| Manchester United’s Laurent Blanc (right) hot on the heels of Chelsea’s Boudewijn Zenden at Stamford Bridge Friday. (Reuters)
London, Aug. 24 (Reuters): Ryan Giggs’ 100th goal for Manchester United rescued a point for Alex Ferguson’s side in a pulsating and controversial 2-2 draw with English Premier League rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Friday.
The home side twice took the lead in west London, through defender William Gallas and Dutchman Boudewijn Zenden’s stunning strike. But twice United called on their battling spirit to hit back while manager Alex Ferguson continually prowled the touchline on a night when passions and tempers ran high.
David Beckham curled home their first equaliser midway through the first half before Giggs swivelled and shot home from inside the Chelsea penalty area with 25 minutes remaining to leave them with four points from their opening two league games.
The visitors, though, who can be satisfied with surviving a stern test of their credentials by Claudio Ranieri’s title hopefuls, left feeling aggrieved that they were robbed of a chance to win the match when referee Graham Poll turned down their strong claims for a penalty. Ferguson later remonstrated with Poll, England’s Fifa representative, on the touchline after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had been booked for a foul on Giggs, one of five cautions.
The Scot’s anger was no doubt stoked by another poor United defensive display, just four days before they attempt to overturn a one-goal deficit in the second leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie with Hungary’s Zalaegerszeg. Despite travelling with the United squad and suggestions that he could make his competitive debut, Rio Ferdinand, at £30 million ($45.64 million) the world’s most expensive defender, did not shake off an ankle problem in time to feature even on the substitutes’ bench.
The players, fans and officials observed a minutes’ silence for murdered British schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells before the match. The 10-year-olds from Soham in eastern England, went missing wearing United shirts with England captain Beckham’s name and number seven on the back. Their bodies were found on August 17 in a wood.
Beckham later dedicated his goal to the murdered schoolgirls. "It's hard to get your mind on football when this sort of stuff happens outside the game," said Beckham. "To see those little girls with my shirts on was pretty nice - the whole game was dedicated to them tonight," said the England captain.
Just three minutes had passed when Zenden swung in a free-kick from the right flank and, darting in between Roy Keane and Mikael Silvestre, Frenchman Gallas got the merest of touches to divert the ball past Roy Carroll in the United goal.
United’s equaliser came out of the blue, as Silvestre’s sweeping diagonal pass from the United half found Beckham, whose close control allowed him to wrongfoot Celestine Babayaro before curling a left foot shot — via a deflection off Marcel Desailly.
But it was Chelsea who dealt the sucker punch to go 2-1 ahead on the stroke of halftime. United failed to deal with Frank Lampard’s raid and Zenden nipped in, ripping a fierce left footer into the top corner of the net. However, United’s perseverance was rewarded through the fine finishing of Giggs after Silvestre’s strong run down the left and cross.
O’Leary to sue Leeds
David O’Leary is set to go to court to sue his former club Leeds United following his dismissal as manager two months ago, the Daily Mail reported today.
Talks between O'Leary and Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale over a compensation package have broken down without agreement. And he is now expected to take his former club to a Premier League sackings tribunal.