Thursday, May 22, 2008

Manchester United Wins The Champions League

Fifty years after the Munich air crash that claimed eight of his team-mates, a tearful Sir Bobby Charlton saw Manchester United crowned champions of Europe for the third time last night, holding their nerve in a penalty shoot-out on an evening when emotions were frayed and tempers flared in the Luzhniki Stadium.

Sir Alex Ferguson suggested that fate had helped United to mark the anniversary of the Munich disaster by winning the Champions League, but the evening took them on a rollercoaster ride that encompassed Cristiano Ronaldo’s early goal, an equaliser from Frank Lampard, a red card for Drogba in extra time after he slapped Nemanja Vidic during a 19-man and, ultimately, the shoot-out.

Ronaldo, astonishingly, had his penalty saved and, four successful kicks later, John Terry had the chance to win it, but the Chelsea captain, deputising for Drogba, slipped as he shot and the ball shaved the outside of a post. With the fourteenth kick, Edwin van der Sar saved from Nicolas Anelka and the European Cup was United’s. Terry was in tears as Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs lifted the trophy.

“It’s a fantastic achievement. When we [Ronaldo] missed the penalty we thought we were in trouble, but I’m delighted for my players. I think this has the makings of my best team.”

Ronaldo admitted that he had feared he would end up as the villain of the piece. “At that moment I think we’re going to lose,” he said. “I miss the penalty, the worst day of my life, but now it’s the happiest day of my life. It means everything for me.”

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