Berbatov late on which should have finished it and showed discipline to get back and defend when needed.

Ryan Giggs – 7.5 – After a poor start, a great pass sent Rooney away for the penalty before crossing for Diaby to head past his own ‘keeper.

Wayne Rooney – 8 – A fairly quiet first half, although he hit a super pass to set up Fletcher and sent a free-kick just wide. Kept going and got his reward by winning and scoring the penalty.   

Substitutes

Park Ji-Sung – 6.5 – An improvement on Valencia.

Dimitar Berbatov – 5 – Should have finished it as a contetst but wasted a stoppage time chance.

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