In the quarter-final of the F.A. Cup at Old Trafford, Manchester United and Chelsea gave soccer fans a special rendition of what Pele calls, the beautiful game. Prior to the Manchester United/Chelsea game, the other F.A. quarter-final game, we witnessed an example of how ugly the game can be played when Milwall and Blackburn played to a nasty nil all draw.
The Manchester United vs Chelsea game started with great tempo. For the first forty-five minutes, Manchester United played like the league leaders on their way to another EPL championship.
Garrick, Cleverly, Rooney and Kagawa controlled mid-field and before Chelsea could blink, Chicharito was on the scoreboard and Rooney from a free kick had Cech retrieving the ball from the back of the net.
For the first half, Chelsea was outplayed and outnumbered in mid-field. Nani, Rooney and Hernandez seemed unstoppable as they kept Chelsea on the back foot.
But the game is not for the swift but for those who can endure it to the end. In the second half, Manchester United lost their dominance. Their mid-field faded. The much maligned Chelsea manager, Rafael Benitez made a deft change in the second half. He brought in Hazard for the ineffective Victor Moses. The aging Lampard was replaced by Mikel and that allowed Ramires to push forward.
The Chelsea mid-field took control of the game and the substitute Hazard wreaked havoc on the Manchester backline. It was Hazard who opened the Chelsea score with a curling beauty that beat DeGea. Later the rampaging Brazilian, Ramires, teamed up with playmaker Juan Mata and Chelsea was level. In the waning minutes of the game Juan Mata should have scored but De Gea made a game saving stop with his outstretched legs.
The ninety minutes of soccer was simply scintillating. Ferdinand and Evans, Manchester’s two central defenders, were outstanding. David Luiz was heroic and indefatigable as Chelsea’s central defender Hazard coming on in the second half changed the game. He showed incredible guile and at the age of twenty-two has a great future in the world of soccer.
Milwall and Blackburn will go at it again as will Manchester United and Chelsea in the span of ten days.
In the other F.A. match up, Manchester City ran rough-shod over Barnsley. Wigan shocked Everton, scoring three goals in the first half in the space of three minutes. Wigan and Manchester City wait in the wings.
The semi-final and final at Wembley will provide us with more renditions of the beautiful game.