FA semis requiring a difference last night
I managed to watch Man Utd v Middlesbrough and felt it was a tight game, so tight that it appeared to require something out of somewhere, perhaps extraordinary, to make a wedge between a winner and loser. Wayne Rooney was one-on-one twice to be thwarted excellently by Mark Schwarzer in Middlesbrough's goal both times, definitely keeping Middlesbrough in the game. Middlesbrough in turn came at Utd on occasion, for when under pressure they failed to sufficiently deal with clearing the ball and relied on some spirit to simply be in the way of any attack on goal. Stewart Downing had an excellent chance to score when played in by Mark Viduka but the ball came onto his weaker foot and his chance went wide.
Christiano Ronaldo went close himself when yet another through ball brought him close to Schwarzer as the keeper came out, the Portugal winger tipping the ball away from the keeper and almost cutting the ball back towards goal from a tight angle but for the post. As the game went on, it seemed Utd would have to look to something to make a breakthrough while Boro couldn't forge enough pressure on the Utd goal to thoroughly worry their defence. That difference came via Ronaldo after Michael Carrick played him down the left. Jonathan Woodgate make a beeline to cut off Ronaldo but Ronaldo was still too nimble to shut-off, darting along the goalline inside the penalty are and forcing Woodgate into a desperate challenge that caught Ronaldo's right leg.
The penalty was given and protests ensued inevitably as the Boro players alleged the contact was not enough to warrant the penalty, insisiting Ronaldo had dived. Replays showed contact being minimal and it is likely Ronaldo could have stayed upright, owever the 'new' concept of intention has come into the offence of a foul and if the spot kick was not warranted for Roanldo going to ground, then it could be alternatively for Woodgate potentially aiming to deter Ronaldo. Nonetheless the award was given and Ronaldo coolly deposited the ball for the winning goal. Frustration crept in as Ronaldo skipped down the left again and James Morrison came across to hack him down, ref Mike Dean giving the Boro midfielder the straight red card.
Gareth Southgate (post-match): "The galling thing for me is that we have played [Man Utd] three times this season and conceded three dodgy penalties.
[In response to the Boro bench reaction to the penalty decision which saw assistant coach Carlos Quieroz arguing with the Boro personnel]: "In the heat of the moment, everybody is entitled to a reaction. It is the 75th minute of an FA Cup quarter-final. People are going to react in a way you wouldn't normally.
[In response to the James Morrison dismissal]: "In that situation, we would all love to do that."
Christiano Ronaldo [in response to the Boro reaction towards him]: "Maybe some people don't like me. Maybe I'm too good. For me, it is a penalty. Why when I am involved is it always polemic?"
I have seen the goals in the Spurs v Chelsea tie and have been made aware Spurs dominated the first half an hour. Given that the half time brought no goals, the tie was even and left more for both teams to play for. Yet that difference trait appeared again, the something out of nothing that once picked up on can go on to win matches. Andriy Shevchenko has endured a difficult start in his England league debut season but his finish against Sheff Utd was matched by another sweet effort. Running down the right, he tucked inside onto his left, one touch then shot a curling effort to Paul Robinson's right that the England keeper didn't even consider a threat. Could Shevchenko be coming into his good form now?
Yet one goal makes for no winners with half an hour left so Shaun Wright-Phillips added a second after Didier Drogba played him through on the left by chesting a high ball. Wright-Phillips then pounced on to and smacked the bll with his left foot. Dimitar Berbatov raced onto a through ball with Ricardo Carvalho in tow, the Portuguese defender challenging from behind in the box and not getting contact with the ball but also at the same time not causing enough contact on the Bulgarian to bring him down. That being so, the understanding is always that if one makes a challenge in the box and does not make enough visible contact with the ball, the danger is a penalty decision, albeit the referee should not award anything if in doubt. Robbie Keane netted from the spot.
Considering how they had to fight to perserve their unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge, and how, this was a much needed win for Chelsea to go into their first FA Cup semi under Jose Mourinho. What concerned me was the footage of a fan running onto the pitch and coming towards Frank Lampard at the end as the Chelsea players celebrated. The fan aimed a swinging punch that Lampard ducked and then stewards came in along with Chelsea players to completely enshroud the fan, equal to the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981. Lampard is then seen to be restrained from behind by the arms by a steward and then pushed away from the melee, which Lampard objected to and I agree was not necessary. Lampard turned to have words with that steward. Another fan came onto the pitch near to the melee and appeared to have had no part in the matter.
The fan was then brought up to his feet and taken away, with one person in a suit grabbing the fan by the face, something that is not in the restraining procedure training particularly when the subject is surrounded and bound by several other stewards/security personnel. In such circumstances as the fan coming onto the pitch, the players are in danger as a possible target and they can ill-afford to be maimed or injured, not to mention the potentiality of a terrorist threat. If stewarding cannot increase to a higher degree, then something of a warning like a siren or bleeper should be considered to alert all of an unauthorised person on the pitch.
Additionally, if such a circumstance arose again, players should NOT be involved and should step away from it all entirely, for they put themselves back in danger and they are not authorised to deal with such circumstances. Some may not be too fond of Mourinho but he came onto the pitch (along with Arsene Wenger) during the League Cup Final as players clashed, and he happened to be nearby when the fan came on and went over to the melee with no hesitation and with concern for his players. That might not make a difference for neutral fans but to me he held responsibility that few do during such scenes and goes towards maintaining control of his players.
In conclusion, Chelsea and Man Utd had that difference to go through, a difference that was needed in a game which would not seperate. Man Utd v Watford and Blackburn v Chelsea make up the semi-finals for the FA Cup, Chelsea chasing a quadruple, Utd another treble, Watford and Blackburn the consequent obstacles in their paths. The scene after the match at White Hart Lane was unsavoury and made for more where players became involved. A measure should be in place to alert all of people coming onto the pitch who should not.
Football Association [in response to the after match incident]: "These scenes were totally unacceptable and we will be contacting Spurs as a matter of priority. We want to establish what safety and security provisions were in place for the game and to confirm what action was taken against the fans who ran on to the pitch."
Martin Jol: "I have not seen it. I can understand the fans' frustration but they shouldn't do that."
It appears that the fan who was restrained by the stewards was a Spurs fan who was arrested and potentially due to be charged and brought before the magistrates this morning, also to face a lifetime ban by Spurs for White Hart Lane games. The second fan was said to be a Chelsea fan, and though I saw no involvement by any other fan, the Chelsea fan has had his details sent to Stamford Bridge for appropriate action, if any.