Passion in OT
No, I’m not talking about passion in overtime. It’s Old Trafford again, this time for the European Champions League quarterfinal first leg and the visit of Inter Milan to the famous stadium. It’s wet. I’m thirsty. Somehow those two seem to go together although not quite like apple pie and cream. Now I’m hungry as well. Blow the whistle ref.
These are the games the city of Manchester lives for. All the recent league and cup trophies this decade long can be sacrificed for the glimpse of the European Champions title. King Eric (Cantona) was rightly worshipped at OT but at the end of his career he had not delivered the big one. Over thirty years since Sir Matt Busby’s (dare I call them babes) delivered their one and only. Can this present side finally acquire the acclaim still being furnished to Bobby Charlton, Georgie Best and company. The 1968 team was magic and the 4-1 demolition of Eusabio’s Benfica at Wembley emphasised the then domination of England as the home of soccer and the custodian of the greatest trophies the world could offer at the time.
So the ref does blow the whistle and the long wait has been worth it. This season United have been progressing nicely, rising to each challenge with the admirable aplomb that recent experiences can accommodate. The new for Europe confidence shows and there’s also an unexpected twist in the continuing saga of David Beckham’s career. It turns out that bad guy Simeone admits beforehand that he took a dive in the most famous sending off that Beckham will ever have to live down. Apparently the Argentinean embellished the incident thus allowing the referee to influence the game unwittingly. Shocking, I know. Most people are aware that the country of England “blamed” Beckham for “losing” the world cup last summer as a direct consequence of this incident alone. Eight months and a few million boos later, he perhaps unexpectedly had an opportunity presented to him to reverse the process somewhat.
Well, it took all of six minutes for “justice” to be served when Beckham’s cross is headed home by Dwight Yorke and the party is on. What a difference a day makes as Simeone fires a half-decent opportunity wide a minute later. It must have lifted Beckham’s performance level to be cheered on and he may have joined in the whistles when Simeone got his touches on the ball. Just before the half time whistle, Beckham and Yorke repeat the show carbon copy. The thought struck me that Ronaldo was probably glad he wasn’t playing. Shades of the world cup final when two first half headers by Zidane this time put that game in a different perspective. Mind you, Baggio may have wished he was watching from the sidelines as he could hardly have had less effect. Two pathetic free kicks and continuous whining doesn’t add up to much opposition. An away goal in these games frequently decides the outcome in an area soccer has not been able to find a better way to resolve. The second half was a case of Peter Smeichel denying Inter Milan that elusive away goal.