Monday, September 21, 2009

Manchester Derby Post-Match Summary and Thoughts

Having just finished rewatching the match, here is a summary of the derby and some thoughts.

For those that didn't see it, the match started off extremely shaky for City. Bridge had a horribly headed clearance in the first minute. The next minute was even worse as Evra ran into the box completely unmarked on a throw in. He took the ball down to the goal line and played it back in to Rooney at the corner of the six-yard box. There were a couple defenders near him, but he had space to play the ball between their desperate sliding challenges and bury it. For the next 12 or so minutes, it went back and forth with United looking the better of the two sides. In the 16th minute, United keeper Foster tried to play a ball to the outside of the box back in to pick it up when Carlos Tevez stole the ball off him. Tevez played the ball back to Barry who put it between the near post and Vidic who was where you would normally see the goalkeeper. For the rest of the first half things were pretty even and each team failed to convert a clear chance with Berbatov heading over the bar right in front of goal and Tevez hitting the post from inside the box.

The second half started similarly to the first. United scored three minutes in on a header by Fletcher on a floating cross from Giggs. A few minutes later after Given made a nice save on a great scoring chance by Giggs, City drew level on a fantastic shot by Bellamy from just outside the area. The next 28 minutes United completely dominated getting several clear chances. Given made three big reaction saves stopping two Berbatov headers and a very powerful Giggs shot from the edge of the area. United finally broke through in the 80th minute on another header by Darren Fletcher putting in a cross from Giggs - this time off a set piece. City didn't look like equalizing until the 89th minute when Rio Ferdinand played an absolutely terrible ball right to Ireland (I think, couldn't quite tell) who played it through to Bellamy who sprinted past Ferdinand and slotted it home behind Foster. Deep into stoppage time (some would argue too deep, see below) after a free kick was cleared, Giggs spotted substitute Michael Owen open in the box. Owen put it away and sealed the 4-3 win for United.

Initial Impressions

As I mainly follow the Spanish league, I don't usually watch a lot of Premier League games. I suspect that will change due to writing this blog. When I do, I'm always impressed with the atmosphere and this match was no exception. In Spain the singing and chanting is mostly done by the home-side's ultras, whereas it seems to be everyone in England. Another common thought I have when watching English matches is how much more direct the style of play is compared to Spain. As for the match itself, I thought both teams made a lot more mistakes than I had expected. All four of United's goals featured awful defending by City. Evra was allowed to just run into the area unmarked on a throw in, Fletcher twice wasn't properly marked nor was a defender in good position to clear the cross and Owen was left alone in goal with two defenders 5 yards away from him ball watching. City's first goal came as a result of a goalkeeper mistake that should not happen even at the youth level. Foster tried to dribble the ball into the area to pick it up when he clearly should have just banged it out. When Tevez is on the other team you can't mess around back there because the guy doesn't stop chasing the ball. The second goal for City was the only one of the match that didn't result from a bad play by the other team. City's third goal came as a result of Ferdinand giving away the ball and then failing to chase down Bellamy. As I said in preview, I think these teams are both good defensively. United last year were in my view the best in the world defensively. It was pretty shocking to see that kind of display.

On the positive side, it's clear that both sides are very good. I have a lot of respect for Rooney and Tevez. I can't think of two harder-working attacking players. I think City will be a lot better once Adebayor comes back and they can play Tevez in a deeper role. Bellamy obviously had a great game as well. For United, I thought Evra was particularly strong down the left. He also pressured Tevez late in the half and I'm sure played a role in his shot going into the bar instead of the goal. To be honest I didn't think Giggs was all that good in the match but he played a huge part in the last three United goals with two crosses that were headed in and then picking out Owen for the last goal. If I had to choose a man of the match it might be Shay Given. It's strange to give it to a goalkeeper when his side gives up 4 goals but I don't think you can say any were his fault and he kept his team in the match during the second half which United otherwise dominated. Obviously Fletcher is the easy choice with two goals in his team's win.

As far as the referee goes, I think he did a good job overall. Other than the timing controversy at the end, he was under the radar, which is what you're looking for. Something that needs mentioning is that the assistant referee should have signaled that Berbatov was offside on a great scoring chance in the first half. Berbatov put it over but was in great position and would have scored if he'd put it almost anywhere on target. The replay showed that he was well offside. Since it was a set piece, it should have been an easy call. It's the sort of thing that isn't considered a big deal because the ball didn't go in, but not getting that call right is terrible because a goal is scored in that situation frequently. We shouldn't give him a pass because Berbatov missed the header.

That brings us to the controversy. In the 89th or 90th minute the fourth referee signaled four minutes. Michael Owen's goal came a full five and a half minutes into stoppage time. Here's a rundown of what happened in the last stages:
90:00 - Bellamy scores for Man City
92:00 - Carrick is subbed on for Anderson
94:45 - a United player is fouled about 7 yards on the United attacking side of the center line
95:13 - Rooney takes a free kick
95:15 - it is cleared by Stephen Ireland between the penalty area and the 10-yard arc for penalty kicks
95:17 - it is headed further by a City player which I think is Tevez. Given the grass patterns he appears to be 36 yards out.
95:19 - Rooney sends it back into the area
95:22 - the ball is headed out by a City defender just outside the area, it goes to Giggs roughly 33 yards out
95:23 - Giggs plays the ball to Owen who is open in the area
95:27 - Owen scores

The amount of stoppage time to be added is at the sole discretion of the referee. In my view he should have added an extra minute to stoppage time as a result of the goal and substitution. I also think he should have extended the match to allow United to take the free kick as Rooney did at 95:13. I think that is pretty standard and most referees would have done the same. I do think he should have ended the match once that free kick was cleared, and I think it would be called there most of the time by other referees. If not there then the second clearance at 95:22 would have been the standard place to whistle it dead. Obviously everything would be different with a different referee, but I think well over half the time a random ref would have ended the match before the last goal.

Having said that, I don't think it was completely outrageous. As I said, it's up to the referees discretion. There are differences when it comes to how much time individual refs add. Also important is that it could have been the case that he had wanted to add something closer to four and a half minutes than four originally. There's nothing in the rules saying that an integer number of minutes must be added, but they do only display whole numbers on the board. If that's the case, then you can throw out everything I said above because the extra goal and substitution would push stoppage time up to 95:30 instead of 95:00. I am a traditionalist and would like for the timing of the match to remain as it is now, but controversies like this are the downside of having this timing system instead of something like what is used in basketball.

1 comment:

  1. They have four digits on the board for substitutions, right? They could theoretically post added time in increments of 15 seconds or even single seconds if they wanted.