Zenit Claim Cup Despite Hand Of God Attempt

Zenit St Petersburg 2-1 Manchester United

A game of two halves in every sense of the phrase as Zenit controlled the first 45 minutes and United looked to creep back in for the second. The showpiece was marred by a cheating Paul Scholes who was sent off the pitch for punching the ball into the net in an attempt to bring the game back level...

The Uefa Super Cup is a meeting of two winners looking to start their season by topping up their respective trophy cabinets. It has been billed as the European equivalent of the Community Shield: they are both admittedly curtain-raising showpieces, but tonight’s match carried a weightier reputation for the victor.

There was no room on Zenit’s starting eleven for Andrei Arshavin. For Manchester United; Darren Fletcher - who has scored in successive Premier League games, began on the right, with Nani on the left.

Just before kick-off Sir Alex Ferguson told ITV Sport: "It’s a good tie, there is prestige for sure. There has been a considerable development in Russian football… they have huge salaries, but hopefully we will win it." He was right about Russian football, but his hope was in vein.

As the referee’s whistle signaled the start of the tie there was considerable noise from the Russian sectors who slightly outnumbered the traveling Mancs.

The venue of Monaco was fitting for two teams that can afford to indulge in high-profile transfers. Last summer United spent around £70million on recruitments including Owen Hargreaves; Anderson; and Nani, whereas Zenit have just signed Danny Alves for £25million who, coincidentally, plays the same role as Arshavin but it is Danny who started today.

The better chances fell to Zenit in the opening five minutes, and they could have been ahead had it not been for shoddy shooting. Nemanja Vidic, who used to play for Spartak Moscow, made a crunching challenge as if to let his opponents know he was there early on.

There was a considerable lack of early long balls. Both teams intent on passing out of defence though it was Zenit who made more use of the ball and were keeping hold of possession for longer.

The Russian Premier League is half way through it’s season, they began their campaign in March, and are clearly the sharper side.

The English Premier League is only coming to its third weekend, it is evident from the offset that freshness will have a bearing in how this game pans out.

Tymoschuck broke up play well in the first fifteen minutes. He patrolled in front of his defence with discipline and led by example. He took the ball away from Wayne Rooney with such ease in one well-timed sliding tackle that it noticeably lifted the Zenit support.

Zenit found a lot of space on their right hand side. Their one-two play caught Patrice Evra out time and again and there were numerous opportunities to punish United on that flank.

On the cusp of the half-way mark in the first 45, Dominguez struck a free kick that had Edwin Van Der Sar scrambling. The ball went wide, rebounded off a pole off the pitch and struck the wrong side of the net.

United began to find more fluidity with their passing as the first half grew on, and were able to locate space in the wide areas for in-swinging crosses, but to no avail.

Both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdiand paired-up well to block out Pogrebnyak who was in a golden goal-scoring position.

Passes from both Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher grew increasingly accurate with the latter finding Tevez with plenty of space on the right flank.

Zenit and United controlled play and looked most lethal when attacking the right hand side. On the 35th minute Tevez was again fed through the right flank, cut the ball back to Rooney, but the Scouse striker could not pluck the ball from under his own boots and ended up getting tangled in possession.

Van der Sar made a goal-saving block from Krizanoc who ran in from a 40-yard Zenit free-kick. Three minutes later Rio Ferdinand slipped from around the same distance and Danny Alves ran in to exploit his mistake. As United managed to scramble back to their box, the ball was passed around the 'D' by Zenit, Pogrebnyak took control, looked like he turned the wrong way but managed to still sneak a small lobbed-cross into the 6-yard box but United were awarded a free-kick for alleged pushing.

Pogrebnyak, joint top goal-scorer with Luca Toni in last season’s Uefa Cup, sneaked in a header from a Zenit corner and, on the run of play, the Russian side took a one-nil lead into the break. The ball looked like it was swinging into the goal-mouth anyway, and probably would have crossed the line, but Pogrebnyak did not take any chances and powered through.

At half-time Sir Alex remained upbeat, telling ITV Sport: “They had a few chances but we had the most possession. It’s a bad goal to concede so we need to recover. They [United players] know that.”

The only change as the play restarted was the replacement of Dominguez with Andrei Arshavin. The playmaker will be keen to impress the various European eyes glancing on the game, and will have been keen to flaunt his flair.

As the game re-found its flow Rooney tracked back to link-up play with the midfield. Sixty seconds later he was back in the forward’s zone, had a shooting opportunity, but fired wide.

Ten minutes in and Tymoschuk thumped a 30-yarder goal-ward, Van der Sar – wary of Danny running into the box, cleverly parried the ball into safety.

Further misery was inflicted on the Manchester side as the expensive Portuguese acquisition thumped in a powerful effort. Ferguson would have been fuming as his defence was poor in handling Danny. Ferdinand was wrong-footed and Vidic was late to the ball, by the time his slide-tackle slowed to a stop, the ball was in the back of the net.

On the hour mark, John O’Shea replaced Anderson, and Darren Fletcher is also brought off. Puygrenier made way for Shirokov for Zenit.

Carlos Tevez’s work-rate was something to be proud of. He was one of the few Red Devils in the opening hour that played with intent. One example of his obsession to be on the ball was when he was tackled, fell to the ground, but was back on his feet and regained possession before you could say ‘Trojan’. Five minutes later Tevez again created opportunites; O’Shea ran onto a ball and struck with his first touch but was blocked by a stubborn Zenit defence.

United clawed a goal back when Nani won a corner kick that was poorly swung into Rooney who passed to Tevez at the far post. Carlos knocked it onto Vidic’s path who drilled a low shot into goal. The many Zenit bodies on the line simply ball-watched.

With ten minutes remaining Denisov embarked on a solo run taking on three United defenders and beating two, he eventually played the ball back as a triplet of Red shirts tried to triangle him and he temporarily injured himself in the process.

Malafeev kept the Russians in the game as Tevez fed in a perfect cross into the box that met the forehead of John O’Shea. The Russian glovesman punched the ball over and looked around nonchalantly.

Paul Scholes was deservedly sent off with one minute remaining on the clock as Brown fed in a high cross and Scholes punched the ball into the net a la Maradona. His team-mates rushed to congratulate him but the officiator wanted none of it and gave the midfielder a second yellow for attempting to cheat in order to claim the draw. He will now miss Champions League games.

A fine spectacle ended dour due to Scholes' gamesmanship, but Zenit were thrilled to lift the silverware aloft. The Russian side showed they were no pushover tonight, and will be a contender in Group H of the Champions League. Real Madrid take heed.

44′ [0 - 1] P. Pogrebnyak

45′ P. Scholes (yellow card)

54′ Anderson (yellow card)

59′ [0 - 2] Danny

73′ [1 - 2] N. Vidic

74′ C.A. Tevez (yellow card)

90′ P. Scholes (yellow, red card)

44′ [0 - 1] P. Pogrebnyak

59′ [0 - 2] Danny

73′ [1 - 2] N. Vidic

90′ P. Scholes (yellow, red card)

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Zenit Claim Cup Despite Hand Of God Attempt Reviewed by admin Ucop on 1:16 AM Rating: 5

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