Thursday, July 29, 2004

Manchester United v. Celtic -- 1-2 -- July 28, 2004

Last night I traveled to Philadelphia with my mom & sister to see Man U. (the NY Yankees of international football) v. Celtic, the best team from Scotland.  This is the second year international teams have traveled to the United States to play each other as part of the Championsworld Series. 

It was a fun game to watch, though not as good as last year's game against a better team, Barcelona.  Man U. at least made an attempt to field a good squad.  (They played their first game in Chicago last weekend, and only one starter even played.  It was Captain Roy Keane and a bunch of raw recruits.  Like going to see the New York Yankees and having them show up with Derek Jeter and the Columbus farm team.)  So I was relieved when Man. U. started Tim Howard at goal, a back line of Specter, Keane & Gary Neville,  John O'Shea, Phil Neville, Djemba-Djemba, and Richardson at midfield, and Alan Smith, Eagles and Bellion up front.

I have to admit, the only people I knew on Celtic before this game were Henrik Larssen (who is now gone, recently signed by Barcelona) and their coach, the incomparable Martin O'Neil.  O'Neil did show up, even though he missed Celtic's first two games of the tour as he was home with his wife who is seriously ill.  Celtic is pretty lame without Larssen's punch.

It was a chippy game right from the start.  The new kid Eagles (a dead ringer for Colin Ferrell, minus the cigarette) made a bad foul on a Celtic player in the first 5 minutes, sending the guy off for stitches.  Then poor Specter (hope I'm spelling it right, he's also a newbie) made a horrible pass to the center of the  field from the corner of the box and committed a foul to stop the sure goal.   One penalty kick later and it was 1-0 Celtic. 

Man U. came back with a nice goal in the second half on a set piece.  Eagles took the corner kick and sent it right to Alan Smith who headed it in.  I am really impressed by Smith.  Mom has liked him for a long time & can't figure out why he hasn't been named to the England squad.

The second Celtic goal was a nightmare.  Celtic sent a long pass to Beattie in the corner, and Roy Keane made a long & valiant run attempting to stop him.  He intercepted him but fell as the ball spurted out.  Timmy Howard came out trying to cut off the angle & Beattie nutmegged him.  Ugly.  The Celtic fans were jubilant.

Howard had a terrible game, looked very rusty.  He almost gave up a third goal when he attempted to catch a simple shot which went through his hands & bounced off his chest.   Djemba-Djemba saved his bacon by clearing the ball off the goal line.

About 15 minutes into the second half the Man U. began warming up their subs.  The bench pretty much got cleared, meaning we got to see Diego Forlan (also known as Forlorn for his lack of goal scoring since coming to MUFC) & Ryan Giggs, the best Welsh player in the world.  Plus more of the back benchers, Luke Chadwick, Bardsley, & others.  Giggs is coming off an injury & was carefully monitored, worked out & massaged by a personal coach before coming in the 77th minute.  The last 15 minutes of play were exciting with Man U. rush after Man U. rush but they just couldn't finish.

It began to rain during the 85th minute & everyone scrambled into their ponchos (no umbrellas allowed, more ridiculous antiterrorism stuff).  At the end of the game both teams just hustled off the field.  I guess the thrill of being in the US is gone.  Last year both teams circled the field after the game, applauding the fans.

The game was played at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles.  I saw Man U. play Barcelona there last summer, which was the first ever event at Lincoln Financial Field.  So last year, being that it was the first ever event and all, I could forgive them for the snafus at the concession stands.  I stood in line for the entire halftime to get my diabetic mother a hotdog for dinner.  They had hotdogs, but couldn't figure out how to turn on the hotdog cooker.  So mom had peanuts for dinner.

This year, my sister & I stood in line for 25 minutes to find that at 7:35, 25 minutes before game time, they were already out of hamburgers, cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches.   Before the game even started!  They had sold over 55,000 tickets and ran out of food before the game started!  Whoever runs the concession stands is truly incompetent.

But that was the only negative of a great night.  Saturday Mom & I travel to Giants stadium in NY for Man U. v. AC Milan.  Whee-hoo!