United walk tall in Europe

Manchester United were crowned kings of Europe for the third time on Wednesday when they beat Chelsea 6-5 on penalties after a breathless all-English Champions League final had finished 1-1 after extra time.

United’s 37-year-old goalkeeper, Edwin van der Sar, appearing in his third final 13 years after his first with Ajax Amsterdam, saved the decisive spot kick from substitute Nicolas Anelka.

The victory completed a famous double for the Old Trafford team who pipped Chelsea to the Premier League title 10 days ago.

It was an emotional triumph for United, coming 50 years after the Munich air disaster, and there was a huge cheer for one of the survivors, Bobby Charlton, when he joined the team at the presentation of the trophy he lifted in 1968, before Alex Ferguson led the team to a second success in 1999.

”We’ve had fate on our side all season and I felt that fate played its hand with John Terry slipping,” Ferguson said of the Chelsea captain’s penalty miss.

Heartbreaking night

It was a heartbreaking night for Terry, who had the chance to take the trophy to Stamford Bridge for the first time but sent what would have been the winning penalty against the outside of the post.

”John Terry’s a man’s man. Not many centre halves will stand up and say I will take the last penalty, because everybody knows that’s the thing it can hang on,” said Frank Lampard, whose equaliser had cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener.

In the first half, United’s Portugal winger had been inexplicably left unmarked to head home a curled right-wing cross from fullback Wes Brown for the 42nd goal of his all-conquering season.

The goal brought the game to life as Van der Sar prevented a Rio Ferdinand own goal with a terrific instinctive save while Chelsea’s Petr Cech kept out Carlos Tevez’s stooping header and then tipped over Michael Carrick’s follow-up drive.

Chelsea had shown little but levelled when Essien’s long-range shot was deflected into the path of Lampard, who duly dispatched it from 6m.

The Londoners looked much more energised in the second half as Essien and Michael Ballack fired shots just over.

Premier trademark

The patient, European-style approach of the opening quarter had been replaced by football with a Premier League trademark — high-paced and physical, with a sprinkling of errors and battered bodies littering the temporary turf.

Didier Drogba was among them 12 minutes from time, but as he has so often before, made a miraculous recovery to curl a 20m shot against a post.

Ryan Giggs, the only survivor from United’s treble-winning 1999 final team, came off the bench in the 87th minute for his 759th appearance, breaking Charlton’s club record.

But he could not fashion a repeat of the storied last-gasp victory of that year and the game went into extra time.

Chelsea maintained their momentum and Lampard scooped a shot against the bar within four minutes of the restart, but they needed Terry to deny Giggs a fairy-tale goal by heading the winger’s shot over the bar with Cech beaten.

As the clock ticked down — towards 2am local time — tempers boiled over and Drogba was sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidic.

The shoot-out first went Chelsea’s way as Ronaldo, who had missed a penalty early in the semifinal against Barcelona, saw his effort saved.

But Van der Sar blocked Anelka’s effort to secure the giant silver trophy once again. — Reuters

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