Thursday, 22 May 2008

Champions of Europe

Apologies for going off-topic, but it would be remiss of me not to mention Manchester United's triumph in Moscow last night.

I had been prevaricating for a good week or so as to whether I should watch the match back at my local in Basle or with friends Stu and Kath plus a bunch of their friends in Zurich. The Zurich plan - which I eventually favoured - was to go to a gig by Newton Faulkner starting at 7 p.m. at the Mascotte theatre and then watch the final on the big screen at the same venue at 8.45. I would then stay over at Stu and Kath's after the game. The idea behind this would be that the concert might help to settle my nerves beforehand and that it would be easier in general given that I was working in Zurich again the following day anyway.

Now, I'd never heard of the aforementioned musician, but his gig was really good and I was suitably impressed and entertained. After his final song - a one-man cover version of Bohemian Rhapsody - the big screen dropped down about 5 minutes before kick-off.

I normally get quite nervous watching big matches involving United, but the music had mellowed me to a certain extent by the time this particular match began. United's free-flowing football and dominance of Chelsea in the first half settled my nerves even more - until Chelsea's undeserved equaliser at the stroke of half-time, that is. Throughout most of the second half, I was shaking my head and fearing the worse. Chelsea built up the pressure while United lost the initiative and reverted to the counter-attacking tactics they had adopted for most of the previous away knockout ties. However, despite a scare when Drogba and Lampard both hit the woodwork, Ferdinand and Vidic held firm in the centre of defence. Vidic was probably United's best player.

United were better in extra-time and could have (should have) won it, but Giggs stabbed at Evra's cross with the outside of his left peg instead of burying it.

As Stu and Kath would confirm, I was quite impassive during the shootout. Was too drained to react much when Chelsea's John Terry missed what would have been the deciding penalty, and then in the moment of victory my watch almost came off, so the final release was somewhat of a delayed reaction.

Anyway, I spoke to my Liverpool-supporting father yesterday evening. He crowed on something about United being lucky, conveniently forgetting to mention the fact that Chelsea's goal was the result of two spawny deflections. True, Chelsea were definitely the better side from minutes 46 to 90, but both teams had their chances and 1-1 was a fair result after 120 minutes.

The only downside to a momentous night was the bar turning the TV off as soon as the match was over. Cue frantic persuasion for them to put the screen back on, to no avail, and then the surreal experience of seeing United lift the cup on the revolving 80s disco ball above the dance floor.

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